Social media has become the new idiot box. Most of the stuff shared on Facebook and Twitter are either stupid, making us stupid, or we’re already so stupid that we can’t resist engaging there.
Social networking is bad for society. It was fun and interesting when it started not too long ago and as a technologist I was fascinated by it. We had finally found a way to create the perfect representations of ourselves and share it with others. The best part was that there were no rejections in this virtual reality. We could design our image and wait for the likes and follows to boost our self-esteem. We’ve overdone it, kids are overdoing it. It’s bad and it’s only going to get worse.
Let me remind you why it’s bad:
- It’s proven to be addictive.
- It’s the biggest productivity killer. Social networking eats up 3+ hours per day for average user.
- It hurts self-esteem. “… it provides a place for people to indulge in self-destructive behavior, such as trumpeting their own weaknesses or comparing their achievements with those of others.”
- Study shows social media makes us lonelier and unhappy and less sociable.
- It leads to depression and anxiety.
- It’s increasingly being blamed for undermining marriages.
- It’s where most of the bullying occurs now.
- It might impact your employability.
Yes, I did reunite with people I’ve lost touch with and met some great people thanks to social networking. However, there are now more disadvantages than advantages.
Two months ago I started experimenting with digital minimalism, starting with the social media. Facebook and Twitter were where I was spending my most online social time. I did the following:
- I haven’t done anything social for last two months. Not a single like, follow, photo share, status update or a friend request. I haven’t shared anything but did reply to the messages I’ve received via Facebook.
- Eliminated the social accounts that I wasn’t actively using. Deleted accounts on Google+1, Foursquare, Pinterest. This greatly reduced the mental and email noise where every once in a while I was receiving invitation reminders, newsletters or follow notifications.
- I kept my Twitter account but deleted all my tweets since 2007. The search feature is the only benefit I get from Twitter and I use it extensively to get real-time information on current events (natural disasters, political situations, sports etc.). I don’t check my timeline.
- I changed the privacy settings of my LinkedIn profile and made it very hard to find. I haven’t logged in last two months, which proves the fact that I wasn’t receiving much value before.
- I tried to delete every action I’ve performed on Facebook since I signed up in 2006. All the dumb comments I’ve left on my friends’ photos, likes, rants about Vancouver weather, cafe check-ins are gone. Facebook makes it very hard for you to delete your stuff, but I’ve automated it with a browser plugin2. Facebook is the only social network I check these days and my time spent there are minimal (around 10-15 minutes a day). Since Facebook allows you to pick your close friends, it makes it easy for me to catch up with people I actually care3.
This experiment was long overdue as I was extremely satisfied with my physical minimalist lifestyle. Reducing/eliminating my social networking overload produced great results. I coded more and read more books in last 2 months than previous 10 months combined. I cared more and connected better with my family and friends. I gave less fucks about the stuff I didn’t care and I can’t change. I definitely didn’t miss the baby/cat/puppy/wedding/winter photos and political rants4.
I’m not quitting social networking (yet). I will still use it to catch up with friends and share the crap I write here, which I intend to do more often. However, it won’t be the place where I spend more than 10-15 minutes a day. Life is too short for the absolute garbage piling up on Facebook, Twitter et al.
2 With iMacro, you can record a single delete action in your Facebook Activity Log page and loop it as many times as you want.
3 It turns out I only care about less than 10% of my Facebook friends.
4 I'm not apolitical, but political rants on social media doesn't seem much effective to me, especially while most people who rant don't vote.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhmarketing/8527527570/