The Social Media Pare Down

It’s time for me to stop relying on social media for information.

via Pixabay

November 8 was the cap on a terrible year. Both Twitter and Facebook proved themselves over the course of 2016 to be terrible, awful, no-good-very-bad cesspools of “bullying and other uncivil forms of communication” and fake news. All that aside, I’ve been overwhelmed and frustrated with both platforms for about as long, too. If it isn’t trying to pare down who I follow to a manageable level (without hurting feelings), it’s trying to follow said followers among the vortex of ads and recommended posts. With the election being the final straw, I decided I needed to fix things.

What I’m Changing

Facebook and Twitter needed the most change.

Facebook: This was the easiest to fix. I’ve never been someone who feels the need to friend everyone I’ve ever met. My friends list has always been in the sub-50 numbers and if someone falls out of my life, I’ve never hesitated to hit the Unfriend button. I still wanted to keep the service to see what my closest friends (meaning, people with whom I have a real-life attachment) are up to. But I was still following way too many pages, and all of that nonsense was choking what I really wanted to see because Facebook has yet to correct the problem of force-feeding you page updates. To correct this, I did the following:

  • I unliked all news/media pages. Sites like Vox and Mic update far too often for me to see everything. Furthermore, I can go to their sites and site networks and get just as much information (as well as being just as overwhelmed — who designs these sites to be so confusing and hard to navigate)?
  • I removed myself from all groups in which I did not actively participate. That might hurt a few feelings and for that I feel bad. But as it stands, there are a whopping 2 groups that get my interaction and both are private with 4–6 members — all of whom I know in real life. The others were groups I was forcibly added to without my permission. That’s not the fault of the group admins, who really just wanted to get the word out about their product. That’s the fault of Facebook for allowing admins to just add you to a group without sending at least an invite to turn it down. Sheesh, Facebook — even Events have invite/decline capabilities.
  • I went through the Restricted list and deleted everyone. I had used this list to keep face with people I knew in real life but didn’t necessarily like or have a connection. After realizing how screwed up that sounded, I went through and unfriended everyone in that list.
  • Finally, I turned off notifications for both Facebook and Messenger on my phone. I got so sick and tired of hearing my phone chirp every time someone commented, mentioned me, or sent me a message. From now on, I’ll check for notifications manually. There’s nothing that important that happens on Facebook, of all places, that needs my immediate attention.

Twitter: Unlike Facebook, Twitter took some hemming and hawing on my part. I did follow a lot of accounts that mattered to me that I wanted to continue following. But as the number of accounts grew, so did the morass — even when I opted to move accounts into lists instead. Eventually, my disillusionment kicked in and I decided I needed to pare down by quite a bit. That included:

  • I unfollowed everyone that I didn’t know in real life. That left me with only about a dozen accounts to follow, and even those accounts were either inactive or cross posted from Facebook/Instagram. Most of my real life friends don’t use Twitter at all, preferring to rely on the accessibility and popularity of Facebook instead. That makes sense to me.
  • I reorganized applicable accounts into lists. Lists are my favorite Twitter feature and they all but bury it on their web and mobile apps. The only Twitter service that displays lists in a conceivable manner is Tweetdeck.
  • I removed all of my connected apps and then removed the Twitter app from my iPhone. I’ll only be using desktop services from now on.
  • I deleted all my tweets, re-tweets, and liked tweets. Starting over with the same handle but with a fresh start feels like a rebirth.
  • I locked my account for the time being to take a break from it all. I found this easier to do than deactivating it all together. That way I won’t lose my handle and feel like I’m listening to the conversation without feeling the need to participate.

What I’m Keeping

There are some social networks that I still like to use and feel like they don’t contribute to the white noise of the internet.

Instagram: Silly and frivolous and ultimately harmless, Instagram’s output is infinitesimal to Twitter and Facebook. For me, Instagram is still a hub for cat pictures and selfies and that has never been a cause for concern on my part.

Pinterest: Same thing. Pinterest also feels collaborative without being interactive. Someone posts a “Here’s 10 Hairstyles for Medium Length Hair” and I can either like it or save it. For me, it is just a way to share links in a visual medium and I appreciate that use.

Medium: I am thrilled with Medium. I’ve got several publications to share my writing — both fiction and nonfiction. The writing interface is minimalist and easy. I can control what remains listed and unlisted. I’m experimenting with Medium’s short, aside-type post format. I like following full publications like Think Progress and The Nib. I like highlighting my favorite excerpts of other posts. It’s all around a great platform that is slowly growing into one of the most important online publishing tools.

My website: Well, for now. Eventually I’ll make the change and go to Medium full-time.

A few of my friends (the real ones) have taken to deactivating Facebook, Twitter or both in the wake of the election. I’m not going that far just yet, but I do believe that it was time to really look at how good sites like Facebook and Twitter were for me. Though I certainly won’t speak for everyone, I think it’s a good idea to reflect on social networking as a whole. Ask yourself:

  • Does it make you a better person, and is it a positive use of your time?
  • Does it create meaningful conversation and connections, and does it stand out above the noise?
  • Lastly, does it make you feel informed, challenged, smarter, or better about yourself?

For me, most of those answers were no. Something had to change.

Originally published at on November 21, 2016.

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