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Social media no longer brings me happiness. Instead, it’s a chore—something that often feels intertwined with my job, social life, and connection to the world. And yet, I hesitate to let it go, exactly for the reasons it makes me anxious. I’m not the only one stressed out by social media, either. A recent study from New York University and Stanford, “The Welfare Effects of Social Media,” found that users who left Facebook for a month left participants happier and, in general, less online. (The study has not yet been peer-reviewed.)
Of course, not everyone can or wants to leave social media altogether. (The study found that participants were less informed in their month off Facebook.) But you can make it better. Julius Tarng, a product designer, created an app called Tokimeki Unfollow after joking about using Marie Kondo’s KonMarie method, recently re-popularized in America with Kondo’s new Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, for Twitter.
So everyone was joking about Konmari-ing their Twitter, but I went ahead and made a tool for that:— julius tarng (@tarngerine) February 4, 2019
Say hello to ✨ Tokimeki Unfollow ✨!
Hang out with virtual me and go thru your follows one by one. Do their tweets spark joy? If not, hit [Unfollow]!https://t.co/mrIK14vXum pic.twitter.com/DsPLmdE6Ol
Tarng said that he created the tool for himself, but that people on the internet responded to it. “A lot of people wanted [a tool like this],” he told the Daily Dot. “To use Twitter in a different way.”
Tokimeki Unfollow, which is an open source tool and hosted on Glitch, is simple. It connects with your Twitter account and pulls up accounts in one of three orders: oldest, newest, or random order. Other options include the ability to show bios or not, and to save progress to the server. Tarng recommends keeping bios off—using tweets only as a way to determine if they stay or go—and to keep progress turned on.
“It’s hard to do this all in one go, so don’t feel bad if you need to take a break,” Tarng wrote in the app’s description. “I’ll save your progress as you go so you can pick it up again another time.”
Indeed, the process is time-consuming. Once you hit start, Tokimeki Unfollow cycles through accounts based on the chosen parameters. You choose, again, from one of three options: unfollow, keep, or add to a list. It is tedious, but that’s the point. There’s no one shortcut for cleaning up your Twitter feed—with Tokimeki Unfollow, like the KonMarie method, you’re the only one who can make these decisions.
“I was expecting more skeptics,” Tarng said. “[Some people believe] tech should do things for us, and they’d be disappointed that the tool doesn’t KonMarie the stuff for you.” (Tarng said that even he’s not done cleaning up his feed. “It’s exhausting,” he laughed.)
Kondo explains her process throughout Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, and participants on the show often joke—What? You’re not going to do this for me? But that’s not the philosophy. Tarng made sure to set expectations for Tokimeki Unfollow users, making sure they know this will take a while.
Though tedious, I found the process empowering—I started with Tarng’s recommendation of starting with the oldest follows and working from there. I’ve been on Twitter for over 10 years now. My interests, both professional and personal have changed; the people I’ve followed reflect that. Many of the accounts I’ve followed over the years don’t necessarily “spark joy,” yet still feel necessary. Tarng said that “tokimeki” is the Japanese word that translated to “spark joy” in English, but that “spark joy” doesn’t necessarily capture the essence of the word exactly.
“It’s the feeling of a heartbeat sensation, a burst of adrenaline,” Tarng said. That definition includes things that may challenge you, or are otherwise important in your life.
And so I’ve kept the news organizations that sometimes bring painful news, and the half-dozen local weatherman I followed during Boston’s horrendous, record-breaking winter of 2015. I don’t feel the pressure to get rid of a ton of accounts, but find it empowering to choose which to keep. Tokimeki Unfollow is simple enough that it doesn’t tell you if someone follows you back, which I find particularly useful. It removes the obligation I often feel to follow someone who follows me, and I feel ease in letting go of accounts that make me anxious.
I’m only just 100 accounts in, well over 785 to go. The AP Stylebook Twitter still sparks joy, but my ex-boyfriend from college does not. 783 left.
Nicole Carpenter is a freelance writer and reporter with words on Dot Esports, Rolling Stone, Medium, InStyle, IGN, Polygon, the Outline, Racked, Vice, Kill Screen, and the Washington Post.