Two articles that came out recently made me reevaluate my expectations of social networks and change how I use them.
The first article was tweeted by my friend Curtis. It had a bit of a sensationalist headline: “Why I Deleted my Social Media Accounts“. After reading the article it was clear the article’s author didn’t go complete social-Luddite, but instead reduced the number of social networks he interacts with. A good plan.
The blog author’s big bombshell was quitting Facebook (gasp!) and a few other little used networks like Google+, Pinterest, and Tumblr. This wasn’t a shock to me since I quit Facebook in 2012 and don’t really use the other networks listed in the article. He’ll continue to use Twitter and LinkedIn because of the genuine connectedness and utility of the two. The heart of the article is why he’s reducing social. The reason is so he doesn’t devolve into the feed-addicted refresh zombies he sees around him, but rather finds the real person behind the filter:
I’m speaking only of my realization that social media holds no upside to me because when I’m communicating with you I actually want you. I want the truthful you, the calm and centered you and the you that is allowing me to tap your undivided attention, and from what I can tell that you doesn’t exist on Facebook.
Bravo sir, bravo.
Next there was a WaPo article on how 13 year old girl uses social. This article wasn’t terribly groundbreaking or insightful, but it did show a measured look at how someone very different from me (in this case a teenage girl) spends their time online who their community is and what their currency is.
In the girl’s world the currency is “likes.” Instagram likes are coveted and traded and the community is knit together with Snapchat connections by its time-expiring messages.
Fascinating stuff, but it also shows the feed-addiction the first author warned against.
Changing how I use social media
Lately I’ve been feeling some uneasiness with how I interact with social networks so I took the prompting of what I read to scrutinize my connections and habits.
I first took an account of where I’m plugged in then decided what is really insightful and interesting to me. Then I culled the connections I have and took a Marie Kondo approach to who and what I follow.
Recognizing the theme
People I follow usually follow a theme. Looking through the strata of my Following list on Twitter (and previously G+) it’s easy to see the topics I was interested in at a particular time. There are layers for WordPress people, travel bloggers, robotics, YouTubers, food bloggers.
My interest in some themes has waned so it was easy to remove those follows and lists. I identified my current interests so I can keep a watch for more people I should be following:
- Makers – This includes people who own WordPress plugin or theme shops (excluding employees of those makers), DIY’ers, content producers, feeds like CodePen, and podcasts like MegaMaker.
- Friends – Social has muddled the definition of a “friend”, but the way I’m using it is if we have recently met in person for a meal, a beer, or a meetup or if I’ve known you for a long time.
- Local – I’m extremely bullish on following people doing stuff in San Antonio. Restaurants, festivals, meetups, markets – anything fun to attend in-person I’m down for. Our kids are past the annoying toddler years and can now do more fun stuff.
- Trusted curators – Being a retweet hog doesn’t make you a quality curator. I like following a few curators I trust who have diverse interests or in depth coverage of my industry. Post Status and David Bisset are good examples of this.
Side note: Twitter becoming less relevant
A lot of people have written about Twitter’s impending demise, but I’ve always been very bullish on Twitter vs. any other platform. I think it’s still a great way to share information, but there are some things that are becoming serious detractors to giving my attention to the feed.
- Auto tweeting and re-sharing old crap. Accounts that devolve into a stream of Facebook/Instagram/IFTTT links are terrible. The same is true for the myriad of “retweet my irrelevant post from 2013 just to boost my click numbers” services out there. I understand the usefulness of apps like CoSchedule and Buffer for having a consistent publishing schedule of new content, but when an on-again off-again content producer tries to fill their feed using old garbage tweets my interest drops like a rock.
- People dropping out and not being personal. I’ve seen several people I admire devolve into feeds like #1, but also they have stopped sharing genuine stuff going on in their lives and only share a filtered view of their thoughts. The worst of this are “fortune cookie tweets” of crappy quotes, inane keys to #success, and fluttery motivational #hustle buzzing. A Twitter dystopian future is one where everyone only throws blog articles and quotes back at each other.
I don’t think the way Twitter is evolving as a platform will change very much and it will likely get more cluttered. Because of that I no longer think it will be a huge loss if Twitter as a network ceases to exist.
What I’m using now
Enough philosophical tech pontification, here’s what networks I’m currently involved with and why. Drumroll!
Yep, I’m still puttin’ a bird on it. Twitter is still my primary online place, other than this blog, to send people who want to connect with me and where I go to connect with other people. I’ve reduced my following count to tame my feed by using the themes from above and also started using topical private lists.
Another thing that has made Twitter more bearable is Tweetbot on . God bless you Tweetbot for the ability to mute People, Keywords, Hashtags, and Clients! Yes! Now if someone uses a client to auto tweet their recipe blogs from 2013 you can just kill that client.
I don’t use YouTube as a social media network as I hardly comment and rarely upload a video. I still list it here because it takes up a lot of my attention and the attention of my family.
I subscribe to about 80 channels and my wife and I watch YouTube daily (sometimes in lieu of traditional TV and Movies). My kids watch a handful of Minecraft channels and we watch music videos. There is also a ton of educational content for all of us.
YouTube scores very high on the usefulness scale.
I use Goodreads as a utility to keep track of my reading like Runkeeper keeps track of exercises. I love being able to see what I read in past years and have a list of books that have piqued my interest. (I’ve got a lot of books to read!)
It helps that I can “friend” someone and see what they are reading, but it’s not vital to using the app. I mainly use Goodreads to see a book synopsis or if someone I know has read it. I’m currently 2/3 of the way through the Red Rising trilogy and saw that Brian Krogsgard had finished the trilogy so we chatted about it.
I set a Goodreads goal to read 20 books this year and enjoy checking my progress. I’ve got 13 more books to read to hit the goal so need to make up some ground.
Goodreads scores very high on usefulness scale.
I’m really on the fence with Instagram. I quit the network when Facebook bought it, and re-joined when I was planning on doing some travel vlogging. I don’t care about likes and followers, but use it to have a way to share pictures on-the-go from my phone to Twitter and have a backup on this blog. I need to figure out another way to accomplish this and will probably end up removing the account.
Instagram isn’t very useful and really is just a distraction.
I need to start by saying I thought about using Snapchat in the “Gary Vee Hustle Your Way To Riches and fame” sort of way, but I find almost everything about the guy distasteful so I didn’t try it. Instead I use Snapchat in a very personal and off-the-cuff way.
First I set out to understand how the platform works. The spartan UI doesn’t make it easy to understand how to do stuff.
Expiring content and the inability to save (other than a screenshot) makes it annoying to use for learning, and the lack of discovery makes building a following tedious. So for the time being I use Snapchat to record events we attend and things we do as a family with the intent of saving the emojified vertical video to a private Vimeo account linked to a private blog. I’m an archivist at heart, and it’s a very simple way to save memories as long as I remember to save the snaps before they expire.
I enjoy following people sharing their lives and almost exclusively follow people in remote parts of the world (Paris, NYC, Norway, Cape Town).
Evolution of social
There is still an evolution of social and online connectivity happening, and for me it’s being impacted by something else: Slack. I have about 9 Slack rooms I’m involved in ranging from my business mastermind, to a pay-to-enter industry room, to a group of friends. If Twitter goes away Slack (or its equivalent) would be an almost fine replacement.
Here’s one crazy prediction: I think the next wave of social will have a VR component where people can create their own VR landscapes and invite others to join in.