I’ve been going back and forth on how, when, why, and how much to use social media. Part of my struggle is that I moved away from San Francisco in December after 10 years (most of my adult life), so I don’t want to lose touch with my friends and sometimes I get really lonely. Part of my struggle is that I do get a lot out of engaging with intelligent, interesting, thought provoking people and I don’t want to miss that.
To satisfy this need, and to explore something I remember loving, I started commenting on the blogs I’m reading and enjoying. I am such a blog lurker, powering through 50-100 posts per day without saying a word. I remember how much I used to love commenting on blogs and meeting new readers and friends that way. I’ve been blogging since the days of mydiary.net, Livejournal, Xanga etc. and in those ~20 years since the late 90s it feels like commenting has died out a bit. Notoriously, people will give the advice “don’t read the comment section” to new bloggers. I was never able to follow that advice. Who am I writing for, if not the readers? How wonderful to get to engage, and tools like Disqus provide excellent moderating powers.
On the other hand, there is a lot of content (especially on Twitter) that I just find myself totally distracted by where reading the threads of mentions and replies can send my mood into a tailspin. I emerge hours later wondering where my morning went! I am a big believer that one needs to be very thoughtful about what they let into their mind, because it keeps working on you in a subconscious way. I started by deleting most of my old tweets so there wasn’t such constant stream of spamming of likes and comments picking up old threads out of context. That has been great. I feel like a traitor to the original ethos of Twitter, which was to not delete any tweets (not even for typos!) and I am sad to have lost some of the collaborative “performance art” that was so fun to create. I also have begun to actually block people, which also feels against the original community ethos of engagement but truly makes a huge difference in the experience. Twitter is the closest to a true addiction for me, I open it when I have a moment of standing in front of the mental refrigerator between tasks. I am playing with different approaches to training this out of myself and I’ve tried several strategies including deleting the app from my phone or limiting myself to only reading while I am exercising, and only posting on Sundays.
Facebook is easier to quit. I don’t care so much about the data tracking, perhaps because the ad form factor on FB is so crappy there is really never a risk of me buying anything. I rarely see weird political shit and when I went to download my profile of how Facebooks “sees” me I discovered it was somehow grouping me in the 65+ year old man category. LOL! Fine by me, my feed is mellow. As to people, curating my friends into real friends and acquaintances has been helpful. My default post mode excludes my acquaintances, which removes a lot of the awkward commentary. At this point, I prefer Facebook for the features that help with handling life coordination like EVENTS. I think a lot of the stuff I’d like to get done inside a personal CRM is semi-possible with Facebook. I don’t have FB on my phone, just my iPad, which means it is not a time killer for me.
Instagram is my favorite place to be when I have a few minutes free because it is beautiful, and I actually see ads for products I want and buy. I recently made my account private, but I have maybe ~150 people who are regularly looking at my story and ~20 people who are giving me likes regularly. These numbers feel much more reasonable and closer to real life and real friends than my 72,000 followers on Twitter. I don’t have notifications on for Instagram, which is good because it keeps me from getting addicted to the little dopamine droplets. Instagram feels like a place where Facebook can actually get me to do things: I have bought shoes, bikinis, and household decor because of ads on Facebook and have a collection called “Buy” that I actively curate so I will have ideas for gifts all the time. I feel like the ads there are really tailored for me, not crap.
In the spirit of commenting I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments here. How are you engaging with the writers, thinkers, bloggers and other sources of good and useful stimulation online these days?