20th May 2024

A Virtual World of Live Pictures

Technology and Computer

Muting people on social media is fast and free and will change your life | Well actually

I don’t generally believe in life hacks. As much as I’d love to imagine that one easy tweak could resurface my life like it’s a cracked tennis court, time and experience have shown me that positive change usually comes slowly and incrementally.

But there is one hack I fully believe in. It’s fast and free, and will instantly change your life for the better: just mute people who annoy you on social media.

The process is different for each platform – typically, you go to the offending poster’s profile page or one of their posts and tap “mute”, “snooze” or “unfollow” – but then that’s it! This digital dusting leaves your social media spick-and-span, or at least less grimy than before. They’re gone from your timeline, and so are the various minor irritations they brought. And, unlike unfollowing or blocking someone, the muted party has no idea they’ve been silenced, so you don’t risk any awkwardness or drama.

I have a handful of people muted. A couple of them are people I don’t want to unfollow. Others I have unfollowed, but I’ve also muted them because someone else might repost them and sully my pristine timeline. One is a semi-famous person who was rude to me many years ago about a work thing; another was rude to my friend. There’s also an ex and someone who constantly humble-brags in a way that makes me want to bang my head against something hard.

These individuals brought out the worst in me. When I saw their posts, I felt angry, petty and small. I wondered how much it might cost to buy billboard signs along major highways printed with bullet points detailing how, actually, they are terrible.

Fortunately, I almost never think of these individuals anymore because I’ve muted them across all platforms. Unless someone brings them up in conversation, I usually forget these people exist. They have been weeded from the lush garden of my brain.

But don’t just take my word for it.

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“Muting accounts that repeatedly upset you is putting in digital boundaries to create a healthier digital environment,” says Bailey Parnell, founder and president of the Center for Digital Wellbeing. It allows you to avoid distressing content without severing connections, she says – a solution for those perplexing situations in which a relationship with someone is important to you, despite their bothersome online presence.

“This can preserve your mental wellbeing while maintaining social or professional networks,” she says.

This might seem like obvious advice. Yet it can be hard to follow. The irritation we feel when seeing someone’s bad posts can come with a satisfying rush: look at them! Being annoying!

“There can be a dopamine kick that comes on the back end of big emotions,” says Monica Amorosi, a licensed trauma therapist in New York City. We may come to crave the adrenaline spikes that accompany content that makes us feel shock, rage or disgust.

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“If we have mundane lives, if we are understimulated, if we are bored or underwhelmed, then consuming this material can become a form of entertainment or distraction,” Amorosi says.

Amorosi emphasizes that it’s important not to create a “space of ignorance” on our feeds by avoiding different perspectives or troubling news about current events. But this does not mean that social media should only be a place to access upsetting information. Our feeds “can be utilized for healthy, positive education, connecting with like-minded people, seeing nuance and variety in the world, fact-checking information, learning new hobbies or ideas”, she says.

As such, muting is perhaps most effectively deployed against those who irritate you in a bland, quotidian way – a pompous co-worker, for instance. Not seeing a humble bragger pretend to be embarrassed about another professional success isn’t going to limit my worldview. Instead, I am regaining five to 10 minutes I might have wasted taking a screenshot of their post and complaining to my friends about it.

Candidly, I have done nothing with the time I’ve gained from not bad-mouthing the people I’ve muted. But how nice to have days that are at least five minutes more pleasant.

So, mute freely and often. And if you don’t agree with me? Just mute me. I’ll never know!

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