I didn’t buy a lot of what Kondo was selling. I don’t believe objects have “feelings.” And there’s no way I was going to completely empty my purse every night like some kind of monster. But it did help assuage my guilt about getting rid of books I’d never read, clothes I’d never wear, and gifts I’d never use.
Over the course of a few months, I methodically combed through my apartment. I filled more than a dozen trash bags for Goodwill. And it felt good. I didn’t just have more physical space – I had more mental space as well.
It also got me thinking about what else I could apply this philosophy to. And nothing needed more attention than my online life.
It starts out simply enough. You sign up for a new social media account. Friend the people in your email address book. Reconnect with classmates you haven’t thought of in years. Start a job and gain an entire network. Follow a few news sites and pages that post funny cat videos.
Then one day you wake up and realize you’re trying to drink water from a firehose. You get into petty political arguments with a girl you haven’t seen since you sat next to each other in AP History. You miss posts from your best friends because you’re drowning in updates from people you met at a conference six years ago.
It’s all too much – the information, the opinions, the noise. Putting an end to this madness became one of my first major projects for 2018.
I started with my cell phone – deleting apps I never use and cleaning out my address book. Farewell, ex-friends! See you in hell, Tinder randos! It was liberating.
Then I turned to Twitter. I had no idea how I ended up following more than 500 people, but it explained why I found the site borderline unusable most days.
One brutal cull later, and my list was under 200. No more accounts that were topically humorous in 2009, no more random celebrities. [I’ll always love you, Joshua Jackson. I remember everything. But I don’t need to read your hockey tweets.]
I saved the trickiest site for last: Facebook, a minefield of social obligations and half-baked connections if ever there was one.
As I looked through my newsfeed, I could justify just about everyone’s presence.
Of course I have to stay in touch with her, we had such a great conversation at that one party!
I can’t miss updates from him, we worked together ten years ago!
I didn’t get anywhere until I started asking myself a simple question: what value am I currently getting from this connection?
There are lots of different kinds of value, of course. Maybe you admire a person’s pithy comments on news articles. Someone else might have an especially cute dog you’re stalking. There are even a few people who make the cut just because their lives are an endlessly entertaining trainwreck. These are all valid reasons for maintaining a digital tie.
But you’ll also find there are plenty of connections you can do without. Did I care what the kid who ate marker tips in kindergarten was up to? Did it feel good knowing the guy I crushed on in high school works at a grocery store now? The answer was almost always no.
Once I started unfriending people, I never looked back. But that didn’t mean it was the best option for every situation. Sometimes you have to keep the peace with mutual friends. Other times you just want to avoid uncomfortable questions at Christmas. Fortunately, unfollowing someone is the next best thing. They’ll never even know you did it. You get all of the benefits, and none of the awkwardness.
The idea of severing digital connections may seem harsh at first. But so much can be gained from these losses.
Trying to keep up with everyone you’ve ever met isn’t just exhausting – it’s impossible. Everyone gets a limited amount of mental bandwidth. Use it on the people who matter, chuck the rest, and don’t feel bad about it.
Marie Kondo would approve.