It’s almost scary how much social media has changed the way we behave.
When I’m out and about, my brain thinks about funny sights as whether or not they are shareable. When something witty comes to mind, I want to craft a post around it and get it on Facebook.
You might think I’m chasing likes for the sake of my ego, but that’s not really what’s going on. I work from home. I don’t get out and together with people very often. I don’t have coworkers to share things that come to mind, and if I go talk to my family about them, I’ll get sucked into 15 minutes of conversation among them.
Plus, because social media has empowered you to share a thought the second it comes to you, my brain wants to get it out before I forget it.
A lot of that changed in 2020.
Social media has been toxic for ages. It empowers the wrong impulses, and it has degraded interactions among the human race to ridiculously low levels.
Throughout 2020, as I began asking questions about the COVID pandemic and presenting viewpoints that were not being represented in most mainstream discussions, I saw the ugly side.
I saw people who presented themselves as friends launch really insulting accusations at me. I dealt with the frustrations of some who disagreed trying to pull me into arguments that had nothing to do with the main point of whatever post I had shared.
I received private messages from people threatening our “friendship” over what I was saying or agreeing with out there.
The stress was destroying me mentally and emotionally. I needed to get away from it.
But social media does have benefits. It does allow you to share certain things with people you like and care about.
How do you strike that balance? How do you figure out what to share and what not to share? And is there a way to still be on social media without completely changing the way you live?
The ability to communicate is a wonderful thing. Quitting social media stone cold is very hard to do, and it also robs you of some of the benefits of the latest technological advancements that we are blessed with.
I’ve been trying to figure this out, and I’m settling on a new routine that I think will allow me to still share a lot of the great things that I love to share, like funny pictures of my kids, quotes from books I read, great YouTube videos, and other things without having to subject myself to the negative effects of social media.
First, I do have to change some things about my behavior.
Social media is off of my phone
There are few feelings more disheartening like realizing that I’m on the floor playing with my son – enjoying a unique experience that will be over before I know it – and I’m mindlessly scrolling through my phone.
That’s the last thing I want to be doing!
Besides that, the pull of checking Facebook and Instagram is just too strong. Any time I have nothing to really occupy myself, I open up Facebook and start scrolling. It doesn’t matter that there’s nothing interesting happening. I just do it.
Last night, I deleted Facebook, Instagram, and even Feedly from my phone. They entice me far too much in my daily life.
Those apps are now solely on my iPad. This still allows me to consume them leisurely but on a larger device that I can’t just carry around with me everywhere. That’s important.
I didn’t delete any accounts. I just made them a little less convenient.
That helps with the consumption part. Now, what about the sharing part?
Family photos and big news: Facebook
Yes, I will still be posting on my personal Facebook page.
The fact is, I have lots of family and friends who like to know what’s going on. My kids are funny. People enjoy those posts. And they don’t really add any stress to my life.
So, if my son learns to ride his bike or my daughter takes her first steps or my other son heads off to his first day of preschool, I’m still going to post those things. My family lives all over the country now, and my parents also like to see what’s going on. It’s far more convenient to post those things on Facebook. Easy distribution.
Not having the app on my phone does add a bit of resistance, and that’s okay. It gives me a little while to decide whether or not I actually want to post this particular thing. Everything I snap photos of or take videos of will sync right to Google Photos, so I can move to my iPad or my MacBook and post through them.
Random photos and funny stuff I see: Snapchat
Sometimes you just see something funny or just want to post something quick that isn’t exactly earth-shattering.
Last evening, my daughter took a bottle for the first time, FINALLY. I wanted to share it with people.
Rather than clutter up Facebook’s News Feed, I decided to grab a quick photo on Snapchat and share it there. Truth is, most of my closest friends are already on Snapchat. They’re the ones I really care about seeing stuff like this.
That satisfies the urge of wanting to share a photo without being pulled into the endless scrolling of Facebook (yes, Snapchat has their own Stories and whatever, but I have zero desire to scroll through it).
Commentary on political news and current events: Substack
This was a big shift for me.
I very actively commented on current events throughout 2020 on Facebook. The people who hated what I was saying leaped into the comments sections to argue.
So, stop posting commentary, right?
Here’s the tricky part: I enjoyed exploring those topics in writing. And I received dozens (not exaggerating) of private messages from friends who said they agreed with what I said and requested that I keep writing.
Rather than just stop, I created a Substack newsletter/blog where I could post on current events without subjecting myself to the Facebook mob. I then privately invited those who had sent me encouraging messages to subscribe over there.
You’ll notice I’m not linking to it here. That’s because I don’t think I’m really ready for my name to be attached to political commentary online publicly. Yeah, you could probably search around and find it or whatever, but that’s not the point. I’m pretty selective on who sees what I write there because I am not interested in getting into arguments.
So far, it’s been great. I’m free to say what I want to say, and my audience there understands my intentions. I don’t have to go back and add disclaimers whenever I write something. And I’ve received private messages from many of them thanking me for continuing to write.
Politics gets off my chest, and I don’t have to sit and argue with people. Win-win.
Personality-driven stuff, random thoughts, and great online content to share: Business Pages
Sometimes I think of a witty comment.
Or I read a book I love.
Or I see a YouTube video that I think others would enjoy (like this one of Michael Keaton’s stand up routine where he reads a Bazooka Joe gum wrapper).
This would, honestly, benefit me as well. I’d like to engage with my audience on those platforms and post more often. Why not?
Many of my close friends are already following those pages, so they’ll still see stuff anyway. And again, I won’t get pulled into the Facebook abyss.
Often, I can even use Buffer to post to those pages without having to even engage in the platform directly at all. I wish Buffer supported personal pages for that very reason.
Deeper stuff: blog posts on my site and Medium
Maybe I want to go deeper into a topic, particularly when I am documenting what’s going on in my head or my career.
That’s where longer-form blog posts come in. You know, like this one.
I like this process because it allows me to explore thoughts and work things out in writing on a regular basis. It’s a key component to my plans for 2021.
I can still share those posts on my Writer pages on social media as well, which I’ll do with this one when I’m done with it.
Anything else I want to document: Day One
This is a big shift for me.
Sometimes I just want to document something I’m going through, thinking about, or experiencing. It could be thoughts in my brain or an event that is happening.
I still have the urge to snap a photo or write a few words about it, but I don’t want to be pulled into the News Feed.
So I can get it out of my system by opening Day One on my computer or my phone or my iPad and simply recording it there.
This morning, for example, my baby daughter was all snuggled up in our bed. My wife was in the shower, so she and I just curled up under the covers. When I got up to get dressed, I left her there, where she laid under the blankets happily. I thought it was cute, so I opened Day One and grabbed a picture of it, added a caption, and saved it there.
Boom. Documented like I would write a Facebook post. It’s out of my head, and it’s in a journal for safekeeping.
Sometimes you need to be creative
I think too many people approach problems with an “either/or” attitude.
“Either I let myself be addicted to social media or I cut it out cold turkey.”
With this approach, I’m hedging against all of my negative tendencies on Facebook, but I still preserve outlets for me to still do the things that I enjoy doing on social media – just in different places.
It feels natural and convenient, and I like it. What do you think?