You don’t need to hear this from me, but I’m going to say it anyway. Social media—OK, let’s be real here, the internet in general—is full of noise and clutter. So long as we’re being real, also rage. And propaganda.
Social media platforms seem to stimulate a human tendency to indulge in excess: oversharing with people we hardly know, “friending” people we’d never even go to coffee with, creating drama just to get attention, scrolling through endless streams of vapid, pretend-authentic lifestyle photos.
I realized that I subscribe to a lot of minimalist philosophies, yet I’ve never attempted to apply them to my use of social media. So to that end, I’ve come up with 5 minimalist tactics to try.
Before we get to those, here’s a quick note on minimalism.
A quick definition of minimalism
What do I mean when I say “minimalism?” Here are the basics of my approach.
1. Remove the unnecessary
Understand excess for what it is: a burden. I don’t think it’s going too far to even say it’s vulgar. In Ursula LeGuin’s science fiction book Dispossessed, characters from a particular society described anything in excess as “excremental.”
The idea rings true to me. Excess isn’t something I believe to be rewarding or beneficial.
In case you want a visual, there are many ways I’ve imagined the concept. Here’s a surreal art piece I did at age 19 titled Life in Excess.
2. Apply intentionality to what you own
Minimalism isn’t just about having less, it’s about choosing wisely—which inevitably leads to having less.
In this sense, applied minimalism requires strategic thinking (which, as I talked about in a recent post, is poorly defined in the working world because a lot of people fake it).
Now that you know where I’m coming from, here are some applications of minimalism in daily use of social media.
5 principles of social media minimalism
1. Don’t post just for the sake of posting
If you read articles online about tips for using various platforms, many recommend aiming for a certain volume of content. Setting a target is all well and good … if you actually have something to share.
Everyone has to decide for themselves whether they have something meaningful to say. Nobody is totally self-aware. But stopping to think through your reasons for sharing is a good place to start.
It might be good (like in my case) to kill the practice of scheduling out content for the future.
Instead, keep track of your thoughts. If you’re a data nerd like me, build a database to store and query them. That way you can capture them in private instead of using Facebook as a public diary.
Later, you can share your thoughts when you think it’s appropriate and meaningful.
2. Don’t post the exact same thing on multiple channels
I’ll be quick to admit I’m guilty of this, and I plan to make a shift. Every social media channel has different strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to consider them.
For me, here’s the main paradigm shift that needs to happen: a social media channel isn’t just a place to reach people. It’s a platform designed to provide a specific type of experience for specific types of content and people.
Consider the unique purposes of each channel every time you post—and don’t just blast the same thing everywhere. Your close friends who follow you on every channel will get pretty tired of seeing what you’re saying in four different places.
Whatever you do, at least don’t set a channel up to automatically publish across all your accounts every time you share something.
3. Focus on real interaction, not just getting noticed
It’s easy to be stingy with comments and interactions. And in some ways, this is a good thing—you don’t want to endorse things indiscriminately.
But it’s also easy to focus on social media channels as places for you to get noticed, not places for you to respond.
In a minimalism-centric approach, it’s important to focus on leaving more thoughtful comments when someone else shares something. Silly comments can be great, too. Ultimately it’s important to express interest in and appreciation of other peoples’ contributions. Elevate things that people other than you have created—especially when it’s something you enjoy or appreciate.
It’s easy to forget that the real value of social media is meaningful interaction, not just another place to get your thoughts out there.
Having that meaningful interaction calls for doing the work of finding and thinking about others’ content. And I’m not talking about the stuff that makes you mad. Which reminds me …
4. Don’t follow people who frustrate you
This is a huge one. But before I get into it, please note that I’m not saying you shouldn’t follow people whose opinions you don’t share. The key is to follow people whom you can respect, even if you hardly ever see things the same way.
There’s a lot of inane content being propagated, and it may even be coming from people close to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s your aunt who loves you very much who keeps sharing racist memes that throw you into a rage. Do everyone a favor and unfollow her.
You probably can’t change her opinion, but you can change whether or not you’re subscribed to it.
The best way to keep something dumb from getting attention it doesn’t deserve is to ignore it. Better yet, to never see it in the first place.
A key tenant to social media minimalism is not wasting thought energy on things that don’t deserve it.
5. Choose social media platforms wisely
There are so many platforms. Experiment with different ones, but settle with the few that you can use for genuine interactions. Don’t necessarily stick with the big ones (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). Your most fulfilling social media interactions might come on more obscure platforms that are more specialized, like Quora, Periscope, or Snapchat.
Take time to research, practice, and learn how to use a platform well. If you can’t invest in learning to use it for what it’s made for, don’t use it at all.
I’ll be working to apply these tactics to my own use of social media, and if you try the same, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Ultimately, keep in mind that social media doesn’t have to be used the way everyone around you uses it. It’s up to you to build your own philosophy. Don’t let gravity choose for you.
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