North Texas Daily

How to curate your online experience

How to curate your online experience

How to curate your online experience
March 01
08:52 2021

In the summer after my senior year of high school, I realized I hated being on Instagram. The realization happened slowly, but it was characterized by this growing feeling of dread every time I opened the app. I have always been a completionist. Leaving books half-read, or TV shows and video games unfinished seems to always itch at my brain until I get through with them, no matter how long and unsavory the task of completing them may be. 

The problem lied in the nature of how an app like Instagram worked in my community. In high school and college, it’s seen as a sign of etiquette that if you are friendly with someone, you follow each other on social media. There’s no requirement for “liking” or even viewing their posts, but you at least have to follow each other. A common point of gossip at my high school was when so-and-so unfollowed such-and-such due to their ongoing feud with each other. It was exhausting. 

After four straight years of these rules forcing me underwater, I came to a solution that felt like coming up for air: I could just unfollow accounts I don’t like. On a break from work, I sat on my phone and unfollowed over 400 accounts. They varied from celebrity accounts that I no longer cared for, to high school acquaintances I knew I would never see again. After this purge of accounts that I followed, I felt that I could use social media just for interacting with my friends, and it didn’t carry any baggage of looking at things that I didn’t want to. 

This sounds simple, and any social media pessimists might ask, “Why were you following accounts you don’t like to begin with?” But the social contract of social media lies deeper than with a book or a TV show. Given how much we use social media to communicate, it can be scary to decide you no longer want to be in contact with 400, or even five, people.

I want to stress in the beginning that curating your online experience is not my attempt to create an echo chamber. If you want to use social media to discuss politics, go ahead. However, not everyone has to do it the same way, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to share a dialogue with people that don’t see you as human.

The first piece of advice I want to give is just UNFOLLOW PEOPLE YOU DON’T LIKE. I normally have a three strikes and you’re out policy. If on three separate occasions someone posts something that I just don’t care for, I’ll normally decide to unfollow them. You shouldn’t have to keep a tally of every time someone has bothered you on Twitter (that would be a long list for me) but if someone is repeatedly posting content you don’t want to see, it’s okay to unfollow them. 

A problem that comes up with this strategy is the “network” part of our social network. Often we follow people on social media that we may know in real life, or at least are friends with our own friends. In a world where unfollowing someone can be taken as an insult, how can you make your feed something enjoyable again?

I recommend liberal use of the mute and block functions on most social media apps. These have been especially helpful for me in the past year. I’ve been attending UNT entirely online from my hometown of Austin, TX since the pandemic began, and as a result, my social experience at UNT has moved nearly entirely online as well. I have witnessed the rise of  “UNT Twitter” in all of its weird, messy glory. I do want to build an online community with my fellow UNT students, but there are some people who I want to follow but whose posts I just don’t want to see. Twitter’s mute function works surprisingly well for accounts, and this allows me not have certain people’s posts clutter my feed while still growing my network of classmates online.

My last piece of advice lies with my dear old friend, the block button. While I have rarely had to block someone on Twitter or Instagram due to harassment, I have been using the block button often for the past three years. The reason for this is that I hate seeing ads when using Twitter on my phone. There is no adblock, and the nature of how Twitter keeps a list of the things you like terrifies me. My solution to this problem is to simply block every verified account that promotes a tweet towards me. It takes a little while for the effects to set in, but eventually I won’t receive anymore branded promoted tweets. All that is left are the tweets that regular people have, for some reason, paid real money to promote across Twitter. These tweets are strange in their mundanity, and become comedic in and of themselves, because of their earnestness. 

I hope that my advice can help you with social media blues, and that we can normalize curating our feeds in order to use social media to connect with our loved ones, both from real life and online. 

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

About Author

Javi Cavazos Weems

Javi Cavazos Weems

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