Computers have altered our lives in ways we never anticipated. For many of us, the online world is a major part of our daily lives and too often, a source of stress. However, with a hefty dose of intentionality you can curate your online life and have a much better experience with the digital world.
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Curate Your Online Life:
10 Steps to a Better Online Experience
Let’s start with privacy and security. Facebook provides a number of settings which will protect your privacy…IF you use them. Of course, there are changes fairly often so it is important to review your privacy settings periodically. Here are a couple of articles to get you started:
Now that your account is more secure consider these steps:
– Unfollow all but your closest friends. You don’t need to unfriend them; just unfollow. You can still go directly to their profile if you want to see how they are doing but they won’t show up in your feed. Dunbar’s Number suggests that humans can only maintain about 150 close relationships. While there is evidence to the contrary, I think limiting the number of people whose posts show up in your newsfeed is worth considering.
If you’ve been on Facebook for a long time you may have amassed a large number of “friends”, some of whom are only slight acquaintances. I know that’s been true for me.
Here is how I am whittling it down. Each day I like to look at the list of friends with birthdays and wish them a happy day. After I do so, I decide which belong in my close, inner circle. If they aren’t someone I interact with in real life or have a close online relationship with, I go to their profile and unfollow them.
I don’t unfriend unless I have no idea who they are or there is some other reason I no longer want them in my friends list (some are no longer active on the platform, for instance). By doing this consistently, you can have your curated follow list created in one year with little effort.
– Consider changing the privacy setting of previous posts. You can, and probably should, limit all previous posts to “Friends Only”. This can be done all at once by following these instructions:
But if you’d like to take it further, you can do what I’m doing. Each day I scroll through the Memories feed on Facebook. This is where you can see all of your posts from that particular date from the beginning of your time on Facebook. I suspect we all have a few posts we regret. Maybe there are just some that are silly or no longer make sense (vague posting?).
Take this opportunity to either delete them or change the privacy setting to “only me”. How much of this you choose to do is a personal decision. I’m opting to just leave a small percentage visible to friends and changing most to “only me”. I’ve been on Facebook since 2009 and that’s a lot of posts. No one is interested in what I fixed for dinner ten years ago.
– Unfollow pages/groups that you are no longer interested in. Over time most of us end up following a lot of pages. Periodically look through the ones you follow to make sure they are still of interest. Do the same with groups you belong to.
– Remove newsfeed. Do you remember when Facebook didn’t have a newsfeed? That’s right. At one time the only way you could see what your friends had posted was to go to their profile. Have you considered how much less time you might spend on Facebook if there were no newsfeed? You can find out by installing the Chrome app – News Feed Eradicator.
When you log into Facebook after installation, everything is the same except you’ll see a quote in the space where the newsfeed would be. You can still go to a friend’s profile to see what they’ve posted but you won’t get sucked into that endless scrolling that the newsfeed invites. As far as I know, there isn’t a similar option for phones, however.
– Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about your own life. Whether it’s an unrealistic beauty image, unattainable lifestyle or something else, if an account stirs up negative feelings, unfollow.
– Mute friends you’d rather not see. Suppose one of the problematic accounts belongs to a close friend or relative. And suppose unfollowing that person would cause hard feelings. Then just mute their account. It’s easy!
– Eliminate various features. There is an app called Unhook which allows you to hide various parts of YouTube. I generally hide the home page, comments and recommended videos features. This allows me to just see the YouTube channels I’m subscribed to when I go to YouTube.
– Unfollow excess channels. How many YouTube channels are you subscribed to? Every once in awhile, scroll through your list and unsubscribe to any that aren’t bringing value to your life.
– Use YouTube like television. Or perhaps I should say, like television used to be. Rather than getting sucked down a rabbit hole only to emerge hours later, consider setting a schedule for enjoying the channels you are subscribed to. Using the “watch later” feature you can create a playlist. Then when you have decided you have time to watch, you’ll already have a curated selection of videos ready for you. No wasted time scrolling and looking for something of interest.
– Remove social media apps. If you find that you are using your phone too much, remove temptation. Take some or all social media apps off of your phone. You can check them on a computer (if you have one) or reinstall once in awhile for brief usage.
– Set app limits. Determine how much time you want to allow yourself on each app per day and set a limit in your phone settings. Fortunately it’s become much easier to manage screen time on our phones IF we take a few minutes to make use of these features.
– Use folders. Organize your phone apps in folders. This can make them easier to locate but you can also move tempting time-wasters to a second or third page.
– Regularly clear out unused (or overused?) apps.
5. Blogs and Other Online Reading
If you are a regular blog reader and use a feed aggregator (I use Feedly) you may end up with a lengthy list over time. Trim the list of blogs and other feeds you follow at least once a year.
– Carefully curate your news intake. There is little that can make you feel worse than a regular intake of the 24 hour news cycle. While it’s important to be informed, we don’t need to be saturated in it all day, every day. Instead, choose 3-5 reputable news sources. How do you determine what constitutes “reputable”? Here are a couple of resources that might help:
I prefer to select sources from the center with perhaps one or two leaning slightly one direction or the other.
– Pay if you can. Good journalism is expensive and vital to a democracy.
– Limit listening/reading time. It’s not healthy to be bombarded with news all day long. I grew up in the era of the 6 o’clock nightly news. A trusted newsman like Walter Cronkite would distill the day’s news into 30 minutes. We caught up on the major stories of the day.
There was also the daily newspaper, which has become far less popular as a regular source of news. Instead, we get 240 character snippets on Twitter because who wants to wait for the paper and then have to read whole articles? But I am making the case for a return to a once-a-day overview…however you prefer to do that…and then taking the time to read a few well-developed articles by respected journalists.
I like to listen to NPR Daily on Spotify each morning. In four minutes I can catch up on the biggest stories of the day. Once a day I scroll through each of the four news apps I keep on my phone (if you are interested in my choices, let me know). And then when I have time I read lengthier articles on major news topics for a deeper dive.
– Schedule email times. Unless your job demands it, email doesn’t have to require constant attention. Depending on how much email you receive and how prompt the replies need to be, choose one or more times per day to process email. I do have email on my phone but the notifications are turned off. I don’t know I’ve received email unless I open the app. I realize some jobs might require more immediate responses but if yours doesn’t, then turn off those notifications and schedule times to handle email.
– Unsubscribe. Do you really need all those emails from every company you’ve ever purchased something from? What about newsletters? While I hope you find mine worthwhile (and it’s generally just once a month), you have my permission to unsubscribe if it doesn’t meet your needs.
– Use SaneBox. I highly recommend SaneBox. I signed up for the free 14-day trial and at the end of those two weeks I was hooked. SaneBox sorts your incoming emails into two categories, placing only the really important emails into your regular inbox. Everything else goes into a file called SaneLater. You then receive a digest post which allows you to quickly deal with those less important emails. It’s truly brilliant and saves me hours every week. If you’d like to check it out, click here.
– Create a signature with your “rules” about replies. Mine says:
I aim to limit email processing to 2-3 times a day. If you require a faster response please text me. Please do not feel obligated to respond outside of your normal working hours.
If you’ve previously been in the habit of immediate responses and you’d like to change that, it’s helpful to let people know. I also want others to know that if I’ve emailed at night or on the weekend, I don’t expect a reply right away.
– Determine your personal rules for interacting online. This is highly individual but do be intentional about it. As an example, consider making it a rule that you do not argue online, especially with people you don’t know.
– Choose deeper interactions rather than “likes”. It’s all too easy to hit that “like” button and think we’ve connected with someone. And sometimes that is enough. But consider responding with a thoughtful comment instead…at least sometimes. Or send a private message. Social media has contributed to personal interactions that are “a mile wide and an inch deep”.
9. Practice “Digital Minimalism”
– Check out Cal Newport’s site. He has written extensively about the intersection of culture and technology.
– Read his book:
– Check out his podcast:
10. Create a personal “Social Media Manifesto”.
Finally, create your own “social media manifesto”. You can see mine here:
The digital world is a mixed bag of positive and negative. But the good news is that WE can largely determine its impact on our personal lives. It just requires a bit of time, effort and intentional action.
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