Everyone has the right to cut toxic people from their lives. It’s usually messy, and not generally easy. But much of the time, it’s necessary for our own mental well-being. However, the way we move on from relationships has changed with the evolution of social media. And so, the coping tools we use should evolve as well.

Lately, it doesn’t really seem possible to cut anyone off completely. Thankfully there are still some tools and tricks that I’ve found to make sure I felt safe creating distance between myself and a former loved one. Sometimes it can be simple, and other times it takes a bit more effort. But in any case, these tips have always helped me find a solution.

1. Unfollow/Unfriend

[Image description: A person touches their phone while saying ‘Delete. Erase. Unfollow. Whatever.’] via giphy
This one seems obvious. But honestly, I’ve kept people in my social media sphere just out of fear of angering them. But in situations where you simply need to break a tie or give yourself a break from seeing their face, removing them completely is my go-to.

And when I say completely, I mean completely. Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat… the works. Unfriending them on one platform but then stumbling across one of their posts on another one is the worst. Whatever your reasons for cutting them off, leaving threads open invites you to go looking through the profile. Simply put, it’s not worth it. It’s okay to miss someone. But it’s easier to make emotionally healthy choices when you aren’t looking at their dog every other day.

2. Don’t be afraid to use that block button

[Image description: a man selects the block button on his phone.] via giphy
Seriously it’s there for a reason. The best thing I could have possibly done for my mental health was just to remove toxic people from my social media. But sometimes it goes beyond that. Depending on the nature of your former relationship, you might feel uncomfortable with the idea of that person being able to creep on your profile. Some platforms still allow other people to contact you via direct message even if you aren’t friends. Blocking is a form of self-care. The energy spent on worrying about that person contacting you is better spent on something you enjoy. You don’t owe them a conversation.

3. Be picky

[Image description: a woman says ‘You see how picky I am about my shoes and they only go on my feet.’] via giphy
Maybe you’re not ready to remove someone from social media completely. You have your reasons, and that is perfectly fine. You still have privacy options. Since these focus on Facebook settings, they’re particularly useful when dealing with toxic family members.

If you just need to keep certain posts away from a specific set of eyes, you can use the custom privacy options when sharing or creating a post. There you’ll be able to select certain friends who won’t be able to see your posts. You can keep it just for the one time or make it your default option for the future.

Another option for Facebook is the restricted list As I mentioned earlier, there are times when I felt unsafe unfriending someone. In one particularly bad situation, it was simply fear that they would get angry and retaliate by harming me. I was thankful to find out that the restricted list keeps them from viewing any of your non-public posts or information, while still technically keeping them on your friend list.

4. Let someone know

[Image description: Snoopy and Charlie Brown share a hug.] via giphy
When it came to the man who assaulted me, I wanted him to find no trace of my goings-on. Like I told my mother, he did not get to have any access to my life. So, I asked her and my grandma to delete and block him as well. Knowing that he wouldn’t be scrolling through his feed and looking on at anything my family tagged me in made me feel so much more secure. It felt like the final step in a long process of making myself feel as safe as I possibly could.

Basically, it’s hard to end relationships with so much social media surrounding us. But whether it’s a toxic family member, an aggressive person you met on a dating app, or just an unhealthy friendship, you have the right to the amount of privacy that you request. And despite what you may be led to believe, you don’t owe anyone anything. Feel free to shoot for your most stress-free social media experience, if at all possible.

  • Shannon Aplin

    Shannon Aplin is an activist and an artist with a love for travel and pop culture. She holds a B.A. in Biological Anthropology and loves nothing more than listening to her abuela tell old stories. When she isn’t writing, you can find her composing music, daydreaming, and fighting the stigma against mental illness.