Why I’m Changing The Way I Use Social Media
I’ve decided to change the way that I use social media.
Effective immediately, I’m making several simple but important changes to what I post on social media, where I post it, and how I allow others to respond to my posts. I’ve decided to write a detailed explanation of these changes both for the sake of announcing them to my social media contacts and for the sake of providing ideas and inspiration for anyone else who may be considering a similar shift.
What am I changing?
The biggest changes can be summed up in three main points:
- No more contrarian comments/replies. If you don’t like what you see on my social media profile, keep scrolling. Some friendly discussion and even disagreement is fine, but only within the context of the core values and principles articulated in my profile and in the original post. For example, there will be no debate about the existence or severity of climate change in the comments/replies of any climate news/discussion posts, but friendly discussions about the problem and its solutions are acceptable.
- No more “Walls of Text.” I’m not going to enforce this as much in terms of other people’s comments/replies as long as they’re not violating #1 above. But I will personally avoid posting any long-winded messages directly as text on social media. Instead, if I feel that a longer explanation is necessary, I will post it on my blog and share it on social media. I may also sometimes refer people to other people’s writings on the topic so that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time there’s a discussion in the comments.
- More posts on my Facebook author page. On other social media networks (Twitter, Instagram), I just have a single profile. All of my posts appear in one place there. On Facebook, I have one personal profile and many “pages” and “groups” that I admin or co-admin. I’ll be moving many Facebook posts about politics and climate justice to my author page and/or groups with a related focus. This will be a big difference for people who only follow my author page and not my personal profile. They’ll suddenly start seeing more posts from me. For my Facebook friends, the difference won’t be too noticeable because I’ll still share most links from my author page to my personal profile. So we’ll still be able to discuss the same things. We’ll just be discussing a link I shared from my author page rather than a link from some other Facebook page.
I’ve created a simple but informative “Should I Reply?” image that explains the basic spirit of this new social media approach. I plan to share appropriately-sized versions of this graphic on all of my social media profiles.
I am first and foremost an author of text rather than images. Therefore, this first “Should I Reply?” image is very simple. I may make more exciting designs along similar lines later. In the meantime, if you have any alternate design suggestions, feel free to share them with me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Why am I making these changes?
These changes are intended to achieve several distinct but overlapping goals:
- Save time and energy. I want to reduce (hopefully eliminate) the amount of time and energy that I spend on social media engaging in argumentative, fragmentary, and often counterproductive debates, mostly about politics. If other people see value in that style of communication, they’re free to continue doing it. I don’t see much value in that approach to discussing differences of opinion. I won’t be engaging in it any longer.
- Foster productive communication. I want to turn my social media profiles into communication spaces that are primarily centered around points of agreement, shared interests, and productive communication and action rather than contentious debate that seldom goes anywhere.
- Deplatform problematic discourse. I want to ensure that my social media profiles don’t inadvertently turn into platforms for a handful of individuals to push messaging that runs contrary to my commitment to climate justice and other core values. People who friend or follow me on social media shouldn’t have to see problematic contrarian discourse and debates every time I share an article about climate, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, and other topics that some people find controversial. All comments/replies that I consider problematic will either be deleted without comment or will receive a single warning that all future comments/replies along those lines will be deleted. I will also defriend or block anyone who repeatedly posts problematic discourse in the comments/replies.
- Shift productive dialog and debate to dedicated spaces. I do still want to engage in dialog periodically with people from a much broader range of political and philosophical perspectives. I’m concerned about the emergence of “content bubbles” that diminish our understanding of the world and each other’s perspectives. I’m also well-aware that these changes will narrow my content bubble. However, I’ve become increasingly convinced that online dialog and debate with people from a broad range of perspectives works best in online spaces that are specifically dedicated to such dialog rather than in the comments/replies of random posts.
- Write and publish any long text on my blog rather than social media. I want to move most or all of my content that’s significantly longer than tweet-length off of social media and onto my blog and other writing and publishing channels. This will allow me to write well-considered and well-edited essays and articles on topics near and dear to my heart rather than firing off hasty and fragmentary responses in the comments/replies of my own posts. Having my writing published off of social media also allows me to monetize it in various ways. I don’t anticipate making a ton of money off of my essays or articles anytime soon. But every bit helps, and you never know what it will build into over time.
In some sense, this is just a long-winded explanation of the way that many people already run their social media profiles. Post about your interests, focus on connecting with people around those interests, delete or block anyone who gets in the way. Since I’ve taken a less focused approach to social media in the past, though, I’ve found it helpful to stop, reflect, and change the way that I use social media.
I’ve been on Facebook for almost fourteen years now. Before that, I was on MySpace, the Indymedia network, various IRC channels, and yes, AOL chatrooms. Over the course of two decades, I’ve communicated with many different people in many different ways about many different topics. Honestly, though, this review of my use of social media has been the most exhaustive review of my online communication that I’ve ever done. It’s allowing me to break out of reflexive, habitual styles of online interaction and focus instead on what I hope to gain by communicating with people online. The change is still in process, and it’s already been refreshing. I definitely recommend a more conscious and focused approach to social media and online communication to anyone who’s considering it.