Funny story: When I went to name today's email, I very nearly started it over at Day 1 because I forgot that the day numbers don't really mean anything except that I'm numbering these newsletter issues in order.
Part of my confusion can almost certainly be attributed to the migraine that dominated my day yesterday.
I get migraines about once a month or so. Alcohol is a trigger for me, but I don't drink much anymore. I get them when it gets too cold and also when it gets too hot, and sometimes I get them when the weather changes suddenly. I get them when I don't get enough sleep, and when I fly overnight.
Also, it turns out that I get them when I treat five cups of coffee and two seltzers a day as adequate hydration for an adult woman. Which they are not.
Because I was so miserable yesterday, my tolerance for nonsense was particularly low, but I also feel like it's just been particularly low in general these days, when nonsense is just... well, it's running high.
One place where I'm not trucking any nonsense is my social media feeds. I'm always pretty liberal with the "mute" and "unfollow" functions, and I've been leaning on them especially heavily in this time of junk science, sneering at public safety directives, and assorted shenanigans, when social media is both the worst of humanity and the only place I'm connected to much of my social network.
A lot of people have been stressing a need for empathy over judgment, and this is such a good point. We should all be kinder to one another and more willing to extend the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, this would be a lot easier if more people would do and say things that are EASIER TO EMPATHIZE WITH and HARDER TO JUDGE.
Whether it's friends who flaunt their noncompliance with physical distancing guidelines, your sister-in-law's college roommate who posts snide comments about overreactions, xenophobic relatives, or influencers who happily charge advertisers for access to their audience but refuse to acknowledge they have any sway over their followers when it comes to setting a safe example during a pandemic, we've all got follows who are getting under our skin, and I want you to know something:
It is OK for you to take these people out of your feeds. In fact, I insist on it.
Look, I get it. Even the most gracious among us are known to indulge in a nice, satisfying hate-follow. And there are some people you can't disconnect with entirely, for whatever reason (like you're related to them or they're your boss or something). That's why Facebook gives us the "unfollow" function (the Instagram version is "mute"). You stay friends, you can still go check out the photos of their cute dogs and kids (or, if you're in the mood, their terrible opinions), but you don't have to see their bulls**t in your feed. THIS IS GOOD FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH.
(My attorney would probably want me to advise you at this point that I am not a mental health professional and nothing in this newsletter should be taken as professional medical advice. Also, if we're friends, before you send me an email asking half-jokingly if I've muted you, please rest assured: If I have actually muted you, I will never, ever, EVER tell you.)
Are there extreme cases in which you should fully unfriend or unfollow? Probably. I'm trying not to be too trigger-happy on that front because if I felt later like I'd been too hasty, I would literally rather have splinters under every single fingernail than have to come crawling back to re-friend.
Mute/unfollow is a best practice for surviving social media, in my opinion (and in this case, I do feel comfortable offering professional advice, since I literally do this for a living). I don't have the bandwidth for social media stress on my best day; right now, I truly literally just cannot. And in some cases, these are people I love and even agree with — there just are some who I can't engage with on a daily basis for whatever reason (honestly, sometimes it has nothing to do with them and it's their friends in the comments who are unbearable). I'm a big fan of the "snooze for 30 days" feature on Facebook. It's a good way to test-drive a permanent unfollow, try it on and see if you miss them or notice when they pop back into your newsfeed.
Instagram, which has no temporary mute option, is the place where I've been most free-handed with the unfollow button. If we don't know each other in real life, all bets are off. Posting stories about how we should be suspicious of any COVID-19 vaccine because vaccines are inherently suspicious? Unfollow. Sharing tone-deaf Amazon Fashion unboxings and try-ons from the comfort of your home when Amazon employees have been saying for more than a month that they're not safe at work? Unfollow. (If that example sounds very specific, it's because that was my most recent 86ing.)
Yes, OK, I'm trying to be empathetic, but I'm also trying to not be super mad ALL THE TIME, so people gotta go.
TL;DR: I highly recommend going hard on the curation of your newsfeed. It could be just the assist you need to find some remaining half-drop of emotional energy to help you scrape up that empathy we're all supposed to be spreading around even to people who probably don't deserve it but BY GOD WE ARE GOING TO TRY TO BE DECENT TO ONE ANOTHER because if we lose that, then WTF did we even stay home for in the first place?