Each Monday, Julio Vincent Gambuto presents “Modern Muting” — a weekly Medium story series dedicated to helping readers step back from all the bullshit of modern life, create quiet, re-evaluate, then go forward boldly. It’s 500 words a week of “self-help meets the system.”
Perhaps one of the most annoying features of social-media platforms is the “People You Know” feature, where the app suggests people in your digital network that you have yet to connect with. As if you just forgot, after two decades of constant reminders. Most of these people are people you — and I — well, just don’t like. We know they’re there. They’re on Facebook. We get it. They’re online. We do know them. But we don’t like them. So we will never click the button to connect.
Social media has a problem: it assumes everyone should be friends. That’s not a “problem” really. It’s a business strategy. It is designed that way. The more connected the society is — the tighter our networks and relationships online — the smoother the digital (uh, brand) messaging highway is. And the easier it is to sell us shit we don’t need and spread messages about products and incendiary news and all sorts of other nonsense.
It is 2023, almost 2024. It almost 20 years since Facebook launched the social-media revolution. It is time to take a deep breath, to step back, and reevaluate all these relationships. Who is actually a friend? Who is an acquaintance? Who is a contact? Who belongs on LinkedIn and nowhere else? Who is a guy you took a class with 15 years ago and have no interest in following? Who is a “friend” who you have wished happy birthday online for decades but who wouldn’t stop to say hello if you saw them on the street? Our social-media feeds are full of junk. The people aren’t junk. They’re probably good, kind, loving people. Or not. But our digital tether to them is junk. It is clogging our channels. It is time to clean house.
One effective strategy that I am employing is my new “5 Gone Rule.” Every time I am on social media, I challenge myself to unfriend five people. I scroll very intentionally, and as soon as I come across someone whose post makes my stomach turn — or whom I don’t even recognize — I unfriend. Once I get to five, I feel I have done myself a service this…