The Korea Herald


[Weekender] Going on a ‘relationship diet’

By Cho Yun-myung

Published : March 9, 2018 - 16:53

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A couple of years ago, college student Do Ji-eun unfollowed every single person she followed on Instagram. She started to follow people again, but choosing only those whom she really cared about.

Painstaking though this process may seem, Do said that cutting off unnecessary ties had a positive impact.

In Korean, an “inmaek diet” -- inmaek meaning relationships in Korean -- involves detaching oneself from numerous acquaintances or personal connections. It’s a common practice for Koreans suffering from a flood of unwanted information on social media or stress caused by complex relationships.

(123RF) (123RF)

With the widespread use of social media, it has become much easier to widen one’s connections online.

According to a survey by Dong-a Ilbo and market research company Macromill Embrain, conducted in March 2017 on 1,000 people in their 20s, 62 percent of Facebook users had more than 100 friends on the network. Among them, about 17 percent had more than 300 friends.

However, these respondents had about five friends on average that they considered to be “real friends.” More importantly, 73.8 percent of respondents said that they “do not wish to have more friends online.”

Do started to think that many of her connections on social media were mere shallow acquaintances.

Along with cutting off ties on Instagram, Do distanced herself from some of her “friends” on Facebook. She utilized the “distant friend list.” Facebook users on your distant friend list can only view posts that you have set as public or ones where they have been tagged.

A survey by job information portal Incruit and research portal Dooit Survey suggests that the majority of Korean adults have considered trimming some of their relationships and around 85 percent of respondents have felt fatigue because of relationships with other people.

The survey, conducted in April 2017 on around 2,500 adults, showed that 64 percent have deliberately pulled away from relationships or considered trying but failed. In the survey, 31 percent said that they did not want to expose their online profiles to strangers.

A relationship diet can apply not only to connections on social media but to real relationships.

“I found myself caring too much about too many people and being wounded by relationships,” said Do. “I wanted to surround myself with only the people who were close enough and willing to give me the support I needed.”

One blogger on the country’s biggest portal, Naver, shared his experience of deleting half of his friends from his mobile KakaoTalk messenger app.

“Perhaps I have grown tired of (too many or superficial) relationships,” he wrote in his post. He said that he did not regret deleting friends he had not talked to in two or three years.

A relationship diet could also impact the network of close friends. Do said she tends to turn down dinner dates or conversations, even with her closest friends, when she feels the need to be by herself and organize her thoughts.

“When I learned that (staying in touch with everyone and pleasing them) had a detrimental effect on my mental health, I realized I had to change,” she said.

By Cho Yun-myung (