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The Great Unfollow Part II: Grief & Trauma Edition
Finding your way on social media after profound loss
Photo by Danie Franco on Unsplash
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Yesterday I wrote about the great unfollow—a social media fuck you, and today I want to add more nuance. I want to share what happened while grieving three profound losses and how I messily showed up on social media. When I unfollowed or blocked someone, it wasn't always a fuck you per se; sometimes it was a duck for cover because no one is safe, everything sucks, and people say stupid shit when someone you love dies, and I must protect myself at all costs.
No matter how you slice it, being unfollowed, blocked or muted feels slight and breeds rejection when you don't know what is happening for the other person, especially without context.
I want to share my social media trauma blunders in more detail as I tried and still try my hardest to create relational “safety” via social media. Having to navigate my grief and trauma response after my friend died tragically and then my dad shortly after was a messy and disorienting experience. I was not thinking clearly or rationally most of that time, and although I could explain that calmly sans a fried nervous system now, some people in my life don't want to hear it, and I get that. What's done is done. Grace needs to be present in these instances; some people can provide it, some cannot, and I get that on both sides. Sometimes you run out of grace to give.
In short, I became so hyper-vigilant about trying to feel safe in my body that I deleted my entire Facebook account a few days after my dad died. Connecting on what felt like a superficial level after what I had been through felt pointless. I felt fearful that people judged how I was grieving or didn't feel people understood what I was going through. Social media felt hollow, and I didn't want to step on landmines of more hurt. I barely recall that time, but I do know I unfollowed a shit ton of people on Instagram too. Not many people felt safe to me at that time. I would tell certain people to go fuck themselves for being difficult when I could barely breathe. People triggered and annoyed the shit out of me. Some friends acted oddly or self-centered, and my short fuse due to exhaustion and emotional dysregulation would soon land me in therapy. Everything became distilled. I couldn't hold much outside of my grief at that time. I could not relate to people's differences. I could not hear one more shitty grief platitude.
Then the pandemic hit, adding an extra layer of fuckery for all. Tell me how many friends and family you cut off or blocked during the BLM protests and the fuck storm of the COVID-19 interpersonal dynamics playing out in person and online?
I was already dealing with grief and trauma, which led to certain people setting me off and then feeling that the only option, based on my exaggerated threat response, was to block them.
It's incredible to look back and see how far I have come. I'm less reactive, feel safer in my body, and when I disagree with someone, I no longer take it as a personal threat, but back then, my cup was overflowing with emotional pain. Hence, everything, including online life, felt unsafe. I was trying to survive. I don't think people understand all the compounded trauma I was facing. Maybe that is you right now?
It isn't pleasant to look back on, but I am through the worst of it. As for now, if someone is blocked or I unfollowed them without all the grief and trauma running the show, it means I don't find them to be a safe person, that I don't want them looking at my shit, or I'm trying to get over the pain between us, and it's best not to have them peering into my life or me in theirs.
Exploring the unfollow: (It can mean many things)
They can't relate to you any longer.
They are having a Menty B.
They are pressing reset on life and social media.
The person feels bad about themselves in comparsion, and a pop psychologist told them to unfollow anyone that makes them feel bad.
They are triggered by your content and you.
They are jealous or simply no longer like you.
Your content is an extension of you, and they aren’t into it.
It can highlight that a relationship has run its course.
It can mean fuck you, for real.
It can mean you are connected to people they deem truly unsafe or you are that person.
It can also tell you, like me, was having a major breakdown; people are trying to sort out how to feel safe on a platform that is often cruel and judgmental and riddled with reminders of friendship loss, broken down communication, abuse or whatever else.
_____________________________________ (add yours here)
We can extend our need for boundaries and access to our life in a few ways, the most extreme being getting off social media altogether or leaning into the nuance that comes with how we relate online vs in person and that they are more linked than we realized or are willing to admit. Social media makes it less personal until you run into them at the grocery store.