Social media, online news, streaming services, apps, etc. can easily keep us glued to our phones hours a day. There is much good to be said about modern technology and I, for one, would not want to go back to the days of carrying paper maps in the car, being limited to the radio or CDs for music, or having to drive to a library to research something. However, we are constantly bombarded with input of all sorts and can easily become stressed by all the digital noise. That is why I have created my own personal “Social Media Manifesto”. Intentional use of social media and other online resources allows me to enjoy the positive aspects of technology while avoiding much of the potentially negative impact.
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Creating a Social Media Manifesto
Here are what has gone into my creation of a personal Social Media Manifesto:
1. Screen Time
If you haven’t ever looked at the Screen Time feature on your phone be prepared for a shock. Most of us use our phones a LOT more than we think. Check your average use over the past few weeks. Are you happy with that average? If not, consider gradually decreasing your time each day until you are satisfied with your daily average.
I do wish there were some more options for this. For instance, I participate in at least two, and often more, Zoom calls/meetings per week. I do these on my phone so I still have access to my laptop during meetings. I also enjoy listening to Spotify while stargazing. I’d like to be able to exempt these uses from my Screen Time. Still, it’s a helpful feature if you take the time to look at the specific times for each app.
Consider using the Downtime feature on your phone. You determine the hours that you don’t want to use your phone, as well as the apps and features that are exceptions. For instance, my “Downtime” is 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. The exceptions I have chosen are text messages, maps, Braintoss (an app that allows me to send a quick note directly to email), the NYT crossword app + one other crossword app, Spotify and the Weather Channel.
3. Time Limits for Apps
After you face the truth of how much time you are spending on your phone, ask yourself how much time you WANT to spend. You can then set time limits on individual apps. I have a 30 minute time limit per day for Facebook, 10 minutes for Instagram, and 10 for Twitter.
4. Rules of Engagement
I’m still working on this part but I’m developing my own personal “rules of engagement” for social media use. Here is what I’ve got so far:
- Don’t read comments on news stories
- Don’t read YouTube comments
- Don’t respond to people I don’t know
- Avoid sites that anger or irritate me
- Make generous use of the hide/mute/block features
- Delete excessively negative/controversial comments without responding
5. Minimal use of personal Facebook profile
I used to be a frequent Facebook poster but I have cut WAY back. I need to monitor and administer several pages and groups related to my blog and our nonprofit so I’m still online quite a bit. However, I’m avoiding personal use to a large degree.
I have friends who do “Facebook-Free-Fridays” and others who only use Facebook on Fridays or one other day of the week. There are many ways to set up your own limits.
6. Create a list of offline activities
If you are in the habit of defaulting to scrolling social media whenever you have free time, you may very well have forgotten what you used to do before the advent of smart phones. Or if you are quite young, you may not have known anything else.
Take some time to make a list of other activities to enjoy instead. Here is a list to give you some ideas:
- Play the piano
- Make a new Spotify playlist
- Work on a puzzle
- Color in adult coloring book
- Read a book
- Listen to a vinyl album
- Declutter a drawer or some other small organization task
- Take a walk
- Give myself a manicure
- Read one of my many magazines
- Watch a movie or episode of a favorite series (I’m currently watching The Golden Girls)
- Write a letter or thank you note
- Bake something delicious
- Listen to a podcast
- Do a lesson on Rosetta Stone (I have the French program)
- Do a crossword puzzle
- Plan a trip (Yes, someday we will be able to travel again!)
- Make a gratitude list
Make your own list and keep it handy.
7. Consider doing a social media detox
For a number of years I’ve done a modified social media detox for Lent. My “rules” may vary a bit but in general I only allow myself to use Facebook for blog and nonprofit related uses. Sometimes I also give up Twitter. Instagram isn’t a huge distraction for me and I don’t find it to have a negative impact on my life but your mileage may vary.
This year the pandemic hit during Lent and I found myself reading Facebook, despite my best efforts. Because of that (and because things have become so toxic lately) I did another detox from late July until late August. I think I may take a week off every month.
There are many ways to do this. If you don’t have to administer groups or pages I would recommend deactivating your Facebook during a detox. You can opt out of all social media accounts or just the ones you have the most issues with. Make your own rules and then stick to them!
8. Digital Minimalism
While a detox is for a limited period of time, the concept of digital minimalism is an ongoing strategy.
Cal Newport popularized the concept in his book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. He shares a philosophy for the use of technology that advocates intentional choices, starting with a 30-day “digital declutter” process.
9. Helpful apps
There are a number of apps that can be helpful when it comes to controlling social media use. Here are two that I highly recommend:
This Chrome browser app replaces your entire news feed with an inspiring quote. I installed this a couple of years ago and never looked back. It only works on my laptop so I can still see the news feed on my phone. However, I usually keep the Facebook app off my phone. I install it for a few minutes each morning so I can upload a photo of my bullet journal page to the LWD Facebook page and then I delete it. This app eliminates mindless scrolling.
This is one I discovered fairly recently and I love it! When I go to the YouTube site I only see the channels I am subscribed to. No recommended videos. No news. No comments. Just a clean interface of exactly what I have chosen to see. It’s also customizable and very easy to change. For instance, while I usually don’t want to see comments (YouTube commenters are crazy!), if I’m participating in a live YouTube event with a chat I can turn the comments back on. Then as soon as it’s over I turn them back off.
10. Should you eliminate social media altogether?
That’s something only you can decide. Does the positive outweigh the negative for you? Are you able to control your use so that it fits into your life comfortably without overtaking all your free time? How does it make you feel?
I think everyone can benefit from some time off, whether it’s a one-time thing or on a regular basis. Personally, I think it’s a tool that can have positive benefits but it’s important that we control our usage so that social media doesn’t control US.
What about you? Do you have a good relationship with social media and technology in general? Or do you at least sometimes feel that it is taking over your life? I’d like to hear your thoughts and if you have any suggestions to add to those I’ve shared please let me know.
Here are more resources to help you create your own social media manifesto:
You might have trouble imagining life without your social media accounts, but virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier insists that we’re better off without them. In Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, Lanier, who participates in no social media, offers powerful and personal reasons for all of us to leave these dangerous online platforms.
Lanier’s reasons for freeing ourselves from social media’s poisonous grip include its tendency to bring out the worst in us, to make politics terrifying, to trick us with illusions of popularity and success, to twist our relationship with the truth, to disconnect us from other people even as we are more “connected” than ever, to rob us of our free will with relentless targeted ads. How can we remain autonomous in a world where we are under continual surveillance and are constantly being prodded by algorithms run by some of the richest corporations in history that have no way of making money other than being paid to manipulate our behavior? How could the benefits of social media possibly outweigh the catastrophic losses to our personal dignity, happiness, and freedom? Lanier remains a tech optimist, so while demonstrating the evil that rules social media business models today, he also envisions a humanistic setting for social networking that can direct us toward a richer and fuller way of living and connecting with our world.
Digital minimalists are all around us. They’re the calm, happy people who can hold long conversations without furtive glances at their phones. They can get lost in a good book, a woodworking project, or a leisurely morning run. They can have fun with friends and family without the obsessive urge to document the experience. They stay informed about the news of the day, but don’t feel overwhelmed by it. They don’t experience “fear of missing out” because they already know which activities provide them meaning and satisfaction.
Do you recognize any of these situations?
- Your computer screen is cluttered with dozens of icons
- Your phone has so many apps that you don’t even use
- You spend so much time cleaning up your email inbox
- Your children rarely go out to play with their friends
- Your office is a mess
- You get notification after notification after notification
- You notice that you tend to spend so many hours each day on social media
- You are required to use a dozen apps at work just to get one task done
- A huge portion of your time is spent answering the phone
- You can’t remember the last time you had a meaningful conversation with your loved ones
If this is you and you get lost in a maze of gadgets, apps, and digital technology, then the concepts, tools, and tips you will learn from this book, Digital Minimalism in Everyday Life, will help you set things straight.
By reverse engineering behavioral addiction, Alter explains how we can harness addictive products for the good—to improve how we communicate with each other, spend and save our money, and set boundaries between work and play—and how we can mitigate their most damaging effects on our well-being, and the health and happiness of our children.
This book will teach you how to resist the psychological and behavioral manipulation of social media and avoid the mistakes that millions have already made and now regret.Harrison presents scientific studies that show why your subconscious mind loves social media and how that can work against your ability to critically evaluate information.
More on Social Media Use…
The Conscience of Silicon Valley: Tech oracle Jaron Lanier warned us all about the evils of social media. Too few of us listened. Now, in the most chaotic of moments, his fears—and his bighearted solutions—are more urgent than ever.
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