Overwhelmed by social media? Social media fatigue wearing you down? Should you quit social media? These are just some of the questions and its variants that I’ve found myself typing into Google over the last 2 years.
It’s kind of ironic that I’d say that, considering two important things:
- My work/blogs revolve around having a social media presence. Traffic to my blog is highest via these channels.
- I recently was presented an award for handling my social media account on Twitter effectively.
Okay, fine. You can snort with laughter. I’ll give you a moment.
Social media has been an integral part of my existence for a little over 3 years now. Facebook swung into my life in 2007 and Twitter in 2010, I believe, but it was only after I began blogging with earnest that I chose to discover more about these platforms.
Of course, that came with its own share of both bonuses and pitfalls. One of the things we’ll be talking about today is how to combat social media fatigue and balance your life online without getting sucked into the addictive vortex of digital data.
Since I have an active presence on Facebook and Twitter, I’ll be talking about these in particular. Feel free to add your suggestions too in the comments below.
Why it’s addictive
This is clearly one of the biggest draws out there in cyberspace. Facebook is very smart in the way it hooks you to its interface. A veritable stream of pictures, updates, events and articles greets you every single time you log in. The more friends you have, the more populated your news feed. (I should know. I have more than a 1000. Again, chuckle away.)
You also have Facebook messenger to keep in touch with friends and you have groups to connect with like-minded people (although that can sometimes be a bit of a quagmire too). Let’s not forget Facebook business pages who attract your interest. (Ahem)
Facebook knows the pulse of the person using it. It’s actually pretty commendable how they’ve built an entire network on the pure basis of sharing content. I’d have to doff my hat to them for this; unequivocally so.
But the real challenge for most of us writers and bloggers is that it rarely remains as a way for us to catch up with people. While it began as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, it slowly evolved into a way to network with people we met online.
The clear problem with this approach is two-fold: One, you don’t know the person well enough offline to forgive them their anger or laugh at their acerbic wit. Two, you feel compelled to stay friends with people whom you barely know.
How do you handle it?
- You could deactivate your account. Towards the end of 2014, I began to do this every month. It helped me tremendously, to come to terms with my emotional well-being and also gave me some much-needed time off from digital overload. I rarely do it these days, though.
- You can practise mindfulness. If you were to approach every moment of your waking day with intent, this would really help. Think long and hard before posting an update. That’s fairly difficult in the generation of instant gratification but if cultivated, it will help you in the long run. Avoid commenting on status updates where you either don’t know the person too well or find the topic contentious. Both of these can be extremely harmful to your emotional and mental wellness. Of course, if you’re the kind who likes to engage in debate and don’t find yourself getting affected adversely, you can ignore this tip.
- Access Facebook only on the laptop. I know it’s the age of smart phone apps, but un-install it from your phone and see the difference it makes. If you MUST be accessible due to your blog/small business being on Facebook, I recommend using only this app: Facebook Pages. How does this help? You’d still be available to those who need to reach your business and you’d eliminate the need to scroll through the news feed every day.
- Open an alternative Facebook account: I had to create one for work purposes when I decided to deactivate my account. Best decision ever. I have less than 10 friends on that account and I practically never post updates there. It’s exclusively for work and I get a ton of it done. I am off the platform without spending precious minutes on the latest inspirational quote or watching the same meme over and over again.
- Have Facebook-free days: I get that working in the online space mandates being available on social media for most of us. But earmark a day or two a week when you can sign out of all your accounts. Make it the weekend so you can get some much-needed time to catch up on your reading and maybe some time with the family.
Why it’s addictive
If Facebook is like a private pool party, Twitter is like the Oscars. Okay, fine, the Golden Globes. Everyone who is anyone, is on Twitter. It’s a great way to drive social causes, speak up for/against issues ( that itself is grounds for an entirely new blog post) and connect with people for business.
A lot of people are wary of Twitter and possibly with good reason. It’s a very public space, more so than Facebook. You cannot really control who follows your updates (unless you block them) and you really have to think twice as hard before putting up tweets.
For one thing, Twitter moves very fast. A typo will be dissected just as ruthlessly as a comment on the latest foreign policy. But, curiously, that’s precisely also the reason it’s very addictive. Having a tweet seen by your idol or an author you adore, that’s something you don’t get anywhere else.
The accessibility to celebrities is a drug for many people. It also,unfortunately, means that people can be at their worst since there are no restrictions whatsoever.
How do you handle it?
- Pare down the list of people you follow. As I’ve mentioned before, you don’t have to follow everyone who follows you. It’s counter productive. You can take your time, hop over and check their feed and see if it interests you.
- Stay away from ranting/venting. Complaining rewires your brain for negativity, says this piece and I am inclined to agree. The days I find myself even marginally expressing anger/displeasure online, I feel drained. Again, practice intent and mindfulness before tweeting.
- Share content that is in tune with who you are as a person. Don’t engage with views/tweets if they are sure to trigger your anger. For one thing, it doesn’t serve any purpose. I’ve never seen people actually changing their stance after a discussion on Twitter. For another, it’s a chunk of your time squandered.
To be clear, I don’t really advocate swearing off all social media, because, personally, I find that it has its benefits. I’d still recommend being mindful and observing how you approach each platform. What we need to remember is social media is an instrument and as long as we use it exclusively as that instead of as a crutch for our boredom and our distraction, we’d do just fine.
Recommended reading/watching if you’re planning to quit social media cold turkey: