Guilt And Pain When You Hit That Unfollow Button

By @TheMarkDalton

With social media it has become an all too familiar feeling when you hit the unfollow button. You feel the guilt of doing it and the person you were following finds out and starts wondering and asking what they have done wrong. 

Over the past number of days I have had a complete clean out on Instagram and my attention is turning to Twitter which is a complete mess and I want to get control back over. The problem is that it takes a long time because mass unfollowing is actually a something which you can be banned for believe it or not if you do it in bulk so you end up spending weeks trying to do some social media spring cleaning instead of getting it done in a day.

It is incredibly satisfying clearing out space on social media, the goal is to see only the content I am interested in now but at the same time it is hard. An unfollow carries stigma to it, a blow to the ego because when someone unfollows us then we start wondering what we did wrong, how did we offend them?

Why do we keep followers around?

We need to start with asking why we keep followers around. Some we keep forever, they are close family or friends. People we connect with on a regular basis or people we simply like reading and seeing content from on a daily basis. This isn’t the case for everyone though.

What about that brand we connected with that one time but don’t connect with again? What about the person we hooked up with at a party that one time? What about the old school friends who we haven’t spoken to since literally the day we left school? What about the people we used to work with once but we don’t connect anymore, we don’t share their content and they don’t share ours. Why do we keep these categories of people around?

We keep them around because we feel guilty if we unfollow them, as if it cuts them deep and they get offended. That is a mindset which has to change on both sides of the coin. Time is the most valuable currency going, hell if you could figure out how to bottle it up and sell it you would make a small fortune. People love time, think about when you are left waiting for a late bus or the last time your internet got real slow and you got real angry at it…that is how much we love time.

So going on that logic, if time is so valuable to us then why are we not picky about who we follow on social media? If we don’t see people anymore in life and we don’t connect with them online at all and the chances of seeing them are only once in a blue moon then why keep them around if we are not interested in their online profile anymore? If you don’t want to see it, unfollow!

We need to change how we think about this

When I cleared out my Instagram following list my experience on the platform (which was already a good experience) improved even more. I have no doubt the same thing will happen on Twitter even though it is going to take weeks to get there because I can only unfollow in stages over weeks to prevent getting banned by the platform.

It is not fair to follow people that spew negative energy onto our feed or content which brings us down. It is not fair to follow people that we genuinely don’t give a crap about anymore. Sure we may have had a good relationship back in the day but if that has changed or if we don’t connect anymore then why follow each other anymore?

This is not a personal thing, we need to stop worrying about people unfollowing us, all I want to see on my social media account is what interests me and nothing more than that. Nobody has gotten famous through the number of followers they have on a social media website and this vanity number has warped our perception of social media that we think there is a race to have the biggest number of followers we can get our hands on.

We need to stop feeling the guilt of unfollowing someone if we are no longer interested in what they are sharing or what they have to say. Unfollowing doesn’t mean you never want to speak to or see that person again and the negative connotations associated with unfollowing needs to change, only we can do that.

These are our social media profiles,  these are our experiences and we write the rulebook so make sure you have the experience you want to have.

What is my goal?

I’m talking about this because I want people to know it is okay to unfollow people. Scrolling through my Instagram feed this morning and I can honestly say the experience is incredibly enjoyable. I am seeing content that I want to see, nothing is getting buried under the branded garbage or the things I just don’t have an interest in and now the goal is to take on Twitter which is wildly out of control.

Thanks to a trial of Social Quant over 14 days, my Twitter profile is a complete mess. There are also accounts in there I want to clean out which are from before the trial but the aim is to have a feed where I get to see what I want to see. I want to follow people that I am inspired by, that I connect with regularly or who make me laugh.

Some will be people I know and some will be strangers but the bottom line is that I will only see what I want to see. That sounds selfish but if we all took that approach then the experiences we have on social media would more than likely be so much more enjoyable.

I know that I will lose followers by doing this because Twitter is so driven now through social automation tools like Social Quant, so when I start hitting that unfollow button I will lose followers too and the thing is I really don’t care.

Vanity metrics suck

The number of followers is a vanity metric, I really don’t care if people unfollow me on social media. I used to care at one point but now I really really don’t give a shit. The only thing I track with followers is those who engage on follower churn tactics on Instagram.

For anyone who doesn’t know what this is, follower churn is basically an aggressive follow/unfollow tactic where you follow someone with the intention of unfollowing them days or weeks later and hope they never cop on that you unfollowed them. Do it enough over time so the networks can’t detect it and you can over inflate your follower numbers.

Auditing who we follow allows us to take a serious inventory of who we have in our social media circle and we get to see where we stand with people we may have once connected with on a regular basis but it is well worth it. We are all first timers, social media is still new and we are still learning about what they best way is to deploy and use it in our world.

For me I see this as evolving, I once thought that follower numbers mattered, but what matters is the connection with the followers you have and if you only have 100 followers you can still have a much stronger connection with that 100 than someone with 100,000.

Tailor your experience to how you want it to be and the enjoyment will more than likely be greater than what you had before. People who obsess over vanity metrics on social media are insecure about what they are doing online with their content.

The bottom line is this: it is okay to be unfollowed and it is okay to unfollow. Stop feeling the guilt of unfollowing and stop feeling hurt when someone unfollows you.


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