I want to delete my Facebook. I actually deleted it several times already- because removing "friends" can be so difficult, I closed one account, then started a new one... only to receive, despite the strictest possible privacy settings, more unwanted requests, messages, and pressure to accept and answer them. Social media is useful in so many ways- how could I live so far from family and longtime friends without it?- but Facebook, Instagram, et. al are businesses first and foremost. Their profit margins increase the more people join, share posts, and view ads. Donc, social networks don't care if we put too much information out there or spend too much time online.
Right now, I'm focusing on spring cleaning my social media- a digital detox, if you will. Periodically, I try to step away from all screens for awhile (it could be a day, a weekend, or a week) to get a grip. The internet is a great resource when used wisely, but it can be a little depressing. There's a lot of pressure to constantly take pictures with pretty filters in new outfits at the trendiest places. It can make me feel like I need to chase after a particular lifestyle, or buy certain things I wouldn't be interested in otherwise. For some, social media prompts a nagging sense of unease whenever they're at a dinner or anyplace where it would be inappropriate to check their phones, an urge to check and reply to incoming messages. This affects personal relationships, and is surely the reason Kar and Toffel like to sit on our laptops, or try to bat away the phone every time I spend too much time on it instead of playing "spy on pigeons from the window" with them.
Should you streamline your social media accounts?
- Do you forgo sleep to surf the web, browse social media, or check incoming messages? Do you keep using the internet long after deciding on a time to stop?
- Does it affect your self perception- in other words, do you find yourself comparing your life to others? Do you feel a decline in confidence due to unfair comparisons? Does certain social media make you feel bad about your life?
- Does using certain networks or viewing certain images negatively affect your mood?
- Does your mood change, or do you feel uneasy or agitated, when you cannot access the Internet or use an electronic device? When you're signed out of social media accounts, do you find yourself longing to log in again?
- Do you neglect other duties because of electronic usage? Do you find yourself using portable devices during meals or real-life conversations with people? Can include video games, TV, email, etc.
- Are you overloading others by broadcasting the latest trending subjects to acquaintances, perhaps taking up your- and their- valuable time? Conversely, do you feel pressured into accepting friends, answering messages, and commenting when you don't really want to?
- Would your family members agree with your answers to these questions?
Since I said yes to most of these things, here are some strategies I found useful in cleaning up my digital footprint.
Social media minimalism
- Baby steps. Unfollow or unsubscribe to unnecessary accounts, email lists, and TV channels- that is, stuff you're not interested in anymore or things that clutter your feed. Delete apps and games you never (or shouldn't) use, and photos you don't look at or show others frequently- for instance, out of those 100 selfies you took in the car, maybe you should keep only a few. Sign out of social networks you don't urgently need (for instance, many people need Twitter and LinkedIn for work, but Pinterest less so). Making sites less readily accessible prompts you to think about whether you really should sign in or not.
- Prioritize. Figure out what messages, online tasks, or activities are truly important, and what doesn't need to be done. Are online acquaintances cluttering up your newsfeed, so you don't see posts from real-life friends? I used to follow everyone back on Instagram, but then I was missing photos of friends' new babies and pictures from family gatherings, so I stopped. Now my rules for social media are: 1) Do I know this person? 2) Do I remember how I met this person (if ever?) 3) If they were in Paris, would I invite them for dinner or meet them for a drink? If the answer to any of these questions is no, I delete them. As Joan Didion said, I don't even keep in touch with the people I used to be, so why would I keep in touch with random others?
- Set reasonable limits. Obviously a lot of us need to use digital technology for business, but if we're overusing it recreationally, we may need to designate specific times for personal accounts. For example, you might wish to check in for half an hour in the morning and again at night, but nothing more. If you feel the urge to grab your phone or computer, try to do something else as you wait for the feeling to pass- scrub a toilet, make yourself a sandwich, walk to a park, whatever. It helps to plan activities in advance so you can react quickly when resisting the urge to use electronic devices. One thing we do at dinner with friends sometimes is put all the phones in the center of the table, and the first one to reach for theirs gets the bill. Even Kylie Jenner sets her phone down at bedtime, answers the first messages she sees in the morning, and ignores the rest, much to the chagrin of Kourtney Kardashian.
- Be realistic. Social media isn't a reliable indicator of how connected you are to people in real-life. It can even make some friendships seem closer than they really are. Stop texting or messaging some of your online friends, and see if they take the initiative to contact you. If an online connection sends you unnecessary messages, don't answer. Obviously you want to be nice, but if it's sucking up a lot of your time, don't stress- if people get mad at you for not answering a Candy Crush request, they're not true friends.
- Deactivate. In extreme cases of spending too much time on a particular network, you may wish to deactivate your account. You can always reactivate later, but a break can help you be less attached and gain a bit of perspective on whether or not certain forms of social media are truly necessary. For instance, I was really annoyed with Linkedin and Twitter, but kept my accounts because I felt I would be unemployable without them. Then I deactivated and found it actually did not hinder my ability to find a job whatsoever.
Periodically, I also delete Instagram and Facebook pictures that don't mesh with my aesthetic vision for my feed. That's my own weird personal hangup, though. I do find that zeroing my inbox and deleting unnecessary archival emails helps me answer emails more quickly and be more productive (it also reduces your digital footprint- storing emails emits carbon. Some other easy ways to reduce carbon emissions from electronic usage: solar chargers, and using Ecosia.org, a search engine that plants trees). I keep one folder of digital photos on my computer and backed up on the cloud, and the only apps I have on my phone (besides factory apps) are three programs I use daily (not Pinterest and Facebook, which I find easier to access on Chrome). I have 30 documents on Google Drive that I refer to frequently, so I don't feel the need to apply minimalist principles to them at this time. Minimalism is a useful tool when it serves us, but it's not something we should necessarily strive for in every aspect of our lives.