To unfollow or not to unfollow?: The Gen Z question

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by Jayden Jones, Opinion Editor

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

Everyone knows the feeling. You’re scrolling through your feed, and suddenly you see that post. The post that makes your heartbeat quicken and your fingers shake as you read the caption. When we were younger, we used to have to make decisions about who to sit with at lunch, or what game to play at recess. Now we’re older, taking our place as part of the social media generation. 

The decision about whether or not to unfollow someone is a more complicated decision than it may seem. Of course, in the heat of the moment, when the post we perceive to be offensive or incorrect reverberates through our minds, it takes a herculean effort not to hit that innocuous little “unfollow” button. But here are some things to think about before you do: 

  1. Consider your relationship with the person. 

To quote popular social scientist, Dr. Brené Brown, “people are hard to hate up close.” So if this person is a stranger, if you have no personal connection to them or have never met them, unfollowing might not be a bad idea. They aren’t present in your everyday life to contextualize, explain, or defend their statements or viewpoints. You will only see the public, curated version of themselves that they choose to upload to social media, missing out on the personal and vulnerable moments that might come with knowing them personally. 

If the person is someone you know, I’d consider holding off on the unfollowing. Old friends from highschool or elsewhere can be valuable parts of our past, and the ability to maintain contact with those who are far away or aren’t in our lives anymore is one of the advantages of social media. Consider reaching out to them, if not to discuss the issue directly, then to Facetime, or catch up. Remember, the more you get to know them, the harder it will be to stay angry. 

  1. Be mindful of the algorithm. 

We’ve all seen “The Social Dilemma.” We know that our social media content is constantly being 

tailored to our beliefs, preferences, and interests. Therefore, blocking or unfollowing someone sends a message to the website or application that says: I don’t want to see this anymore. Eventually, the post that made you angry and anything similar will vanish from your feed. And in this case, out of sight, out of mind might not necessarily be a good thing. The experience of disagreeing with someone, the conflict of feeling as though your personal values are being threatened is an important one to work through. We have to learn how to manage those feelings without shutting down or giving in. Therefore, I’d encourage following at least a few accounts that present different viewpoints. 

  1. Be proactive. 

At times, it may seem as though unfollowing someone is the best solution to the emotional 

turmoil their social media content causes us. In some cases, this is true. However, a more beneficial solution might be to use the experience as a call to action to research more about the topic of the rage-inducing post that challenges or solidifies your standpoint. Being able to defend our beliefs and understand counterarguments is a much more valuable skill that clicking the “unfollow” button. 

Categories: Opinion, The Saint

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