The two main social media services I’ve been using are Twitter and Instagram. From my experiences I feel like I can divide the content I consume into five main categories:
- Services, accounts that fulfil an informational need of mine.
- People who I have interacted with and I feel confident that that they have a similar level of social familiarity with me as I them.
- People who I have a parasocial relationship towards
- Similar to 3, except I feel as though there is a plausible chance of the relationship becoming reciprocal.
- People whose content partly fulfils an informational need but because of the structure of social media, to consume it I have to maintain a parasocial relationship.
Where I am at in mental health, I feel like the first two categories are healthy, and the last three categories are unhealthy. Ideally I would have no, or very few parasocial relationships as I feel like they negatively affect my mental health. The issue is, those last three categories are very amorphous, and hard to deal with. Breaking off a parasocial relationship with someone that you want to have a social relationship with is really difficult. Services are trying to kind of address this with things like Instagram’s ‘close friends’ but I don’t think they work for me.
I feel like network theory could be used to identify these kinds of relationships with at least some reliability. Services could identify, and then touch base with users about these relationships and if the user is still comfortable; I don’t know how they should go about it, but I think it’s an area worth investigating.
For example, If I had a way of programmatically going through all the accounts whose content I consume and filter out any that:
- Have an order of magnitude more people interacting with their content than me AND
- Do not interact with my content AND
- Do not interact with the content of anyone who interacts with my content.
I feel like that would probably lead to a more healthy social media environment for me. It wouldn’t be perfect, I’m sure there’s people who I have an unhealthy relationship towards who would pass that test, and it would probably require me to confront some level of grief over relationships I may have speculated about having, But it’s a start.