Social media is an amazing tool that connects us to each other in ways that were previously impossible.
But as a nearly inescapable part of our daily lives, it can easily take control and make us feel inadequate and boring compared to the rest of the internet. So how do you get a handle on social media and take back control?
You can make social media work for you by becoming the curator of your friends, email and newsfeed.
Unfollow Facebook friends
It may seem overwhelming at first to take charge of what you see online, but like any new challenge, take it one step at a time. There’s no need to do a complete overhaul all at once. As you normally scroll through Facebook try to notice posts, people, groups and pages that have a negative message or are just plain uninteresting. Then take a moment to unfollow or unfriend them completely.
If you’re feeling conflicted about unfollowing old Facebook friends, consider what their real impact on your life is. Ask yourself if I had missed seeing their last 5 posts would I really be worse off? Does their presence in my newsfeed elicit an emotion I would deliberately choose?
I think you know where I’m going here. If someone or something you’re following has a negative impact or is just cluttering your newsfeed, let them go. It may sound callous to unfriend old classmates or acquaintances, but remember that the time you invest in things that aren’t important to you is time you could be spending on causes and people you actually DO care about.
This isn’t about having as a completely blank newsfeed (although that’s a great goal to shoot for), it’s about focusing on the people and things that actually matter to you. When you clear out all the digital clutter you have more space to focus on the people and causes that bring you joy and inspiration.
“Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. We do this by giving people the power to share whatever they want and be connected to whoever they want, no matter where they are.”
Clean your inbox like your closet
Be honest, how many emails are in your inbox right now? A hundred? Five hundred? Six thousand!? An unruly inbox is a source of unnecessary stress and anxiety for many people, but that doesn’t mean it’s beyond your control.
The way I like to approach it is just like cleaning out your closet. Make three piles, or in this case folders – Keep, Not Sure and Junk. Then quickly scroll through your inbox and move anything that catches your eye as important or possibly important over to their respective folders.
Once you get far enough in that your emails are 6 months or older, it’s okay to just drag and drop the remainder of your inbox into the junk folder. Anything beyond that point is almost certainly unimportant. Just in case though, keep that junk folder around for another few months before you send it to the trash.
The hard part now is to keep your inbox empty or mostly empty. Take the time to hit “unsubscribe” on every marketing email and newsletter you’re not actually going to read as they arrive.
This process will make reading email take more time at first, but as less and less junk shows up, your new messages will shrink exponentially. In just a few weeks you will have a stress free inbox that actually helps you get work done.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Turn off every notification you don’t actually need. Keep it simple and follow the same procedure as the last two steps – just block each app’s notifications as they show up.
For Android press and drag down on the notification and select block all.
On iPhone swipe down from the top of your screen and go to the Notification Center. Swipe left on your notification, select Manage and Turn Off.
Be ruthless here. If you accidentally block something that you need notifications for you can always go into that application’s settings and turn them back on.
Your email should be giving you less trouble after that last step, but let’s take a closer look here. As the main source of communication for a lot of actually important things, you probably don’t want to block all email notifications.
So let’s consider some important questions – How often are you interrupted by email notifications? How many of those cause you to feel compelled to respond immediately? How many of those responses are actually time sensitive?
If you’re like most people you can get away with checking your email just 2-3 times per day and likely be more productive as a result. Go into your email app settings and change your sync schedule to every 4, 6 or 8 hours. If your particular app allows you to turn notifications off overnight, enable that too.
It won’t take long before you’ll notice a big uptick in productivity. Stopping and restarting a task is a major time waster so reducing your email alerts from several dozen to 3 or 4 per day will give you valuable time back in your day to get stuff done.
Find things that inspire you
Once your online space is tidied up, seek out sites, people and pages that inspire you and add positivity to your day. Just like all the other steps, this one shouldn’t happen all at once.
Once you start to follow one or two pages you’re really interested in, the magic of Facebook and search engine algorithms will start suggesting related pages that you might like too.
That might sound a bit Big Brother-ish, but let’s get real, it’s damn near impossible to avoid targeted marketing online in today’s world. Instead of spending the time to circumvent all the cookies, trackers and marketing mind readers, why not make the system work for you?
Get the ball rolling with a few motivational mainstays. Some of my personal favorites are Tiny Buddha and Tony Robbins on Facebook and r/UpliftingNews and r/HumansBeingBros on Reddit. What are your favorite feel-good sites? Let me know in the comments.