“Part of the [social media] scam is that the pyramid scheme of attention will somehow pay off for a lot of people. It won’t. It can’t. The math doesn’t hold up. Someone is going to win a lottery, but it probably won’t be us.
And a bigger part is that the things you need to do to be popular (the only metric the platforms share) aren’t the things you’d be doing if you were trying to be effective, or grounded, or proud of the work you’re doing.
When there’s a single metric (likes/followers), we end up looking in the rear-view mirror when we should be driving instead.
Maximizing the benefits for the social media platform you’re on are different than maximizing the benefits for you and those you are leading.” ~ Seth Godin
I know you’ve all heard me mention “deep work” many times, and how I must be able to enter that mode in order to do the type of work that I do; I’ve also written on my blog about my desire to pursue quality, rather than quantity, in my work.
And I know I’ve mentioned my desire to produce my own “purple cows” often as well…
But, even though in the video below, computer science professor and bestselling author Cal Newport advocates quitting social media altogether, for the same aforementioned reasons as well as many others (such as the fact that tech companies are intentionally programming their apps/platforms to be addictive, and additionally I believe we all need to re-establish an appropriate degree of disconnectedness), I’ve instead taken I slightly different tack—one that Newport calls “digital minimalism“:
Over this past summer, I carefully analyzed my use of social media, and tried to formulate, or quantify, some sort of ROI (if any) regarding its use. As Newport points out in the video below, there are many reasons to quit social media; but I also found there were a few—though limited—reasons to stay.
What I elected to do—at least for now—is to end my use of all other platforms, and I only stayed on Facebook—
(UPDATE: I’m now dabbling in a new platform launched by some friends of mine called Flote, but very lightly for now, see how it goes…)
—but that being said, I did go ahead and delete the Facebook app from all of my mobile devices, so I don’t have access to it (or even the temptation) when I’m away from home. I have to actually be home, go to my office, sit down, and log in to my computer to access Facebook.
And wouldn’t you know: deleting the mobile apps alone reduced my use of Facebook by probably 95% right there…easy peasy…
And, another tip: whenever I leave Facebook, I try to remember to not simply close the window, but to log out of my account altogether; this way, the next time I go on Facebook, I actually have to go through the log-in process, rather than simply open the app. This two-step process helps remind me that I’m trying to minimize my time on Facebook, and forces me to ask: do I really need to go on Facebook right now? Often, I don’t—it’s simply habit, or reflex, or boredom that led me to almost unconsciously open the app—and so I’ll close it without logging in, and resume whatever I was doing prior, thus increasing my productivity. Plus, since the newsfeed is not displayed on the log-in screen, I don’t get pulled in by memes, click-bait, posts, ads, or whatever else happens to be displayed at the top of my feed, and down the rabbit-hole we go…
Further, I determined that the value I do get from Facebook comes primarily from my various pages, more so than my personal profile. By splitting my content up by category and posting to my pages—which have fewer but much more active followers than my personal profile—I receive substantially more, and higher quality, engagement and feedback, which I value.
And, using the “friends lists” feature, I created custom newsfeeds of my top Facebook friends, and of specific networks such as authors/publishing, liberty community, local news/events, etc. I rarely if ever log into my “home” feed (other than to view posts from my top selected pages, as detailed below), I instead log into my various friends lists, and so my newsfeed is predominantly high quality as well as highly relevant, thus cutting way down on the “small talk”, irrelevance, and downright idiocy that generally plagues my home newsfeed.
The only drawback is, there are still ads, even in my customized feeds…lots and lots of ads…but I suppose there’s no escaping that aspect of the platform…
(UPDATE: Facebook removed the friends lists feature from the mobile app a couple years ago, and now the feature is also becoming somewhat dysfunctional even online: suddenly I cannot add pages to my lists, only friends, when either creating or modifying a list, and I can no longer modify the list conveniently through the “edit list” menu (only a blank window opens, doesn’t seem to be working anymore), so I must now add/remove friends individually via their profile page, which is considerably less convenient; and I cannot add pages at all. So for pages, one work-around I’m now using is to set my 30 (the limit set by Facebook) top-selected pages to “see first” under the follow tab, so when I DO log into my home newsfeed, I get those posts at the top of the feed. All this now being the case, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to utilize the friends lists feature proficiently, or whether it will continue to weigh so heavily in my decision to remain on Facebook going forward).
In summary: my various pages offer me a platform where I can share my work as it progresses and receive relevant and valuable feedback from those who have opted in; creating custom friends lists enables me to pare down my selected feed(s) to just the cream of the crop, or a specific area of interest; setting my top 30 pages to “see first” gives me a stream of quality content at the top of my home feed (which, upon scrolling through them, I usually close out of the feed); and thus far, it’s still somewhat easy to add or remove friends from my custom lists, keeping those feeds up to date and relevant.
And I don’t bother writing much in the way of substantive posts on my personal profile anymore, because I’ve found it to be somewhat pointless, there’s little to no engagement there (aside from suspected “shadow banning“, I believe this may also be due to my high friend count (closing in on 5,000 friends plus nearly 800 followers), that if Facebook only shows my posts to a small percentage of my network, what are the chances those that see it will happen to be friends that even give a shit? Probably slim to none).
UPDATE: Something new I’ve recently implemented: rather than posting on Facebook what’s going on with me in the mornings or throughout the day, I’ve instead returned to journaling. I use Scrivener, and start a new outline point with each day, using the date as the outline point title. I leave the journal window open on my desktop, and record my thoughts, feelings, activities, and speculations throughout the day there, instead of on Facebook—and it’s working well (and, I’ve ascertained, is probably more appropriate…)
Plus, I still write on my blog (which is growing by leaps and bounds, by the way), and am considering launching a podcast (or two), and I may also be creating drum/music videos in the near future—and remaining on Facebook gives me a fairly substantial platform onto which to share all my current and future work, that I wouldn’t have otherwise—especially if I were to leave the platform altogether.
Anyway, that’s where I’m at with social media. And thus far, these changes and this new approach have been quite effective in drastically reducing my investment in, and considerably raising the return from, Facebook—making it worth sticking around…at least for a little while longer. We’ll see.
So, just thought I’d share my thoughts, in case anyone else is looking for ideas about how to transition out of the habit, without ending its use altogether.
And all that being said, you might take a minute to watch Cal Newport’s Ted Talk Quit Social Media, it’s well worth the short amount of time required:
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