I propose a companion holiday to Buy Nothing Day to be held on the Friday after Thanksgiving. #UnfollowFriday. Let us all spend the languorous post-feast day unsubscribing from all online sources of offensive, annoying, and incorrect posts and messages. (And then, at sundown, we can put our computers away and spend the Sabbath entirely offline.)
This is an ideal time of year to identify bad sources of information. All streams are clogged with racist violence, jingoistic chest-thumping, merciless commercialism, and football. People are calling themselves out. We should use this opportunity to purge our information diets of impurities. It’s refreshing to have a feed that feels sharper and truer and more empowering, and unsubscribing from things is so satisfying.
I’ve been purging relentlessly this Thanksgiving season, and I’ve made some interesting discoveries. Facebook is far more aggressive than I realized about railroading people in to the “Acquaintances” smart list. People from this list are automatically diminished in your News Feed. And personally, my default privacy settings for my posts are “Friends; except: Acquaintances” (yes, that’s how Facebook punctuates it), so people on that list aren’t seeing my posts, either. I went to the Acquaintances list to see if there were people I could cut loose, but I found a surprising number of people I do like in there, and I had to free them manually. So that’s something to look out for.
If you really want a thorough Unfollowing, though, you have to audit the complete list. This is a grueling experience that makes the user-hostile business models of companies like Facebook and Twitter abundantly clear. Both services make it extremely difficult for you to view all of your friends/follows at once and impossible to carry out any bulk actions.
There’s only one way to crawl the whole list without losing your place. You have to go to the desktop website, go to the all friends/follows page, and scroll wildly to the bottom of the list. Then move upwards one at a time, ⌘-clicking/right-clicking every questionable subscription to open it in a new tab. When you’re done, you can review each candidate and unfriend/unfollow as necessary.
If you don’t do it this way, and you try to unfollow/unfriend straight from the full list, you are very likely to trigger a page refresh or database conflict and lose your place. The bugs preventing us from easily unsubscribing to things seem almost deliberate in contrast to how diabolically easy these services make it to follow, friend, and subscribe.
It’s worth the effort. There is so much stupid and evil out there. It’s not helpful or important to see it. It hurts. And you can still get bad news from good sources. You just have to weed the garden every so often, and there’s no better time to do it than #UnfollowFriday.