Matthew Gifford

On the NW corner of MLK Blvd. and Couch St.

My social media rules for 2018

In January of 2017, I was a mental and emotional wreck. I’d spent 2016 in a constant state of outrage. Endless online political arguments with irrational, misinformed people will do that to you.

I was determined that 2017 would be the year that I regained control of my mind. Instead of being angry about things I couldn’t control, I was going to focus on improving myself, my family, and my community.

I failed.

Like many people, I was transfixed by the daily horrors of 2017: wildfires, mass shootings, corrupt politicians, hurricanes, white supremacists, and on and on. All of it was broadcast, analyzed, and debated in excruciating detail on 24-hour television news and bottomless social media.

By January of 2018, I was even more drained. I was constantly anxious and unable to focus on anything. It was critical that I make some changes. 2018 was absolutely going to be the year that I reclaimed my mind.

So, I made the following social media rules for myself:

1. Uninstall

I uninstalled Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and Twitter from my phone. No more notifications to sidetrack me. No more feeding the FOMO.

Countless times over the first couple weeks, I took my phone out of my pocket to check one of those apps, only to remember that they were no longer there. Each time this happened, I did not feel the disappointment I expected.

2. Don’t read feeds

I (mostly) stopped reading social media feeds. Not having the apps available has been a huge help. But their websites are still tempting when I’m at a computer. I hope to have this urge beaten soon.

3. Leave quickly

Sometimes I follow a link that points to something in social media. And sometimes that information actually has value. If it does, I will read it. Then I leave immediately.

4. Never read replies/comments

Never, ever read the replies/comments! This is the most insidious and wasteful trap. You will invariably encounter someone who is wrong on the internet. Then you’ll get mad. Then you’ll respond. After many minutes or hours, you will realize that you’ve been pulled into the social media quagmire.

5. Post productively

I only post when promoting something I’ve created, advancing a cause I believe in, or sharing information that would significantly benefit the reader. The world can live without my hot takes.

6. Ignore empty/negative feedback

A lot of replies/comments are vapid or negative. I ignore it. Occasionally, there is something worth reading and thinking about. Few of those are truly worthy of a reply.

7. Block (and, optionally, report) assholes

Always ignore the assholes. Block them and forget they ever existed. For me, taking the time to report particularly egregious ones is worth it. It’s satisfying when Twitter shuts down an asshole’s account. It does happen sometimes.

Unlike past attempts to get my social media usage under control, this one has been quite successful. Removing the apps has greatly curtailed the temptation. Having clearly-defined rules makes it easier to know when I’m not doing what I should be doing.

2018 has been a much more positive year. I am thinking more clearly, have less anxiety, and have much more time to do the things I really want and need to be doing.

June 1, 2018

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