So don’t become some background noise
A backdrop for the girls and boys
Who just don’t know or just don’t care
And just complain when you are not there

-Queen “Radio Gaga”

Digital minimalism is something I think about a lot. From social media, to my phone, to intentional television, I am constantly searching for that happy medium that leaves me the greatest opportunity to be… y’know… happy.

Here are a few tips and suggestions that have helped me to get control of our tech-driven existence.

Social media

Pick your battles, or pick none at all. It can sometimes seem like everyone is on social media, and if you are not, you are going to ‘miss out’ on a great number of events.

This is partly true and partly nonsense. I have had wonderful experiences and opportunities presented by social media. I have also had wasted hours, frustration, social media depression, and a myriad of other damaging side effects.

There are ways to streamline your social media experience.

I advocate taking the apps off your phone, scheduling your social media time, and being mindful of what you are putting into the world.

If your time on social media is spent tearing down art, arguing, or speechifying to folks who already agree with you, that is not time well spent.

The apps never returned to my phone after our two week break from social media. And that break also enabled me to rethink the real value I was getting. It has been diminishing returns for some time and I struggle to find the last truly positive outcome from the hours spent connected.

 

Specific platforms

At the time I took them off my phone, I was only using Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I moved to using the first two only on my desktop and stopped using Instagram entirely.

I do not quite know why I was put off by Instagram when so many of my peers find tremendous value in it. It feels too ‘broadcast’ to me. Not interactive or conversational.

Despite being a big TV and movie fan, I am not that image-driven. I will always prefer thoughts and conversation over photos.

My use of Facebook and Twitter is now very much refined to staying in touch with friends and family, and sharing a few words with fellow fandom followers.

What are they selling?

Every social media platform makes money somehow. That is not intrinsically a bad thing, but something of which we should always be aware.

Most platforms sell you. Much like how TV networks sell their viewers’ eyeballs to their advertisers, social media sells your attention to theirs.

A new platform, Vero, promises to be ad-free. However they are upfront that the platform is designed to encourage purchasing what your friends are sharing. “Listen to this song” becomes “buy this song.” While I question using folks’ peers as salespeople, at least the product they are selling is literally a product.

Who are you talking to?

I have multiple twitter accounts. One for this blog, one for sharing links to free (and legal) digital comics, and a personal protected account.

The last one had been a public account, but I turned it protected a few months ago and it has significantly increased my value.

Instead of talking to the whole twitter world (a bit like yelling into the abyss), I am sharing thoughts with a very small group of people who I have either met in person or interacted with a great deal already.

I am very aware on Facebook, for example, that my posts are seen by my mom, my boss, and my teenage nieces and nephews. Everything is pre-edited for the audience.

Value? Value. Value!

Finally, always question what you want to get out of social media and if it still serves. Do not be the person still trying to squeeze joy out of MySpace or Friendster.

Some platforms seem like they will forever be ubiquitous, and perhaps they will. Or perhaps they will be forgotten in a year.

Twitter’s new user numbers go up, but no one seems to know how many accounts are real people. And seniors are joining Facebook faster than teens.

Every platform has a well-marked “Join” button, you have to find the “unJoin” button yourself.


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