Is It Okay to Mute Your Annoying Friends on Social Media?
Experts weigh in on a delicate matter
When Emma* moved to a new town, she decided to mute or unfriend a large group of friends on social media who knew that she had been assaulted by a mutual acquaintance at a party. “They were all there and knew what happened, but I moved away shortly thereafter and they all just… stayed friends with him,” she says. “So I ended up blocking/muting them every time he showed up in a pic with them on Facebook to protect my heart.”
Therapists I talked to say that, for those of us who have experienced situations similar to Emma’s, muting and unfriending the people involved is a healthy choice. Yet many of us mute on Instagram and Twitter, or unfriend on Facebook, those whose transgressions against us are minor compared to the trauma inflicted upon Emma. Is there a line between muting and unfollowing to protect yourself against toxic people and doing so just to cut down on annoying noise? Does it even matter?
I ask these questions in part to confront my own relationship with the mute button. I have 557 accounts muted on Twitter, many of whom are people I follow and who follow me. Instagram doesn’t provide an exact number, but I’d estimate I have about 200 accounts on Instagram muted, mostly both stories and posts but occasionally only one or the other. On Facebook, the culling is more dramatic — people from my past whom I no longer have any interest in maintaining a relationship get the axe. As in, unfriended. Goodbye!
Most of these people were muted for minor infractions: They tweet too often, for example, or merely tweet frequently about a topic in which I have little interest, like, I don’t know, Marvel films. I don’t dislike these people at all, and I don’t want them to know they’ve been muted — they’re good people, and some of them I’d even consider friends. I just can’t handle whatever it is they really like to tweet about.
“She pretends like she’s this huge Democrat and always has been… She’s also just incredibly annoying.”
I talked to around 25 people for this piece, and their reasons for muting or unfriending cover a wide…