Simplify Your Social Media

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I was going to title this post, “Are Facebook Friends really Friends?”, but I think the social media that is eating up our time, and overwhelming us with too much information includes more than just Facebook. You participate in social media for two reasons, business or pleasure. If you aren’t careful about how you manage these venues, you won’t be doing any business or enjoying any pleasure. Instead, you will be juggling distractions and struggling to keep up with all of your “friends”.

I remember in the early days of the Internet, when chat rooms were scary, instant messaging was hip and if you were on match.com, you were really daring. Today, all of those things seem mainstream, instead of cutting edge. With Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn and others, we are encouraged to literally live a portion of our lives through social media. I think we thought that these sites would makes us more effective in business and keep us connected on a greater level, but like the effects of most high speed technology, our business efforts have become diluted and and our social connections, less genuine.

I think it is great that we can connect with friends and family through Facebook and follow interesting people on twitter, but it is important to remember to do it on purpose. We have to seriously consider how social networking websites affect our lives and act accordingly.

Choose Wisely - Before you “friend” or “follow”, ask yourself if you could call that friend if you needed help with something, or if you would have invited the “friend” into your life otherwise. Before you follow a tweep, decide if what they post will be of value to your life or your business. There is something to be said for a genuine connection and it is unlikely that you will achieve that, following thousands.

Communication – There used to be a time where no one knew what we were doing, every second of the day. There used to be a time where no one cared about that information. No one cares about it today. Share something of value or don’t share at all. You can only absorb and process so much information. Make sure you pay attention to the stuff that matters to you and delete the rest.

Connections - Today, people often assess their value by their number of “friends” or “followers”. Instead, place value on your actions and character. Go through your list of connections and decide which ones aren’t useful to you. Un-friending and Un-following is not personal. Ask yourself if you are connecting with someone via social media for business or pleasure, and make sure your list is in-line with your goals and values.

Time Management – You cannot be everywhere all the time, yet some of these sites leave you feeling like you are missing something, or can’t keep up if you aren’t there 24/7. Instead of doing a little here and there, choose the venue that works best for you. For instance, I check in with my Facebook account once a week or so and canceled my Linkedin account. That gives me more time to thoughtfully engage with twitter.

Reality - Are your connections online interfering with your connections at home, work, or in your neighborhood. The www is an amazing place to meet great people, and to learn and grow, but don’t forget to go for a walk with your family, call an old friend or make a new one. Make sure to incorporate technology vacations into your life. Break away for one day a week if you can. (Plan on an upcoming mini-mission for this!)

Distraction – You knew this was coming. Web surfing has always been a distraction to work, but today, when you can engage in a conversation with a “friend” at any time, instead of staying focused and doing meaningful work, you have to be vigilant about doing one thing at a time. If you are writing a proposal, shut down your other websites. If you are catching up on reading, don’t have TweetDeck chirping at you every .2 seconds with an update. Imagine trying to work, if an alarm went off every time anyone wanted your attention. When you are doing meaningful work, or having a phone or in person conversations, kill your email, alarms, text alerts, and any other distractions. You will be amazed at what you can give and take, when you do it on purpose.

I am reconsidering the time and energy I devote to social media sites. After careful consideration, I canceled my linkedin account, reduced (and continue to reduce) my facebook friends to people that I know, and would like to stay in touch with, and will redirect most of my social networking efforts to twitter, but in moderation.  I don’t think there is a special number of friends or followers you should stick with. It all depends on what works best for you. For me, following less than 100 people on twitter, allows me to have quality interactions and not feel overwhelmed with information.

We cannot be available all the time, we cannot be consuming information all the time. We need time to be more and do less and only you can make that time for yourself.

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Comments

  1. says

    Very well written. I totally agree with you Courtney.

    Nowadays it is not problem to follow people on Twitter, there is a lot of interesting one, but it is important to choose people, who can help, inspire you in business, personal development, etc.

    I do it myself, that I follow people who can enrich my person by their interesting life stories, experience,… this also is valid about services I am using on my PC,… just to be in touch with their latest news.

    In short: “Quality instead of quantity” – at least this works for me.

  2. says

    This post comes just at the right time because I’m reviewing social media use in my life. Twitter is fairly new to me and I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the number of emails saying people are following me there. I’ve decided only to follow those I know – same policy I use with “friending” on Facebook. Though I want people to know about my blog, I don’t want it to happen at the expense of solitude, reading or other non-social media pursuits. Thanks for raising an important issue.

  3. says

    I’ve just cut out 200 people from my facebook contacts. While I value some of the information in contacts on FB, those 200 people were easy to get rid of – I can’t see myself ever contacting them in the future. It was really relieving to go through this process! It’s amazing how excess contacts can drag one down. Thanks for speaking out about this issue.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Lynn, Woo Hoo! Way to go. By following fewer than 100 friends or tweeps, I feel like I have an opportunity to genuinely connect.

  4. says

    I just wrote about the practice many people have of blindly accepting invitations to connect on social media. Why do we do this? Why do we not take the time to think through the value of the connection and then actually take action on it?

    We all struggle with “connection envy” – and it is taking the joy and the meaning out of social media…

    • Courtney Carver says

      Todd – these are questions I have thought myself. Once you let go of the numbers and focus on individual connections..things get really fun!

  5. says

    Here are a few things I’ve done to simplify my “social media life” while remaining relatively connected and active:

    1) Turned off all alerts for social media sites. I read somewhere that it takes our brain approximately 20 seconds to refocus our attention after it has been interrupted. If you’ve got new Tweet alerts, Facebook alerts, new email alerts, and any other kinds of alerts randomly popping up, your attention is taking a hit (and stress levels increase too).

    Lets say you get a total of 50 alerts per day on your computer that demand your attention at random times during the day. Suppose it takes you 5 seconds to read each alert as it comes up and lets be a little conservative and say that it takes your brains 15 seconds to refocus. That’s four days per year you spend on alerts! Four entire days!

    I turned my alerts off ever since realizing this. For email, I turned off Facebook notifications for everything except messages and friend requests. I want to be in control of when I give my attention away, not have it slowly nibbled at by a computer.

    2) Accept that you will not be able to read everything that your friends post. There comes a point where you have so many friends that you could spend hours a day trying to catch up with everything. There just isn’t enough value being posted to make it worth that much time.

    Instead, treat social networks like Facebook and Twitter as rivers of information that you occasionally sip from instead of trying to drink the entire thing. I never read all the messages posted on my Twitter & Facebook timelines. I when I login, I glance at what’s visible on the screen and if I see anything interesting, I retweet/reply to it.

    3) Learn to become a pro at speedreading content (aka skimming). Learn to breeze through the fluff and grab the main points of each paragraph. After practicing this for a while, you’ll learn to recognize articles and blog posts that are particularly interesting to you and that you want to really read in depth.

    I “read” hundreds and hundreds of blog posts every week in my RSS reader. I do this by skimming titles, discarding stuff that I immediately recognize as being of no interest and move on to the next. When I find something interesting that I feel I have something valuable to add, I’ll leave a comment (like I’m doing here).

    4) Schedule tweets. Some people feel this makes you seem fake, but I totally disagree. In this world of information, you want to be sharing interesting and valuable articles. If you tweet ten blog posts in one hour and then nothing for the remaining 23 hours, it’s unlikely that a majority of your friends will even see what you tweeted (this is even more true if you’re someone like me and only read the last 20 or so tweets).

    Since the Internet is global and you’re likely to have friends in multiple timezones, you can provide a constant stream of valuable information by spreading it out. This increases the chances that one of your friends will see one of the valuable things you’ve tweeted.

    Whenever I process my RSS reader (about every 2-3 days right now), I retweet every article that I find interesting or valuable. But instead of sending the tweet out immediately, I use HootSuite to schedule the tweets, spacing them 2 or 3 hours apart.

    Other than that, it’s like you said about being careful who you choose to “friend”. When someone follows me on Twitter, I carefully decide whether or not to follow them. If they don’t seem like someone I would genuinely be interested in talking to (i.e., if I have absolutely nothing in common with them), then I don’t follow them back.

  6. George Stnson says

    Courtney
    It was interesting to know that “un-friending” someone is not personal. Sometimes you start to think someone will be upset or hurt because you dropped them or dropped the twit. I now realize they don’t know me at all. So I can now drop and pick up new twits without fear of recrimination.
    Thanks for cutting to the chase

  7. says

    Timely message, Courtney. I’m burning out lately on social media, and I’m such a social media newbie (3 months in and it’s already too much). Today, I’m pulling back on who I follow on Twitter and I’ve blocked seeing a bunch of people on Facebook. Life has already reached a manageable pace. I also going to unfollow anyone who tweets more than 20 times a day. Enough already! As you say, the key is to be more and do less. Quality over quantity. Let the madness stop.

  8. says

    Courtney,
    This really hits home with me. I’ve been on Facebook for about year and find it to be a big black hole that sucks up time, to be honest. I did start a fan page for Powered by Intuition – which is good. It’s really just another place to announce that you’ve put out another post; which is okay.

    Twitter on the other hand…..I’m more burned out on. I really can’t think of much I want to say on there. I don’t have the time to look up all sorts of meaningful quotes, nor do I wish to announce to the world what I’m doing at the moment.

    Paring down to the people who matter on all of these media makes sense.

    Thanks for this excellent post….oh, and I’ll be Retweeting if you don’t mind! (we want to stop but we can’t….)

  9. says

    I am easily distracted in general and social media makes it worse! I now have set periods of time where I pay attention to it and then I ignore it to get something else done. I will look into Raam’s suggestion of HootSuite too. I also have my personal Facebook pared down to people I actually know.

  10. Nin says

    On the topic of social media I was wondering if you had any recommendations for simple e-mail and/or rss reader systems? I don’t have twitter, linkedin, facebook – nothing like that. I have been asked to guest post to a mindfullness blog a couple of times but otherwise my internet presence is solely through comments (which I usually feel too shy to do unless I feel really helped/intrigued – like I have been with your blog, obviously!) and my e-mail and rss reader. I used to have hotmail but after no longer being comfortable with certain of their ways I got google mail – which I am beginning to re-think because of all of the flash and widgets and possibilities. I like their reader but there has to be a simpler way? Hope it’s okay that I ask :)

  11. Stephen says

    Very well written and lots of good advice. Agree totally with not being ‘alerted’. Anything requiring your immediate attention won’t be coming that way. Really enjoyed the article and followup comments.

  12. Ash says

    Thanks for the timely blog post!

    I was reminiscing just last night about how a few years back I practically halved the number of friends I had on Facebook (400 and something down to about 200 and something). Though I haven’t given it much thought or looked for any real proof, that big ‘Facebook declutter’ probably changed my life (compared with if I hadn’t done it – I probably avoided SO MUCH useless drama!) But I know it it certainly gave me a good lesson in learning how to set boundaries in interpersonal relationships, as well as a good lesson in setting limits for incoming ‘stuff’ in the future. I’m also a ‘people pleaser’, so learning to let go of any guilt I felt while deleting people from my friends list (or ignoring friend requests from people I ‘sort of’ knew) was a great challenge!

    Even though since then I’ve become MUCH more picky about the friend requests I send or accept, I’ve been getting the feeling lately that I need to re-evaluate and do a bit of a ‘clean out’ again… Also with the emergence of ‘sponsored’ pages throughout my feed that correlate with my interests, I think I need to revisit all the pages I’ve ‘liked’ and either unlike them, or at least not ‘follow’ them (e.g. ‘unfollow’ but still ‘like’ the pages I want to be able to look up when I want, but that currently keep crowding my news feed with several posts a day that aren’t of any interest/use to me right now).

    I’ve never used twitter – who knows what I’m missing out on? The fact is that I don’t really care and feel ‘connected’ enough online already, so I don’t feel the need to start using it. I figure I already have enough ‘information overload’ in my life, so why add to it?!

    I use Instagram because I like the visual creativity of it, but it’s not something I use often as my smartphone plan uses data for it (unlike Facebook and Linkedin, which are apps with free and unlimited use in my plan). Saying that, because every time I go on Instagram and scroll through my feed, I think ‘these pics I don’t really care about are just wasting my data’. So I think I need to consider unfollowing a few people there too…

    I LOVE Pinterest, but as with other social media, I tend to use it more for personal use than worrying about following lots of people (or have people following me or liking or ‘re-pinning’ my stuff however many times). In fact, I rarely even look at my news feed because there are always things I just want to search (or I just pin stuff from other areas of the internet).

    From a demographic point of view (if anyone is interested), I’m a 24 year old student living in Australia. In high school I started using MSN instant messenger in year 10 (2005), but other than that I only had email. I don’t really remember bothering much with MySpace or anything else.

    I didn’t create my Facebook profile/account until mid 2008 after I’d finished school the year before (given that I’d had many high school friends move interstate for tertiary study, Facebook gave me a great avenue to still keep somewhat close to them without having to keep up with and reply to lots of long emails!)
    Needless to say, Facebook DOES have many great advantages in regards to keeping in contact with people and making maintaining relationships easier (or even building them – like in the case of my half-brother who is 20 years older than me… now he has Facebook we are engaging with each more frequently than we have throughout the majority of my life).

    However, knowing how much time I spend on the internet/social media these days, I’m actually incredibly grateful I DIDN’T have these things distracting me throughout high school! I genuinely believe it would have strongly effected my academic performance in a negative way, as well as exacerbating any concerns I may have already had about my ‘social status’ or ‘superficial image/body confidence’. I truly can’t comprehend being a young teen today with the way technology is now…

    I also didn’t get my first ‘smartphone’ (an iPhone 4) until the beginning of 2011. While my phone (or ‘mini-computer’ I suppose) is an invaluable resource that I wouldn’t choose to eliminate from my life permanently, I have noticed a gradual, yet quite vast increase in the time I spend on it doing various things, as well as a concerning reduction in my ability to focus and remember things (including spelling – many times when writing by hand I feel unsure and tend to double check the spelling of some words by simply typing them into my phone). Also, as a result of ‘instant gratification’ and constant ‘switching’ between tasks (Think: various alerts like ‘new email’), I seem to not only have developed a lower attention span than I previously had, but also a ‘low frustration tolerance’ (LFT).
    These changes I’ve noticed developing in my brain over time genuinely scare me!
    I never had ADHD as a kid, but some days I wonder if I am actually developing Adult ADHD (or at least symptoms and behaviors similar to it).

    So on that note, I think I may have to look into the ‘mini-mission’ you referred to in this blog post!!!
    I will most likely still need some aspects of my phone/computer (for example, since moving out of home I’ve never bothered having a land-line phone installed while renting. To be honest, these days it would be a total waste of money for someone like me. But that means I still need my phone to be able to read texts/emails and receive calls in case someone is trying to contact me about something important). However, I’d say I could easily put a limit on how often I check my emails each day – and I don’t receive many txts or calls anyway – generally only important ones, so that wont be such an issue.

    Time to re-evaluate, declutter and plan to spend some time away from social media I think :)

  13. Ash says

    Out of curiosity, does anyone else relate to any of what I’ve said in my previous post? Particularly the part about ‘feeling as though your brain function is changing’ as a result of increased time on social media/other technology?

    Also curious to hear of ANY TEENS on here who are currently in high school, or went through at least part of high school with things like Facebook, Twitter and smartphones? What was that like? Did it make things harder for you as a student? (by that I mean things like concentration/social interactions – cause in many ways having the internet at your fingertips may have been quite helpful!)

    Any SCHOOL TEACHERS out there who want to share their experiences teaching kids with the way social media and technology like smartphones are so prevalent now? What rules have you (or the school) had to put in place, if any? Have you noticed an overall increase or decrease in student’s academic performance? What about their physical and mental health (including the prevalence/severity of bullying)?

    I keep referring to ‘smartphones’ because (without trying to sound too old haha) back in my day, even when the good old Nokia 3315 phased out and phones with colour screens emerged, they still didn’t really do much, so it wasn’t common for us to bother keeping them on us at break time or in class. I know I used to be more annoyed if I’d left my iPod at home than my mobile!

    Alternatively, do any PARENTS have kids who either use the computer a lot or social media like Facebook? I know I played lots of computer games as a kid, but also spent lots of time outside. I also barely had to worry about online bullying as a teen (and even then, it was NOTHING like it is today…the worst I would experience is a fight between friends at school continuing on MSN into the evening at home – nothing like some of the horrible things internet ‘trolls’ (often anonymous) say online! How do you think it has affected your children, if at all? Do you have any ‘rules’ for their online/mobile phone use? Honestly, I’d be petrified to be parenting a child these days…I would have no idea what to do, or where to draw the line between ‘keeping them safe’ and ‘letting go of some control so they can make some of their own decisions'(and thus learn from any mistakes they make).

  14. vscook says

    I recently removed all social media from my phone except Facebook and try to limit the amount of time I spend there. I have met some truly wonderful people online and they have become IRL friends – but the reality is social media is a BIG time suck. And the more time you spend looking at that small screen the less time you spend looking at what’s going on around you.

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