To preface this: This is not “how to use social media.” This isn’t some SEO BS post about how you can get a billion followers with “this one simple trick!”
This post is about navigating the sea of garbage that exists on websites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It’s about how to have a presence on those sites and still be able to go to sleep at night not feeling like maybe global nuclear destruction isn’t such a bad option, after all.
It is not easy. That’s why I post once in a blue moon; because social media makes me sick.
For my own convenience, I’m going to break this down by website and start with the worst of the worst.
I hate, hate, hate, hate Twitter. Ironically, it’s also the platform I’m most active on because it’s where 90% of my friends are and isn’t focused on pictures (I don’t show my face, remember). I’m also well aware that Twitter is where you meet people and, more importantly, network with them. It’s really tough to have your own hustle and not be at least semi-active on Twitter.
So, here’s how I’ve survived my time on this necessary evil.
The people I don’t know (and don’t want to know):
- First and foremost, I am very liberal with the block button. I block people who are nasty to me for no reason. I block people who are nasty to my friends for no reason. I block people I’ve never interacted with but clearly stir shit up for no reason (ie: trolls). I have no interest in knowing people who act like that and I don’t really want them to find me.
Some people are hesitant to block people because they don’t want to cut their potential audience down. Personally, I’m okay not having assholes reading my work or buying my stuff. Chances are, those kind of people wouldn’t be interested in what I do, anyway. But, if you have a thick skin and don’t want to just block potential sales, I suggest…
- Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t engage with horrible people, ever. If you’re scrolling through the trending posts and you see someone being just the absolute worst human being, do not engage. If it’s something really offensive/hateful, quietly report the content and move on. This is really easy for me, because I’m generally terrified of talking to people I don’t know, so I very rarely feel compelled to respond to idiocy.
I know that for some people, this is extremely difficult. I’m not judging; I get it. Even though I don’t want to engage with these people, I do spend hours ranting to myself about what complete idiots they are. Is it possible to get the best of both worlds? I want to share something with you that a friend of mine suggested. When she sees someone being stupid/ignorant, she types out her reply, waits a second, rereads it, then deletes it without posting. That way, she feels like she’s said her piece without actually having to talk to human garbage.
- Subtweet. Passive aggression is all the rage. Literally.
- Never read the replies to a political or otherwise opinionated tweet. Don’t do it.
The people you know (and don’t really want to offend):
Maybe you have friends on social media who you know in real life, or you’ve known for years, and you don’t want to unfollow or block them. Maybe you know they’re good people, but for some reason when they get on Twitter they just turn into giant dick-monsters. I get it. I probably am those people.
So, how do you navigate this tricky situation?
- If they don’t post anything you need to respond to, you can always mute them. Muting someone hides their tweets from your timeline without unfollowing them.
- Use lists. Maybe you don’t want to completely kick someone out of your feed, but you just need a break from them. This is where lists are a life-saver. Just make a list excluding the people you sometimes just can’t deal with and when you have those moments where you Just Can’t Even view the list instead of your feed. Alternatively, you could make a list that is nothing but funny animal accounts and view that specifically when you need a break.
- If someone is consistently posting things that make you cringe or stare at your screen in abject horror, maybe you should consider that they’re not really good people who screw up online sometimes. Maybe they’re really just a dick. Maybe you should unfollow them from Twitter and Life.
FakeNewsBook! Facebook is one of those necessary evils for keeping in touch with distant friends/relatives. But, it’s also a cesspool of misinformation.
- The biggest and best tip I can give you is to just don’t use Facebook for personal use. If you have a page for your blog/business/whatever, bookmark your page so you go straight to that dashboard and completely bypass your personal feed. Your personal feed is going to be where 99% of the problem is. Avoiding it altogether makes Facebook a much more pleasant experience.
How to keep in touch with your friends, then? Install the Facebook messenger app (but delete the main Facebook app) on your phone. It will allow you to still message your friends via Facebook without having to ever lay eyes on the sewage that is the news feed.
- But, maybe you miss big news by avoiding your feed. You don’t want to avoid your feed. How else will you know that your cousin’s next-door-neighbor’s sister had a baby? Sometimes people just post things to the feed and don’t bother messaging people with news directly. My brother and sister-in-law never message pictures of their kids; they just post them to Facebook and if it weren’t for my mom saying, “Oh, look at this picture of the baby!” I wouldn’t even know what my nieces and nephews looked like (because I avoid the news feed like the plague).
If you just can’t forgo the feed, let me introduce you to F.B. Purity. Unfortunately, this only works on the desktop site, but it has been an absolute GODSEND. I have a friend on Facebook I’ve known practically all of my online life. She’s incredible. If I ever get married, I’ll invite he to my wedding. But, she shares EVERYTHING that is even the least bit political. And I noticed when I fact-checked it (because that’s what I do now), 90% of what she posted didn’t check out. F.B. Purity allows me to hide “shared” posts (it has individual settings for pictures, videos, pages, statuses etc… and even has a text filter which will hide posts containing certain words/phrases). If you’re worried about filtering out that friend who shares content that’s actually interesting, don’t worry! It has a “friend whitelist” feature which will prevent those friends’ posts from being filtered out, regardless of your other settings. And if you have a momentary lapse in judgement (or just feel a little masochistic), it will show a link at the top of your feed telling you how many posts were hidden and will give you the option to show those posts (which will be bordered with a dashed line so you know what was filtered out and what wasn’t).
Seriously, I cannot recommend this gem enough. It makes Facebook bearable.
- Never read the comments of news posts. Seriously, just don’t.
Instagram is probably the least detrimental of the Big Three social media sites I use. While Twitter and Facebook can actually have serious negative impacts on one’s mental health, I’ve found Instagram mildly annoying at it’s worst.
The biggest problem with Instagram are the bots and the people who follow you until you follow back, then unfollow you. Maybe you might find a jackass or two in the comments section, or an account you find unsavory. Here’s how to get through it.
- Don’t follow-for-follow. I recommend this for every social media account, but especially on Instagram where people follow literally everyone they stumble across the first week they make their account, amass their F4F followers, then unfollow them. I only follow people who’s account I’m actually interested in and/or who interact with me on a fairly regular basis (and I mean actually interact through comments–you may have noticed I’ve stopped “liking” posts on Instagram because likes are cheap).
- Get an unfollow tracker. I use the app “Followers” on my iPhone. It tells me the basics: Who’s followed me recently, who’s unfollowed me recently, who am I not following back, and who isn’t following me back. It also apparently has options for seeing who blocked me or deleted likes or comments from my pictures, as well as some analytics stuff if you want to pay $1.99/month or $11.99/year. I would never, ever pay actually money to use this app no matter what functions is added. But, it’s really great for keeping track of mutuals and non-mutuals.
- Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to prevent bots from following you other than blocking and reporting them as spam. But, they’re getting crafty. They really do look like real accounts, now; too bad they all follow the same setup of about 10-20 “aesthetic” pics uploaded over the course of a month or two, with a face pic as their most recent pic, which also happens to be their avatar picture. Ignore them or block them. Blocking someone automatically makes them unfollow you, if that matters.
- It’s rare to find garbage accounts, because Instagram’s algorithm for suggested accounts (in my experience) is pretty spot on. They seem to only recommend accounts similar to those you already follow. But, occasionally you might go through the tags and someone will tag their shitty, hateful, obnoxious post with your tag of choice (I recently found an interesting nightmare of a human in the “#christianwitch” tag).
When you do find yourself staring down the post of one of these plebs, I recommend the same advice I gave for dealing with assholes on Twitter: Don’t engage and block them so you never have to see their garbage posts in your tag again.
- Never read the comments on news, political, or generally popular accounts. Honestly, “don’t read the comments” is universal across all social media platforms. Hopefully you’ve gotten it by now, because if you haven’t, God help you.
So, that’s how I manage to scroll through my social media feeds without hurting myself or others. Hopefully these tips can help you live a calmer, less stressful online social life.
And if they don’t, I mean, I guess there’s always Pinterest?
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