I got a snarky email from a blog subscriber a couple weeks after I wrote about the social media experiment, letting me know how trite and useless my content was, that I was fragile and dramatic, and that I wasn’t saying anything new or interesting.

So I let him know I’d unsubscribed him, and wished him well. That was that.

Then, predictably, he flipped out that I had the audacity to sever ties with him on my own volition. Mostly I think he was just mad that I wouldn’t stand there and just let him use me as a punching bag.

It’s important to realize that your personal online presence andonline community is not a democracy. You’re in charge. If your community is toxic, change it. Put up the gates. Use the unfriend button. Hell, use the BLOCK button. Weed the damned garden.

There will always be people who *only* show up in your online neighborhood to be trolls because it’s entertaining for them and assuages their own insecurities. Personally I have no interest in making my platform available for them to do that. You don’t have to, either.

And let me just dispel a pervasive myth right now about the need to “allow different points of view” and “broaden your horizons”.

I’m a smart person. As are you.

We don’t need the internet – especially random strangers – to incessantly tell us everything that’s wrong with us or the world at large. And no, that doesn’t mean I’m shielding myself from viewpoints that are different than my own, or turning a blind eye to the difficulties we face as a species right now.

I am perfectly capable of being informed and educated under my own power. I know where to go to find the information I need. I also have plenty of healthy, empathy-filled people around me that also harbor different viewpoints and perspectives who don’t feel obligated to use those as a cudgel every time they’re given an opportunity. I am also active and engaged in causes that matter to me at a level that is manageable for my life and emotional capacity

As a result, I do not need to drown myself in contrarian soup continuously in order to self-castigate and try to stay “informed”. 

An important fix for me in my quest to stop the hamster wheel of self-doubt in my head has been employing strong filters for the people I keep around me, the topics I’m willing to engage in, and the overall energy and attitude I want to bring to the world.

This also applies to following people who, for whatever reason, consistently make you feel inadequate, like you’re falling behind, like you’ll never measure up. You may think that you’re inspiring or motivating yourself by having these kinds of people around, but in actuality, you are dismantling your sense of belonging and being enough every time you compare your world to theirs (and likely feel like you fall short somehow). Keeping them in your peripheral vision can be super toxic. It’s ok to let those “motivational” follows go.

(PS – we also outgrow people, and that’s perfectly normal, but we’ll explore that topic in more depth in a future post).

How you choose to show up online has as much to do with what you won’t allow in as much as what you will.

So be picky. There’s enough “devil’s advocates” (one of my LEAST favorite things, as it’s so often just an excuse to be a confrontational jerk) and overall negativity around to choke a herd of elk.

As you reshape and bolster your sense of self-worth so you can suffocate that pervasive imposter syndrome surge, you need to feed your mind and heart input from the people and places that are healthy, nourishing, interesting, inspiring. That doesn’t always have to mean they’re brimming with sunshine and roses, but it does mean that they’re adding to your life more than they’re detracting from it.

Diagnosing who fits what category can be hard. It’s uncomfortable to sometimes realize that people you once admired are now dragging you down. Or, conversely, that people you’ve overlooked or undervalued actually have a lot to add to your universe. But next time you find yourself feeling agitated, defeated, or a little glum as you’re surfing the web, ask yourself this question:

Is it time for me to pull the weeds?

A small, meaningful community of the right people is far more powerful than just a collection of humans sitting on your virtual shelf like a jar full of pennies. That’s a hard thing to grasp in our era of “personal branding” and everyone trying to build their little online empires, but it’s a universal truth.

Being part of your personal online space should be a privilege, and today, it’s likely a space where you’re spending a LOT of time. Protect it. Maintain and nurture it it unapologetically. Hold people to a high standard. And ensure that you’re not renting turf to people who haven’t actively earned the right to impact how you feel about yourself.

When was the last time you took a long, hard look at who you’re letting through the gates?