Hello again, social media

I have to confess that this post is a little overdue!

Last year, I posted this after having deleted all of my social media accounts. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. All gone. Not put on hold, deleted.

I was inspired to take such a radical step after reading Cal Newport’s book on “Deep Work”. In particular how the lack of any social media presence has helped the author to do such great work and write such excellent books. Despite the fact that he is a professor of computer science.

It was a very useful experiment and in all truth, there was  little that I missed by not being as connected as I had been. But I wasted so much less time in scrolling a feed curated on my “preferences” and being sucked into the resultant rabbit holes.

And then I read “Digital Minimalism”, by the same author.

Minimalism has been a trend for a little while – learning to live with much less, but in a more focused way which ultimately brings more joy.  I’m far from being a minimalist in the purest sense of the word, but it’s a philosophy which resonates with me. So I was intrigued to see how minimalism might apply to our digital lives.

In short, it’s about being very deliberate with social media (and other non-essential internet use) and there are some great stories in the book about ways people have hacked their online lives to make it work for them.

I’d begun to find a few things (most of our local judo clubs, for instance) which only publicised events using Facebook and was missing a small handful of people with whom Twitter was the only way that we’d previously connected.  So inspired by the book and armed with a new set of rules, I ventured back into social media:

  • Facebook:  I only follow very close friends, family and organisations I with whom I need to stay up to date.  I check this less than once a fortnight and only then for a few minutes to find what I need to know.
  • Twitter:  I follow a lot more people here but mainly friends or people who post good quality content on topics which interest me.  I try to keep usage down to less than fifteen minutes each day.
  • LinkedIn:  I use this for work and also to share articles from my blog.  It’s mainly a big contact book, but I am finding that it’s quite a powerful platform on which to share my writing. Browsing is kept to a minimum – again no more than fifteen minutes per day.
  • Instagram:  I have found no use for this in my life, whatsoever.

I have no apps for any of these on my phone and no notifications popping up anywhere.  If I need to look something up or make a post, I do it deliberately and on my terms using Chrome (mobile or desktop).  I also log out of each site once I’ve finished, as having to log back in seems to discourage casual use.  Simple but true.

Even while maintaining these accounts, it’s always possible to have a short period of “digital detox” to really get away from things for a few days.  With a bit of structure and disciplined internet use however, that seems less and less necessary nowadays.

So do I feel like I’ve given up and been sucked back in?  No not really.  I’m getting the content and service I want with a minimum of additional distraction.  I don’t always manage to stick to my own rules and the rabbit-holes are still there, but on the whole social media is working better for me this way.

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