"When I first joined Facebook, I was so excited about being able to communicate with relatives, friends, and former coworkers scattered around the world. I enjoyed it so much that I also started using other programs, too. But social media has become more complex and is a real time-sucker. And instead of having fun, much of the stuff on there makes me frustrated, worried, and sometimes even angry. I’d cancel all my accounts, but I’d miss the good conversations I still have and some of the fun groups I’m in.”
Does this text I received from my friend Diana early last summer sound familiar?
If so, you are not alone. Americans spent, on average, 2 hours 22 minutes on social media per day in 2019. And a majority of users admit that, despite its benefits, social media brings far less joy to their lives than it once did.
This past summer, I decided to address the social media problems I, like Diana, was experiencing. I talked to social media gurus and did extensive research into various social media platforms, how they work, and how to make them work for me. What I discovered is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the problems social media users encounter.
There is, however, a simple process that can lead to solutions tailored to an individual's needs. The steps aren’t very time-consuming, but it’s important to not rush through them.
1. It is imperative that you first identify what you hope to gain through the use of social media. In other words, why do you log on to any social media platform and engage with others? List your reasons. Then dig a little deeper.
For example, if you said “communicate with friends”, ask yourself what you mean by “friends”. Do you mean people you have actually met and know? Or do you mean people you have actually met & know *and* folks out there with whom you share common interests but have never met?
What do you mean by “communicate”? Do you want to engage in discussion of topics, controversial or otherwise? Or would you prefer to simply share what’s going on in your life and learn the same from your friends?
Once you’ve identified the specific benefits you hope to gain from social media
use, write them down.
2. Do some basic research into social media platforms, what they are intended to
provide, and how they operate. You might find the interesting graphics provided
3. Using the information gathered in step 2, determine which social media platform(s) will best provide the benefits you identified in step 1.
If you don’t already use that social media platform, give it a try. If you’re like most people, you’ll find using it awkward, maybe even uncomfortable, so give yourself time to familiarize yourself with it.
4. Delete the accounts and apps for any platform(s) that don't fulfill your needs.
5. As you use the platform(s) you’ve decided to use, pay attention to what steals your joy, takes more time than you’d like, etc. Make adjustments and research to discover more adjustments you can make to adapt that platform for your use.
For example, if you tend to log on “for just 10 minutes” only to look up after posting and reading and discover that 2 hours have passed, consider setting a kitchen timer or installing a tool or downloading an app that will help you control the amount of time you spend on social media. Or if you truly only want to chat with people you know personally, delete the 342 “friends” you've never met!
In early Fall, Diana and I worked through this process together. As a result, I kept 2 accounts and deleted 2. I also changed more than a few settings and made significant changes to when, how often, and what I post as well as to what shows up on my newsfeed. I’ve cut my social media time by more than 50%, and I rarely find myself experiencing negative emotions when on social media.
Diana sums up the changes she’s experienced: “Oh my gosh! Social media is fun again! I dropped everything but Facebook. So long, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat! I unfriended several people who were beyond rude, stopped following all but a few groups, and now limit myself to 15 minutes in the morning and evening. I also take a social media fast for over 24 hours every week, from Saturday night until Monday morning. I wish I’d done this a long time ago!”
If you have a love-hate, or even a love-dislike, relationship with social media, give the process a try. Feel free to share your thoughts, results, any questions you have, etc. via comment or by email (pattimiinch.com).