How To Make Social Media Great Again

Pew Research reports two-thirds of American’s think social media harms the country. There are many similar studies, all pointing to social media destroying our lives.

Social media is not inherently good or bad; it’s a tool. Like a simple hammer, Twitter or Instagram bend to the will of the user. Sure, the networks are filled with fake users and bots. But, like every tool, we have the power to wield social media based on our desires.

Here are three easy steps to make social media great again. Or, at the very least, not suck. Take 30 minutes to follow these steps, and you’re on your way to a more enjoyable social media experience.

Step 1: Turn Off Notifications

Jerry Seinfeld’s latest book, Is This Anything?, includes standup jokes from his forty-year career. Despite being written in the 80s about answering machines, Seinfeld has a joke that is 100% relevant to our social-media-obsessed culture:

It’s very important for human beings to feel that they are popular and well-liked amongst a large group of people that they have no interest in.

Jerry Seinfeld in Is This Anything

While we no longer rush to check the answering machine, we do drop everything when our phone lights up.

Push notifications are designed to distract and capture our attention. A research study by CleverTap revealed the average American receives 46 push notifications a day. Every single one draws our attention away from what we want (or need) to be doing.

Want to regain your time (and sanity)? Turn off notifications from every social media app.

You don’t need to know the instant someone tweets or when someone you may know is on Instagram. Turn off the notifications either in the apps themselves or in your phone settings and stop being bombarded.

Step 2: Cleanse Your Feed

Returning to the tool analogy, a hammer has no control over the user. Neither does social media. Yes, the algorithms arrange what content you see, but you have complete control over which accounts you follow.

Screenshot of @mgsiegler on Twitter

M.G. Siegler recently discovered the key to a much more enjoyable Twitter experience: muting people. Whether you mute or unfollow altogether comes down to preference. Either way, the end result is the same: a much more enjoyable feed.

I limit the accounts I follow on every platform. Twitter? 116 accounts. Instagram? 88. Medium? 54 writers and 14 publications.

Taking 30 minutes and cleanse your feed. Use the KonMari approach and drop any account that doesn’t bring you joy. Remember, unfollowing isn’t personal. There are no social media obligations. If there’s no value provided, remove that account from your feed.

Step 3: Limit Your Networks

In the 1990s, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar concluded humans can maintain a maximum of 150 stable relationships. As it became known, Dunbar’s Number asserts our brains are not capable of remembering details and specifics beyond 150 people.

While cleansing accounts you follow helps bring connections closer to Dunbar’s Number, each social network compounds the number of unique relationships your brain establishes.

While I follow 258 individuals across Twitter, Instagram, and Medium, there are a handful of overlapping accounts. This moves the number of accounts I follow closer toward Dunbar’s Number.

That said, additional social media accounts and networks compound attempts for our brains to establish relationships. While I’ve talked about the three networks I primarily use (Twitter, Instagram, and Medium), I also use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Discord daily. Each network has its own following causing my brain to try and maintain hundreds of distinct relationships.

The easiest way to make social media great again is by reducing the number of social channels you invest time using. Cut out a whole network, and that’s hundreds (thousands?) of accounts dropped from the mind. Sure, you might have the itch to know what’s being posted for a few days, but it quickly goes away.

Plus, reducing networks has the added benefit of investing in a platform and more actively engaging the people there. And, since you followed step two and cleansed your feed to those that bring value to your life, your feed should be a much more enjoyable place.


Conclusion

Few things in life are entirely under our control. We’d like to think we’re in charge everywhere, but we answer to someone else in most things. This cannot be said of how we use social media.

We are the masters of our own social networking domains. Make social media work for you, and it will no longer feel dreadful, overwhelming, or dangerous. All it takes is 30 minutes and a willingness to try something new.

What is your best tip to make social media great again?

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