Using social media is a massive net negative for most people. But, it doesn’t have to be.
Social media is addictive, time wasting, distracting, anxiety inducing, [fill in the blanks]. However, the benefits also can’t be ignored. It can help you connect with new people, learn, be inspired, grow a business, build a career, [fill in the blanks].
Here’s the kicker. Social media products are designed to get as much of your attention as possible. This is their singular goal. Your attention is tied to the business model. The longer you spend on them, the more money they make. You ARE the product. Social Media companies have some of the smartest product people and engineers in the world to be the best at getting your attention. You don’t stand a chance against them.
Most people don’t even realise how big a net negative their use of social media is. If you’re a parent, you know. Because at some point your child has enthusiastically wanted to show you something that they really care about – and you’ve told them to ‘wait a minute’ because you’re engrossed with something on Twitter or Instagram that doesn’t matter. I’ve done it, and you’ve done it.
But, there is absolutely a way to use social media to a massive net positive – to have your cake and eat it. You can get all of the benefits, and hardly any of the negatives. But, you have to flip everything on its head.
At the heart of the problem is four things:
- not knowing why you use social media
- following people too loosely (linked to the first one)
- using the feed
- using it daily
I use social media in a way which negates all of the above things.
Firstly, I know exactly why I use social media. I use it to get ideas, learn and to be inspired. The areas I care about are health and mindset. That’s it. I don’t care what my friends are up to. I don’t care about the news. I don’t care about celebrities. I don’t care about businesses.
If you use social media without a goal (or too broad a goal), you’re going to get completely lost. So, take some time to decide exactly what you want out of it.
Secondly, I don’t ‘follow’ anyone, and I never use the feed:
This is the opposite of the normal user experience of social media products. Following a lot of people and using the feed is at the heart of the addictiveness of these products. Trust me, you have no chance if you use them this way.
Now, the obvious question this brings up is – how the hell do I actually consume content if I don’t follow anyone, or use the feed?
Easy. I bookmark (using my computer) the profiles of people whose content I want to consume. And I categorise them to organise everything:
Here are my high level categories:
Here are the profiles I have bookmarked in my health category:
This leads us to the mistake of following people too loosely. You have to curate these profiles very strictly. Every one of these people consistently produces content that is useful and matches why I want to use social media. I also look for people who have a high ratio of usefulness / number of posts.I don’t want to wade through lots of unuseful posts, to find one useful post – it’s too time consuming. Now and again, a profile will fall outside of my rules (maybe they end up posting more frequently, or I find their posts less useful). When that happens, I remove the bookmark. You have to stay on top of curating the profiles you follow.
Now for the last mistake – using social media daily (or like 50 times a day for most people!). It’s a terrible idea and completely unnecessary. It’s much better to batch everything and have one weekly session. In that weekly session, you consume all content from your curated list of bookmarked profiles.
I set aside an hour at the weekend to review the last week’s worth of social media posts from the profiles I’ve bookmarked. I start by firing up the bookmarks manager in Google Chrome. Then, I head over to my first category folder (Health). I right click it, and choose to open each profile in a different tab. Fourteen tabs immediately pop up – one for each profile. I skim through each one and review the last week of posts. I usually find something interesting or thought provoking for each profile – an idea, something I didn’t know, or something that inspires me. But, at the very least I will come across a handful of very useful posts across all profiles. That makes my hour very easily a net positive.
I’ll give you a real example. I spent about 45 mins yesterday (Sunday) doing my weekly social media check in. One of the things that stood out was this post – Choose Allies Over Comfort. It’s stuck with me since. It got me thinking about my friends and how this principle shows up (and where it doesn’t). This alone is well worth 45 mins of my time.
By using social media like this, you’re much more likely to get value out of the content you consume. You could also easily reduce over fifteen hours of social media usage per week  down to one hour. That’s FOURTEEN hours of your life you get back.
Two last tips for you.
Remove all social media apps on your phone. There’s not enough friction between you and the app to avoid the temptation to use it several times a day. Instead, limit your social media usage to your computer, and a time blocked session once per week. After, close the browser, and get on with your life.
If you’re creating and posting content on more than a weekly basis, try and also do it from the computer. Post, and shut the browser. Some apps make this hard (i.e Instagram). I literally delete and re-install instagram on a daily basis to make daily posts and check any replies (I really need to find a better way of doing this!).
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