Digital KonMari: Removing People and Content that Doesn’t Spark Joy
8 Ways to Clean House and Prepare for a New Year
Like many people on social media, I’ve often found myself overloaded with incoming data and in need of a detox. Since a lot of my income is dependent on being on social media in various forms, it’s often felt like a losing battle to detach and ‘be present’ as the experts advise. “I’ll just pop on and check on this client,” turns into a rabbit hole of Baby Yoda memes three hours later.
I’m not alone. Various studies suggest that social media is as addictive to some as drugs or alcohol, and, likely, the effects on society as a whole won’t be understood for years.
I can only refer to my own experience and what I’ve observed in other freelancers over the years as our dependence on social media has grown. Many home-based freelancers use social media platforms as our office of sorts. It’s how we remain connected to people in an increasingly physically disconnected world. There are weeks when the only people I see are the delivery people that make my life possible — shoutout to my “co-workers” from Amazon Prime, Snap Kitchen, and Uber Eats. You’re the real MVPs.
Freelance isolationism is real.
And social media feeds the beast. Many (most) of the freelancers I know would identify as introverts. Despite that, we’re human, and we’re hard-wired for some social interaction. It’s increasingly clear that social media fills that void.
But what happens when introversion tips to behavior that is unhealthy, exclusionary, or obsessive? When social media becomes the only source of connection and information?
Then Houston, we have a problem.
I started to notice that I checked things I’d posted more frequently and low-key worried about engagement, and found that it tied to my mood. More likes = more contentment. That was a gut-check. I don’t have a substantial following. I do manage brands that have a considerable presence, but I’m anonymous. I don’t accept friend requests unless I know the person to be a real person with something to say that I want to hear. I’m relatively open about my politics, which is risky when mixing business with personal.
After election day 2016, I went from over 3000 “friends” on Facebook to 500. I ruthlessly culled, and I was fine when I was unfriended. The noise all but disappeared for a while. But then it started getting noisy again because I had notifications turned on for news sites. I began to get anxious and depressed after interacting for too-long periods online, especially when reading and engaging in comments sections. My productivity dropped.
I was the troll in the dungeon
I was everything I hated about social media. And this time, I needed a thoughtful approach I could repeat regularly to restore balance. I expanded the culling to include content and people in general, and it looks a little like this:
- Review Facebook Friends — I delete with regularity, so this is a quick one. If I see you, then you spark joy.
- Review Friends and Family’s Facebook Pages I’ve liked — This is a big one because while I want to support friends and family, I’m hurting their marketing efforts if I’m not their target market. It’s the same rationale authors use when they don’t want friends and family to buy their book from Amazon. There’s a list of “also boughts” at the bottom of every book, and it skews the organic reach and results for the author if all the wrong people buy. “People that liked your vampire romance also bought this book on wart removal!” Not ideal for anyone’s sales, and a quick way to reduce the information overload.
- News Pages and Notifications on Facebook — This was a HUGE mental laxative. The comments sections are dumpster fires, and I found myself calling total strangers names and fighting over politics. I turned off all notifications and tamped down the anxiety that I was “missing something” when it felt too quiet. I wasn’t missing anything. I was just used to the adrenaline rush of an incoming notification.
- Facebook Groups — Groups seem to come and go with their owner’s bandwidth, and I’m quick to jump out of any groups that look like they’ll become a time-suck. I’ve seen an uptick in the quality of groups when members are vetted through questions before joining and when they have a heavy moderated presence.
- Facebook Privacy Settings — I review the apps and websites that have access to my data, and I run through who can see my information, who can contact me, and how Facebook can use my data. I also download a copy of my data and stick it in a Dropbox folder to archive. Here’s a very quick and dirty video of what I do:
- Twitter Followers — Twitter is a rugged wild west. I have just over two-thousand followers and follow just over a thousand, and there’s no rhyme or reason for them. Some are political; some are from previous jobs. I clean out the list using tools like CircleBoom and Tweepi annually. I’m not trying to grow my presence, and my objective is only to keep the noise to a minimum. The more my ratio of follow-to-follower remains in balance, the better the information I see. I leave direct messages closed, as well as notifications.
- Contacts Management — This is where I have to spend a lot of time, and it can be a bit emotional. Every year I wrestle with contacts that have passed away, and it feels awful to make decisions about deleting their contact information. I muddle through that, while also grouping, merging, and cleaning things up in general. I start with Google Contacts, but then have to check my Mac Contact List to be sure they won’t be re-imported. Since my contacts are over 10,000, I’ve implemented a new customer relationship manager called SharpSpring to score and manage these in bulk.
- Newsletter Management — Gmail makes it pretty easy to supplement the one-click unsubscribe feature that all newsletters by law are supposed to have. I tried unroll.me last year but found that it was a little too cumbersome. It wanted me to “process” over 1500 emails to get started. Hello? If I had the time to process 1500 email newsletters, even once, I wouldn’t need to unsubscribe.
- LinkedIn — This is another wildly disparate platform for me in terms of how I’ve acquired connections, but I’m on there so seldom that it doesn’t affect me. I subscribe to the premium level so I can view profiles anonymously, and I remove connections that repeatedly message me with offers, or have sent me email solicitations.
My focus is social media, but there are are other security-centric year-end tasks like reviewing your PayPal subscriptions and streaming services (hat tip to Jackie Dana for that one) and changing your passwords and backing up often (with credit Barry Maxwell).
I’ve seen a drastic improvement in my productivity and overall well-being by implementing some ruthless social media pruning, and it’s been a lifesaver. If it feels overwhelming start small. Even tackling some source of overwhelm is better than letting it take over.