Announcing the social media survival kit

A drawing of a survival kit
Drawing by Ryan P Cartwright (c) 2013 CC:By-SA

I’ve been meaning to write this since my own Twitter hiatus and a recent conversation on there reminded me. This is happening a lot lately – perhaps I should make a list 😉

Social media (by which let’s be honest most people mean Facebook and Twitter) can be a remarkable place to hang out,have conversations, enagage and laugh (sometimes) at pictures of cats. But some time ago I noticed a trend. A lot of the people I connected with in either Twitter or Facebook (disclaimer: I do mostly use the former) were going away. There was a general pattern to this as well:

* make or read a statement which though honest is a little contentious at best (or which could be taken two ways)
* get involved in a “discussion” about that which continues for some time (sometimes this can get heated)
* rinse, repeat

That’s not typical of every case, sometimes people will only be witnesses to the above. Sometimes there’s a particular topic swamping the sites and you just can’t seem to get away from it.

I noticed this a fair bit and then it happened to me. Over a short space of time I found my mood was dropping whenever I came off Twitter and/or Facebook. A common reaction at this point is to walk away and decry social media as – at best – unhelpful or at worst downright evil. The temptation to close my accounts, walk away and not come back was strong but I didn’t want to do that because I knew first-hand of the good parts of Twitter and Facebook. I knew how just one quick post could raise comfort and prayer for a situation I was going through. I knew the laughter I had experienced (not about cats). Social media was great. Social media sucked. Neither statement was false and both were true simultaneously.

Instead of closing my twitter account, I kept it open. I did walk away for a short time. It did me the power of good

So instead of closing my account I kept it open. I did walk away for a short time. It did me the power of good and while I was away I did a lot of thinking about social media and whether I should return and if so under what form. I came up with a plan which I have no called a social media survival kit.

### The Social Media Survival Kit

#### 1. Walk away – if only for short periods

You don’t need to close your account, just walk away from social media for a short while. Try a week. And be ruthless. For me I knew I would automatically check if I could and so I removed the icons from my ‘phone homepage. I deliberately made it harder for me to get onto Twitter and Facebook.

Don’t make a big song and dance about leaving. There really is no need to post dramatic statements about it

Also don’t make a big song and dance about leaving. There really is no need to post dramatic statements about it. When people do that I am reminded of the dramatic exits my children sometimes make (and I made when I was their age) when things don’t go their way. (Stomp, stomp, stomp…slam….door opens…”I AM GOING UPSTAIRS!” – just in case nobody heard the stomping). I’m sure not everyone is like that but I have seen a fair number of that ilk. Then again, if you don’t say *something* people will worry. So what I did was post a brief “I will be off here for a while, don’t worry. be back in near future.”

#### 2. Stop listening – filter your stream/new feed

Sometimes it’s not a discussion you are in which brings you down, it’s just the seeming flood of inane and banal stuff on a particular subject. So filter those things out of your strea,m/news feed. For Twitter use a client (I use Plume on my Android phone but there are a few which do it) which allows you to filter out or mute tweets containing certain hashtags or words. I did this recently for a certain politcal story over here in the UK and I’m pretty certain it saved me from a lot of angst.

Sometimes what you really need is not a way to remove them from your life but to just a way to turn them down a little

Filtering out people is a little harder because often – and particularly on Facebook – they will know if you block or unfriend/follow them. They don’t get tiold but they do notice after a while. And sometimes what you really need is not a way to remove them from your life but to just a way to turn them down a little. On Twitter you can use the filtering/muting service of certain clients to mute certain users. Then after a while you can go back and unmute them. Right now I imagine people reading this are wondering if I have muted them :). On Facebook you can hide their status updates from your News feed. Click through to see their profile. Click the Friends button just at the bottom of their profile header and from the menu that appears deselect “Show in news feed”. You can do the same with pages you “like” as well. It’s one thing to show support for a cause or company but another to be inundated with posts from them.

#### 3. Wean yourself off – schedule regular time away

Schedule a time in your week (or day if it’s that bad) when you do not check your social media feeds. This can vary it length but for me it’s about two hours at any one time. During this time I do other stuff – you’d be surprised how much time you have. Oh and I am not talking about times when you are *supposed* to be doing other stuff here. I am talking about time when you would normally be “okay” to use Twitter or Facebook.

Try to get out of the habit of jumping straight on Twitter or Facebook when you have “five minutes”

In addition try to get out of the habit of jumping straight on Twitter or Facebook when you have “five minutes”. These will be the times when you are “bored” or waiting for something. Try to give yourself some of that “free” time away from social media. Me? I’ve started reading a bit more, I’m also looking to do a bit more sketching, writing and – steady now – thinking. None of these times are very long and neither should they be but it will help your social media mood if it is part of a balanced diet ;).

#### 4. Be ruthless – regularly cull those you follow

This is not those who follow you, this is those you follow. I’ve mentioned muting people above but sometimes you’ll find people who are at the edges of your circles and yet can cause you no end of bad moods. The reasons you follow these people will be varied and may be very good but trust me if they or things they say are causing you grief you need to give yourself a break from them. Yes I know all the stuff about how reading views that are contrary to your own is good for you and how you should not only surround yourself with views that match your own. I subscribe to that theory. I also agree that sometimes you can be a good influence on those around even if they disagree with you. But. But, but but. But if you follow someone purely for those reasons then I’d suggest you unfollow them because you may find they unfairly shift the up/down balance of your newsfeed or stream.

Also be prepared to cull people you follow just because you like their films/books/music/TV shows

Also be prepared to cull people you follow just because you like their films/books/music/TV shows. I have found that the greatest pleasure I get from social media is not from being able to follow a “celebrity” with a gazillion other followers but through interaction with other people – even celebrities. If someone I am following allows me to interact and interacts with me ( I don’t require them to follow me) then I will find that relationship (for want of a better term) healthier for me than one where one person broadcasts and I listen. Never forget this is called **social** media for a reason.

### That’s it

I am sure that you will have many other useful techniques in surviving Twitter or Facebook. For some of you that will be walking away permanently but if you are considering that, ask yourself what you take away from that platform when you leave? I am sure the people who follow you (unless they have “I_FOLLOW_BACK” in their username) are interested in your posts for a reason. So if you are consieering closing your account – wait. Try step 1 above for a week or two and then consider the others if/when you return.

1 comment on Announcing the social media survival kit

  1. I was looking for survival kits when I found this article but I’m sure glad I did! Social media can be a great way to keep in touch with long distance friends but it can also be a major time zapper. I try to limit myself to checking it only once a day but it’s one of those things like opening the refrigerator door when you’re bored. Bad habit that needs to be nipped in the bud asap!

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