The other night, I was scrolling through Instagram as I all-to-often do when I’m procrastinating.
And as I scrolled, I came across pictures of old friends — pictures I love seeing since I don’t often bump into them in person. After all, keeping in touch with friends and family is my main reason for having social media in the first place!
But as I scrolled, I also saw picture after picture of complete strangers.
From models in bikinis to random people doing yoga, to travelers, teenagers, and actors, they all had one thing in common — I didn’t know any of them.
And yet, these were the types of pictures I saw regularly — they were the pictures of people I had willingly followed, and I was used to seeing them.
But somehow, that night, something changed inside me. It was as if I was looking at those pictures with new eyes.
For the first time in way too long, I thought of why I was following those strangers in the first place.
Were they inspiring? Did they improve my quality of life? Or did they only make me wish for more vacations and more useless things I didn’t need?
I suddenly stopped scrolling and went to take a closer look at the people I was following.
And I almost couldn’t believe my eyes.
As I scrolled through the list, I realized I had signed up to see the pictures of hundreds of complete strangers.
And I realized that every time I went on Instagram, hoping to see updates from friends and family who live far away, I was also seeing images of photoshopped size-zero models posing on beaches in Brazil.
And because my life is different, seeing those images every day made me feel like I was, well, missing out.
But the thing is, I have an extraordinary life. Right now. I have so much that I’m grateful for. And I would never want to trade places with a bikini model (whose real life isn’t as it appears on Instagram anyway).
So what did I do?
I went through all the accounts of people I was following, and I eliminated several hundred of them.
In fact, I eliminated so many that Instagram nearly shut down my account (thinking I was a spammer, I guess?).
But you know what happened?
What really happened?
Each time I hit the unfollow button on each one of those accounts, I wasn’t just eliminating negativity from my feed. I was also eliminating it from my mind and from my life.
I was completely blown away by how lighter and freer I felt after doing this digital cleanout.
It was as if that unfollow button brought me a deep sense of peace when I clicked it — a sense of peace I was missing and desperately needed.
So now, for the first time in way too long, I don’t follow the day-to-day activities of strangers on social media.
For the first time in too long, I’m not bombarded by sponsored posts telling me what I definitely can’t live without.
No. Those days are over, and it feels amazing.
Because now, when I go on social media, I see the smiling faces of my family members and my friends. People I actually know!
And I love it now. I don’t know why it took me so long to make that change — to decide to surround myself with positive things instead of negative ones — but I’m so glad I did.
Because I follow fewer accounts than before, I also don’t spend hours at a time on social media now. I no longer feel the need to spend all that time just to stay “caught up”.
I’m still able to see pictures of my friends and family, but without all the negatives of having social media. How’s that for a win-win?
It’s only been a few days, but it’s made a world of difference already.
I no longer have an endless feed filled with material things I don’t need or want, promoted by people I don’t even know.
How great is that? Pretty darn great, if you ask me.
If you’re sick of how toxic social media can be but still like to see updates from friends and family, like I do, consider unfollowing accounts that are not serving your interests.
There are so many good, empowering accounts out there. There’s no need to follow people who make you feel less-than.
Remember: Most perfect-looking feeds are carefully edited and don’t reflect reality at all.
You owe it to yourself to filter out accounts that harm your mental health. Really. Focus on the ones that lift you up and make you hopeful and excited about the future. Get rid of any that leave you anxious or stressed out.
In my experience, seemingly tiny changes can make all the difference.
So, here’s your challenge for today:
Spend just five minutes going through your social media. Unfollow any and all accounts that drain you or make you feel bad about yourself.
Chances are, you’ve been following accounts that fit that description without consciously realizing it. Believe me, you’ll feel so much freer once you no longer see them in your feed!
This article first appeared on Medium. Check out more helpful content right here.