Be proactive about your social media usage

OK so I want to ask all of you a question, how much time of your life to you spend doing what I’ve depicted in the video below?


Whether it be Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google +, Linkedin, or any of the many other networks out there. How much time do you spent just scrolling down, hyper-stimulated, bored — but looking for some snippet of content to interact with — only to open the video, watch it for ten seconds, get bored, close it and hop on to the next piece of content? (Of course, only to read the first heading of the article and then share it promptly and tag a few friends without knowing what the real meat of it is?)

I know I do!

Begin with the end in mind

Another question: What are you trying to get out of sitting on these social networks the whole time?

What is the goal for your time spent on social media? Have you thought it through before? Is there any purpose or reason behind sitting on Facebook twenty times a day?

Perhaps that’s a good place to start. If you don’t have any objective in mind going on social media then that’s probably your first problem: From the get-go the action of going on social media is, by definition, reactive. Without an objective in mind you’re merely waiting for the world to puke it’s perspectives and content onto you. What you do on social media is allow others to influence and dictate what you are spending your time reading and thinking about– it’s like watching the news but the news is shaped by your social network — so it’s better to think through what you want out of it.

Step back for a minute and think it through: are you going on to follow friends or family and see updates on their lives? Are you going to follow thought leaders? Are you looking for a news source? Are you looking for interesting and stimulating conversations about various topics? Are you looking to see where your friends are and what they’re eating?

What is it that you’re trying to get out of your social media usage?

Shaping that reality

Once you have an end goal in mind, you can take specific steps to shape your social media usage and habits in order to get closer to that goal. In order to illustrate this I’ll present a possible set of objectives (which are coincidentally my own) and what some good, proactive steps may be to achieve those objectives:

  1. Engaging in “interesting” conversation / debate (subjective)
  2. Follow thought leaders so as to have a news source about certain niche topics
  3. Sharing specific content for the purpose of personal branding
  4. Following certain family and friends to keep up with their lives
  5. Learn about certain individuals that I may come into contact with through work (like prospective clients)

In order to achieve those goals, here are some steps that can be taken. These are given as both general “ideas” (applicable to many social media situations) and specific ideas catered for this set of objectives:

#1 Choose your social networks carefully

Rather get a lot of value from one network than participate on heaps of networks but get little if any value from them. Based on this and the previous objectives, a good set of social networks might be:

  1. Facebook (for objectives 1, 4, 5)
  2. Twitter (for objectives 2, 3, 5)
  3. Linkedin (for objectives 2, 3, 5)

Intrinsically all social networks have some kind of particular niche or type of audience. The group of people who frequent reddit may be different in personality to the group who hang out on linkedin, (although those are not mutually exclusive). This is just the natural evolution of the unique selling points of social networks. Which networks will help you achieve your goals best?

#2 Learn how to unfollow!

This may seem cruel to some, but if you want to be proactive about your social media usage you need to learn to specifically prune the news-feed that you subject yourself to.This applies to all networks. When you spend time in the newsfeed you are merely subjecting yourself to the shares, likes and other activities of those in your network and not all of it will be as relevant to your objectives.

For example, as per goal #1 above, ask yourself: is this person ever going to say something you find interesting and engaging? Unlikely? Just unfollow! Unfollowing is not the same as “de-friending” — you will still be friends with that person, you’ve just opted to not receive updates that they post, based on your past experience. They can still follow you and engage in chat / comments with you and you can still message them.

Most of the time this is not really that cruel. In reality you probably don’t talk with that person on a regular basis anyway.

#3 Share, comment and like carefully — properly engage with content

Related to many of the objectives above, something that can be done to increase the overall quality of your social media experience is to focus on quality and not quantity. A good idea might be to take the following steps:

  • Never like, comment or share an article that you didn’t read through completely beforehand
  • Long, controversial debates on topics (like religious or political topics) rarely go anyway or promote any kind of mutual understanding, in fact they tend to just make people more polarised — probably best to just avoid them all-together.

Here’s an example of the above happening. In this post somebody commented on an article asking a basic question that was actually addressed in the article itself. The author tactfully replied:

Whoever it was who wrote that article took the time to write it carefully and get it right. If you wish to participate in a discussion with that author (who is usually an expert or high up in that particular niche) it’s best to pay them the respect of reading through their article carefully and asking insightful questions (instead of wasting their time with things that were already addressed in the article).

#4 Avoid emotional blackmail posts; they’re rubbish.

Here’s a post I recently saw on my Facebook: (anonymous of course)

I am somewhat selective when it comes to befriending friends and family, that’s why I don’t have many on Facebook, but I’m doing this once and once only, so now’s your chance………It occurs to me that for each and every one of you on my friends list, I catch myself looking at your pictures, sharing jokes and news, as well as support during good and bad times. I am also happy to have you among my friends. We will see who will take the time to read this message until the end……………. If you appreciate your friends and family from all over the world, copy this into your status, even if it’s just for a minute. I’m going to be watching to see who takes care of the friendship, just like me. Thank you all for being a part of my life. Copy and paste please, DON’T SHARE!! If no one reads my wall, this should be a very short experiment. So, if you read this, leave one word as to how we met. Only ONE word, then copy & paste this to your wall so I can leave a word. I haven’t done this in while and I wonder how I have so many friends

Of course I unfollowed this person immediately. This stuff is crap, don’t give these posts the time of day. You don’t need to publicly blast out to the world any personal insecurities. Of course some people just post these a bit more “innocently” without realising that in reality this is actually emotional blackmail (it says, in effect, “take the time to comment on this why you love me or you’re not my real friend”)

Please. I know half the people who start reading this very article won’t finish it. Good! I hope you guys did something even better with your time. Of course we’re still friends, why wouldn’t we be?

#5 Restrict your social media time

Any virtue taken to an extreme becomes a vice. People probably lean way more to the “too much” side of social media time usage.

A quick and easy way to restrict your social media usage time is quite simple: when you find yourself doing what I was doing in the video above (just scrolling down mindlessly, never really getting into anything) just close the window.

It’s as simple as that.

Often Facebook (I’m not as sure as the others) will put the post / update “of most interest” right in your first slot before the first news feed ad. If you want a quick micro update that’s an awesome way to get one. Just log into Facebook, look at the first post, and close it. It’s likely that the others won’t be as relevant to you because Facebook puts in a lot of effort optimising that post (and then the entire newsfeed) to make it cater for your interests.

#6 Enjoy the journey

If you’re not enjoying your time on social media, you may want to question whether it’s worthwhile at all. My wife has a friend who told us of her time using Facebook, she said something to this effect:

I found myself just getting too caught up in the lives of other people, always seeing the good things happening in their lives and often getting jealous. I realised that what I see on Facebook doesn’t make me happy and is often just a fake “mask” of those people and their lives. It made me unhappy to use Facebook, so I just stopped.

She then really stopped, I haven’t seen her on Facebook for years. She is actually one of the happiest and most bubbly people I know — awesome choice to leave Facebook forever.

Hope you found this helpful!


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