‘Being online offers pleasures that demand little time and effort, when most of what is valuable requires a fair bit of both’

reader writes about the general obsession with social media and would like to know when it’s OK to delete one’s friends, and how we should respond when we know our friends neither “follow” us, “like” our comments nor make contributions to our posts.

I have to own up to the fact that I know very little about matters of social media etiquette, having been a refusenik from the start. While I couldn’t say when it’s appropriate to unfriend Facebook contacts, I do have some general views based on life outside the internet, which might apply. If someone is repeatedly rude, for instance, it would seem more than justified to cut them off — though I have to admit it does look more brutal to remove someone instantly, rather than to allow a friendship to wither gradually.

In answer to the reader’s second question, it seems to me that social media devotees could also take on board the benefits of cultivating a healthy disregard for other people’s opinions. Not an extreme disregard — just enough to remember that our wellbeing shouldn’t be wholly dependent on others’ approval.

Having said all that, if you’re getting tied up in knots about your social media friendships, it might be time to consider why you’re so hooked and to examine your motivations.

There are some good and some not-so-good reasons for being on social media, and it’s not always easy to disentangle them. Wanting to be socially connected is healthy, for instance, but you need to be wary of joining in just because everyone else is, or for fear of missing out. You might want to ask yourself whether having an online presence is worth the price in time and distraction. You might want to consider different ways of making connections. You don’t have to be in on everything.

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