Curbing social media addiction & more

Every week I write a technology column for Stuff, New Zealand’s largest news media website. In a recent column, I wrote about controlling your social media diet. It struck a chord with many people.

The problem is that social media is addictive and – to continue the diet metaphor – full of empty calories. Here’s a quick summary of my tips, but I encourage you to read the article:

  • Scale back on which social media services you use.
  • Use the unfollow button on Facebook and the mute button on Twitter to prune your feeds.
  • Funnel better content into your feeds; e.g. sign up to Facebook Groups for hobbies or topics you’re passionate about.
  • Impose time limits on yourself, just as you would on your iPad-hogging, YouTube-addicted child.
  • Turn off notifications; or even better, remove social media apps from your phone (which I’ve done).

Also check out this long comments thread on my Facebook page. The thing I loved about that thread is that it proved social media can be useful after all 😉

Since writing that column, I’ve cut back on the parts of social media that were annoying me – unfollowing people who write political rants, avoiding the groupthink aspects of Twitter, and generally just reducing the amount of time I spend on social media. For example: I only check Tweetdeck on my computer occasionally, and do not have the Twitter app on my phone (I’m thinking of removing it from my tablet too).

It’s not all about scaling back though. I recently discovered a bunch of Facebook groups about topics of interest to me, so I’m enjoying seeing those in my feed. I also reset my Twitter lists, based on my current topical interests.

In my other recent columns, I looked at how the streaming era is changing music, I explained why AI assistants are the next computing revolution, and I checked in with troubled personal genomics startup 23andMe a decade after its launch.

9 thoughts on “Curbing social media addiction & more”

  1. Good points. But signing up a bunch of Facebook Groups actually hasn’t made my experience any better. A few months ago, I joined several Bitcoin, Blockchain, GraphQL and programming related groups; but the problem remains the same whether it’s on Facebook or Wordpres; it’s hard to find well-managed, curated groups/communities. Random ones you find based on social proximity and/or number of members are all spam spam spam (btc ones are the worst!)

    Good communities are rare, and they tend to grow into their own independent channels (like RWW).

    But I agree with all the remaining points. I haven’t achieved to delete apps on my phone yet but I hear many of my friends do or did.

    • Thanks Emre, great points. So far I’ve had better luck with the diabetes/low carb groups I’ve joined on FB. I’ve also joined a couple of cryptocurrency ones, and yes I agree the experience there isn’t so good.

  2. It’s not the bigger Twitter quit I’ve been debating for a while, but I’ve just taken the intermediate step of removing the Twitter app and its notifications from my phone. I’m going to be using a handful of feed readers to more purposefully consume curated content in the coming year.
    I’ll still syndicate content into Twitter and can use my own website to receive @mentions, comments, and likes, so I won’t really be going anywhere. But I will be leaving behind a lot of the curation, maintenance, poor trained/engrained behaviors, as well as a lot of content that really isn’t doing me much good.
    In particular, leaving behind a lot of the toxic content makes me feel lighter and happier already.
    h/t Richard MacManus and Jonathan LaCour in the past few hours among many, many others in the near past.
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    Author: Chris Aldrich

    I’m a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, theoretical mathematics, and big history.

    I’m also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.
    View all posts by Chris Aldrich

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