On Social Media

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I’ve been on social media for almost as long as I’ve been on the internet. I made my Facebook account in April of 2009. I was 13. That, however, wasn’t my introduction to the social internet. I signed up for my first YouTube account shortly after the service launched in 2006. As I’ve grown up with the internet, finding and forging my own communities as a teenager and then building my professional career on it as an adult, the social aspect of internet culture has always been at the heart of it. Experiencing much of my life through the lens of the internet has helped make me who I am today. Without an invitation to an emerging social network for graphic designers called Forrst in 2010, I likely wouldn’t be where I am today.

While I’ve grown up and made a career in large part because of the social internet, over the past few years as the spread of misinformation and vitriol has grown exponentially I’ve started to see the way most of us currently interact with social media as irreparably harmful to our society. That’s not to say that there aren’t benefits to the core ideas at the foundation of the social internet; I just believe that more harm is being done than good.

I also believe strongly that the algorithms that control the feeds on these platforms also plays a large roll in the toll these platforms can on us as individuals. Like countless others, on many occasions I’ve found myself endlessly scrolling through my feeds. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, repeat. I would get to the point to where I wasn’t even really paying attention to what I was doing. Just scrolling through the feeds to occupy empty space.

The algorithms behind the feeds on these platforms are designed to elicit this kind of behavior. When you run out of content, they’ll automatically populate the feed with suggested content. It keeps you scrolling. It keeps you on their platform. The longer you’re on their platform, the more ads you’ll see and the more likely you are to click through to one of them.

This behavior isn’t healthy.

The combination of the damage these platforms do to our communities and the unhealthy behavior I’ve recognized in myself have led me to restructure how I interact with social media. Finding what works for me has taken a few months, and it might not work for everyone, but I have found myself on these platforms less and less since I’ve put the following measures into place.

  1. As a general rule, unfollow everyone except those that you truly want to see in your feeds. No more influencers. No more brands. For me this means restricting my follow list to just friends and family.
  2. Privatize everything. Lock down your privacy settings and only allow the content you share to be shared with those that you choose to be shared with.
  3. When you reach the end of a feed, close the app. No more listless scrolling.
  4. Find an outlet. The time you’ll gain back is valuable. Fill it with something that you truly enjoy. For me, this has been photography.

I’m not removing myself from social media. At this point in our society, I think that route isn’t sustainable in the long run. These platforms are here to stay. However, I believe that deliberate, conscious use can go a long way to a healthy relationship with the social internet.