Everybody is continuously connected to everybody else on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Reddit, e-mailing, texting, faster and faster, with the flood of information jeopardizing meaning. Everybody’s talking at once in a hypnotic, hyper din: the cocktail party from hell.
A recent survey by USA Today found that nearly 50% of those polled felt overwhelmed by social media and had considered giving it up completely. I have to say, I’m not surprised. When you really examine it, social media is decidedly unsocial.
Social media sites like Facebook were billed as tools for family and friends to stay in touch and share personal news, but unfortunately, those personal messages are being lost in a flood of other information. Anyone who’s been on Facebook recently can tell you that a great deal of social media postings are just noise: game statistics and requests, contest information and entries, funny photos and videos, prayer chains, horoscopes, inspirational quotes, and so on. This imbalance may not bother some, but for individuals with limited free time and competing demands, it makes social media frustrating and unsatisfying.
For many, even personal updates are a source of frustration. I think we all have at least one friend who’s always bragging about his or her latest purchase, gift, award or vacation. No one enjoys feeling inferior to another person, so it doesn’t take long for bad feelings to develop when we’re constantly subjected to someone else’s “highlight reel.”
So, short of pulling the plug on your social sites, what can you do to make social media less unsocial and more satisfying?
For a start, pare down your friends list. It’s impossible to keep up with hundreds of friends — you’d have to spend hours a day online to see everyone’s postings. Don’t be afraid to drop the high school classmates you don’t remember, the co-workers from three jobs ago, the neighbors who have moved away or the business acquaintances you barely know. If you’re afraid of hurt feelings, simply mute or unfollow their postings without severing the connection; they won’t know that you aren’t seeing their posts, and you’ll have a streamlined feed that focuses on the people who are most important to you.
Be cautious as well about what you “like” on social sites. Facebook tries to gauge what to show you based on the posts you like, so if you click “like” on a funny video, you’re telling Facebook you enjoy those sorts of posts. Save your likes for personal posts and you’ll have less clutter on your page.
You can also tell Facebook to hide posts from certain sources. For instance, you can block game postings when they show up in your feed; click the down arrow at the top right of the posting and choose “Hide all from <game>” from the menu that appears. You can do the same for news channels or other pages that your friends regularly share, eliminating those noise sources from your feed.
Don’t forget to limit the amount of time you spend on social sites. It’s easy to start scrolling and spend a lot longer than you intended, which can increase your sense of having wasted your time. Limit yourself to one or two social media breaks a day and set a timer to give yourself a firm cutoff point.
Lastly, don’t forget to be a good social media citizen yourself. Don’t post things constantly and don’t share posts you wouldn’t want to see on your own page.
Social media shouldn’t be an obligation or a source of bad feelings. If your social media activity is making you unhappy, do something about it. The real world is frustrating, chaotic and noisy enough; you don’t need social sites making it worse.
I don’t understand this whole Twitter, Facebook stuff. I don’t get it. Make a phone call. Talk to somebody.
Copyright © 2015 John Chancellor and Cheryl Chancellor