Have you ever stopped to consider the fact that virtually the entire body of human knowledge is available to you? Wait, what? Yep, that’s right: books, scientific articles, encyclopedias, classical music masterpieces…all are at your disposal right in your pocket—or laptop, for those of us who enjoy bigger screens. Sure, not many of us listen to Bach for a quick pick-me-up (though I do happen to enjoy him and his contemporaries on other occasions); nor do we use our spare time to broaden our knowledge in, say, particle physics, but we could if we wanted to. And that’s amazing.
Instead, what do we do? We follow our favorite celebs much social media, we read a clutter of articles and posts that all tell us pretty much the same things over and over again. We are being annoyed by people in our feed who we don’t want to unfollow because we don’t want to make them feel bad, or worse, risk being asked why we unfollowed them. We double-tap photos that make us envious because we’re somehow used to that routine.
We tend not to unfollow, or unfollow much less than we should. Maggie Cassidy, 31, who works at a nonprofit in Chicago, told The New York Times that social media is so pervasive in our everyday life that it can be easy to forget that it is entirely optional. But it is! Just like our newsletters and blog feeds and pages we check every day just because we’re used to doing it. Here’s how to break the cycle and be more selective when it comes to the media and information you consume all day
1. Ask yourself what you want to read and see every day.
Are news your cup of tea? Travel blogs? Outfit posts? Witty girls’ Twitter rants? Articles on your favorite portal? Great! Keep them. If something doesn’t really align with your interests, be brutal and unfollow. Sometimes it’s hard to stop following authors and magazines you’ve been following for so long, just because they’re deeply ingrained in your routine—even if you don’t even read them carefully, or not at all.
Try this: visit every single thing (blog, profile, fan page) you’re following, and pay attention to latest post. Have you read them all and was it something you would normally want to read? Good. If not, remove them right now.
2. Think about the value you’re (not) getting.
I follow a couple of fashion bloggers who only post outfit posts, and I honestly have no idea why I’m doing it. I don’t tend to look for inspiration on their websites. My style, though I am not sure it’s really even a style, does not depend on someone else’s outfits, or on what’s currently trending whatsoever. I receive zero value from browsing their posts, but they do receive my page click. Doesn’t sound like a fair trade to me. Unfollow!
Ask yourself if the things you’re reading or watching have a meaning in your day. Do you learn anything new, do you laugh, are you inspired, or are just like “meh”? If latter is the case, you’re probably not getting any value from the posts or people, so you shouldn’t have trouble unfollowing once you realize that.
3. Unsubscribe is your friend.
I was pretty nonchalant with my email address in the past, so I wouldn’t bat an eye at “please enter your email here.” As a result, my inbox was cluttered and I’m pretty sure I never really meant to subscribe to the most of the content in the first place! But I discovered a handy little tool to help me minimize the mess. It’s called Unroll.me and it’ll show you all the newsletters you’re subscribed to and offer you an easy unfollow. I’ve found that it’s not perfect—how did some of these things find a way around and ended up in my inbox AGAIN?!—but it’s the best tool there is.
4. Think twice before following—or the day after
I know what my reason for following people and blogs out there is: I see something interesting, I skim through the rest and conclude they deserve my subscription. But I rarely really think about if the content will provide me with value (see point 2). That is the thing I need to improve. But even if you, like me, fail at this step, be honest to yourself once you start seeing posts on a regular basis. If it’s not something you enjoy seeing, for whatever reason, it’s not only OK to unfollow, it’s necessary. We’re talking your precious time and the space in your mind that’s being taken up by something meaningless. Don’t let it.
How often do you digitally declutter? What other ways do you cope with the endless stream of information? Let us know on Facebook!