The Gaslighting Qualities of Social Media: (Unfollow But Still Stay Friends)

Zahra Barri
5 min readApr 25, 2022


In order to save our mental health, we need to end our destructive relationship with social media. Here’s why:

They say the key to happiness is, “Find something bigger than yourself and dedicate your life to it”.

I don’t think this is true because Instagram is bigger than myself and it doesn’t make me happy.

It does, however help me make a really big life decision.

I was dead set on not having kids until I watched Victoria Beckham’s Instagram stories. (David Beckham’s dick is the dick that just keeps on giving, isnt it?)

Aside from getting my ovaries kicking, I think I spend far too much time pissing about on my phone.

I’m really trying to cut down. I downloaded the screen time app in order to help me quit.

I ended up deleting that because I thought it would help reduce my screen time, (I started checking it almost as much as checking if a guy I liked had seen my IG Story).

Before I deleted it, the screen time app said that I spend 10 hours a day on social media.

That’s almost half my life spent scrolling. Just think of all the other things I could have been doing with my hand.

I read an article (via Twitter) that we grew opposable thumbs as an evolutionary response to adapt to the constant need to scroll on our socials. Aside from learning this intelligent fact, I do worry that its making us dumber.

Social media is like a rear view mirror- it makes people appear closer than they actually are. (I once tweeted this and got no Retweets-WTAF?)

My main worry, is that despite the apparent close connection with people (the Beckhams) it actually causes more loneliness and mental health issues. One of the most influential of all the influencers, on Insta for young women is Kylie Jenner. People say she got to Billionaire status though her work ethic. But ss far as I can see, the only work Kylie Jenner has done is on her face. Now, I’m going to say something quite controversial here but, I DONT THINK KYLIE JENNER IS A GOOD ROLE MODEL.

Young girls put unnecessary pressure on themselves to get Kylie’s lips. If they want her trout pout they should just watch her E! -reality show called, ‘Life Of Kylie’ because the show makes you want to repeatedly punch yourself in the mouth. And that’s how you get the lips.

Speaking of getting punched in the face…

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with social media, akin to being in an abusive relationship.

One of the biggest warning signs of an abusive relationship is gas lighting behaviour which is characterised by someone tearing you down one minute and then bringing you up the next. Basically, when someone is really horrible to you and then really nice, making you doubt your own mind.

(I used to gaslight my ex-boyfriend quite a bit but he called it my period).

A classic example of gas lighting behaviour is when Trevor shoved Little Mo’s face into her roast dinner on Christmas Day back in 2004 on EastEnders. Tearing her down (grabbing her aggressively) and then bringing her back up (nothing says it’s Christmas more than noshing on a chipolata).

This is what social media does to me. It grabs me by the head and makes me look at people’s food.

If I had dinner with a girlfriend and she told me that her boyfriend acted the way social media does to me, after we were done Instagramming our food, I’d tell her to break up with him.

So here goes, Social Media you’re dumped! I’m sorry for not doing this IRL but doing it online feels right.

Dear Social Media,

When I first met you in 2007 (when I got my Facebook account), I thought you were the best thing ever. We were both young and didn’t really know what we were doing. We kept it casual. Nothing too heavy. Just the odd cat video, nothing overtly political. Definitely no petitions.

We checked in with each other every so often via my laptop (not my phone) at the end of the day whilst sat round the sofa with my housemates and that was it. Well, maybe the odd cheeky fumble on my lunch break at work.

Looking back, I was so innocent. If I got a ‘poke’ or a ‘wave’ online, it didn’t automatically fill me with dread. Back then memories were sweet. Now a (Facebook) memory fills me with utter contempt as it no doubt means you bringing up an ex on holiday in 2012 or how, yes, in 2009 I got drunk with my uni mates and stole a bunch of road signs and brought them back to our halls of residence. Stuff I’m not proud of, but still you insist on dragging up the past whenever you are mad at me.

I think our troubles started when I gave you access to my phone. That’s when it started to go sour. You kept pushing for more and more commitment (Instagram and Twitter). I wasn’t really ready for it but you put so much pressure on me to do it. And I just wanted to make you happy.

Yes, I admit, I loved it. At first. Having 24/7 access to you was amazing. I got so much validation; the retweets, the likes, the people who stayed with me even to the very last page of my Instagram story, (you guys are the best). You showed me a love I didn’t even know existed. You even made me feel beautiful when I thought otherwise, with your Valencia filters and whatnot.

Then again, on other days you made me feel bad about my number (of followers) and constantly made me feel like I was never enough.

I’ve realised that real love shouldn’t make me feel like this. You should love me for all my faults. If you can’t have me at my worst tweet then you sure as hell can’t have me at my pinned tweet.

When you suggested I join Tiktok I knew it was the beginning of the end. I felt like you don’t even know who I am anymore.

I started making excuses for you. I thought it’s not you, it’s the people I follow. So, in order to improve our relationship, I realised I needed to unfollow toxic people. So I unfollowed all of the Kardashians and anyone who has a better life than me but you still made me sad. It was then I realised that maybe problem isn’t people, the problem is you. What I actually need to unfollow is you — Social Media.

Or at the very least take a break like Ross and Rachel did in Friends. Maybe I’ll even sleep with the Copy Girl like Ross did. Photocopying is a lost art thanks to technology like you.

And of course I will think of you when I’m bored on a train but hell, I can read a book. (I’m sorry I don’t know why I even said that I just want to hurt you).

I know this will be tough for both of us. I no doubt will go on you again when I’m drunk and vulnerable (and horny). But for now it’s goodbye.

Or should I say, ‘unfollow but still stay friends’.

Zahra x



Zahra Barri

Egyptian/Irish Writer/Comic/PhD Student Unbound Firsts 2024 WINNER Pre-Order my novel,Daughters of the Nile