Social media is both a gift and a curse. It enables us to keep up with friends and family we might otherwise rarely see. Yet it also has the power to keep us from fully engaging in “real-life” relationships.
If you’re like me, you’ve collected Facebook friends across high school, college, your church family and every job you’ve worked for the last five years. My newsfeed is a collage of people from every stage of my life!
But sometimes the online world becomes overwhelming. If you’re spending more time online than you are in real, face-to-face relationships, it’s time to set some boundaries! This doesn’t mean you delete every friend on Facebook or unfollow all your Instagram buddies. But it does involve reflecting on which accounts or people encourage you to be the woman God has called you to be.
If you’re wondering whether you should unfollow someone on social media, here are five times you might want to do so.
- When you can’t stop comparing. Every time her photo pops up, you feel that rock in your stomach. She’s so much prettier than me. Sometimes it’s not a person, but a brand or an account—one with perfect pictures of houses or cars or coffee that makes you wish you were just that cool. But comparison steals our joy, making us discontent with the gifts God has given us. If you can’t stop comparing, pinpoint the people to whom you compare yourself. You don’t have to delete them from Facebook—you can simply “unfollow” them so you don’t see their pictures in your newsfeed, at least until you’ve grown in emotional security. There is no shame in knowing you struggle with comparison! By recognizing the issue, you can make changes to walk free.
- When you’re overcome by jealousy. Jealousy and comparison go hand in hand. First we compare; then we grow jealous. If you find yourself envying your friend’s boyfriend or college acceptance letter, you might need to put some distance between you until you can be happy for her. Though it might seem unfair, God has a specific calling for each of our lives. Even though her life might look perfect, I can guarantee you it isn’t! Don’t let jealousy destroy your gratitude—or your friendships.
- When you don’t need the negativity. Some people are just Debbie Downers. Their posts consistently talk about their latest sickness, how mad they are about the election or why their day “can’t get any worse.” These discouraging posts aren’t where you want your mind to be focused! There is a difference between a genuine need (prayer requests, real-life concerns) and a pattern of complaining. The first requires support and encouragement. The second requires some space.
- When you’re struggling with discontent. Discontent is the confusion of wants with needs. If the posts of certain friends exacerbate your struggle for contentment, it may be time to unfollow them. Comparison and jealousy will inevitably result in discontentment with God’s gifts if left unchecked. The best way to counter this is to first recognize the gifts God has given you, and second, remove the source of comparison—at least for a time. Finally, pray through your struggle by being honest with God about your desires.
- When you need mental clarity. Sometimes a good thing gives way to what is better. Social media fills a great purpose in our lives, but the constant availability of friends, family and cat videos threatens to distract us from what really matters. Some people decide to take a break from Facebook or do a social media “fast” during Lent. But getting mental clarity doesn’t have to be that extreme.
Personally, I kept all my friends on Facebook, but I only follow my closest friends, family and my church family. I can still contact my other friends, but I’m not seeing their updates as frequently. This gives us more to talk about when I do see them, because I haven’t seen every update on social media.
Unfollowing people on social media comes with some guilt; we don’t want to be the “mean girl” and cut people out of our lives! But we also have to choose what is best for our spiritual maturity and emotional security. And most of all, we need the energy and time to focus on the real-life relationships God has given us. A healthy approach to social media facilitates both!