Should you mute your friends on social media?

Could you combat stress and get happier by simply muting some friends on social media? Tania O’Donnell looks at the arguments for and against this drastic action.

We sign up to social media to stay in touch with friends so it is counter-intuitive to think that the best bet for someone might be to mute our friends on it. However, bear with us on this, as it can be a useful tool to help you achieve daily bliss. We all know that social media shares can contain lots of terrible news from awful politicians to crippling poverty, disasters, wars and, of course, Kim Kardashian’s dog’s bollocks. So, surely your friends’ updates will provide some light relief, right?

Not always so. There are friends who are obsessed with particular horrific issues that they share again and again ad nauseam. Others are angry about politics and want everyone to know their opinion about it. Still others wear their bigotry or ignorance with pride and post enraging things on a regular basis. Perhaps, the worst of all, are the lovely posts of holidays, of romance, of babies and of work promotions. We’re all guilty of it. I regularly post about my husband, because I can’t believe such a lovely diddums like him is in love with me.

If you’re feeling stressed because you’re trying for a baby and your timeline is filled with other people enjoying their babies and children, it can be heart-breaking. If you’re coping with grief and everyone seems to be having a wonderful time, you might need a time out, as this excellent feature by Poorna Bell shows. Unemployed and desperately seeking a job while your best buddy has scored yet another promotion? It is not being a terrible person to want to protect yourself from the happiness of others when you’re in the doldrums.

One of the reasons that people don’t mute friends on social media is that they’re afraid that they will miss something important, such a pal moving abroad or someone getting engaged. However, algorithms mean that you may not see important posts anyway. For example, we almost missed a funeral because a friend’s important post regarding a family funeral did not show up on my timeline. Most important things that happen in the lives of our true friends are accompanied by a phone call or a drink and a get-together face to face.

The main problem with muting friends is guilt. It is feeling that you’re being small or not playing by the rules of social media. Ask yourself why you’re on social media in the first place. Is it to stay in touch with people you know and love? Or is it for work purposes? Maybe just to look at pretty things? You can still call the friends you really want to hear from – and a phone call will give you a more genuine and complete picture of what’s happening with them as it won’t have been edited for “best life ever” posts on social media. You can limit what you share and when you engage with social media to specific times in your working day if you’re doing it for work. Be strict and tune out of anything not work-related. Remember if you’re looking for inspiration and pretty things, you can choose social media that is better for that such as Instagram and Pinterest rather than Facebook or Twitter.

Who should you mute? 

• Take a note of whose post you were looking at when you last felt uneasy, unhappy, angry or upset – it doesn’t have to be a horrible post, it could just be a feeling of inadequacy or unhappiness that has nothing to do with the person posting, more the stuff you’re going through. Then instigate a three strikes policy and mute once you hit that.

• Take a note of whose posts make you laugh, feel good about yourself and about the world around you. Remember to like and share their stuff as it will train the algorithm to show you their posts first.

• If you find you have to mute a good friend, diarise a time to connect with them in real life. You may very well find that the endless stream of happy or angry posts aren’t a true reflection of what they really feel.

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