How I Approach Social Media

October 22, 2018
Category: thoughts

On a recent episode of Office Hours, a listener asked about the purpose of social media. Isaac and TK recommended taking a pragmatic approach. Here is my take on what that looks like.

How I approach social media in general

  • Consumption and projection, not discussion - I find things people share and share my own work and things I find interesting, but I very rarely participate in discussions. Meaningful discussion is very difficult online, especially on social media. I prefer to take discussions to more direct, personal mediums like Messages, Slack, and Voxer. I prefer in-person when that is possible.
  • Sparingly and intentionally - I’m not a Waldenponder. I get a lot of value out of social media. But I don’t recommend indiscriminately spending time on it, either. It is designed to keep you there so they can serve more ads to you. It is inherently manipulative. Some (like Twitter) are so full of negativity that you’ll get worked up if you aren’t careful. Photo-heavy services distort reality and have the unfortunate effect of making you feel like your life sucks. Social media is a dangerous place, so make sure you engage sparingly and intentionally. Know what you want to get out of it. Put blockers in place so you don’t spend more time than you pre-determine is worth it for you. I recommend 1Blocker (Safari on macOS and iOS) and StayFocusd (Chrome). Remove the apps from your phone (best) or at least put in limits with iOS 12’s new Screentime feature.
    • I prefer to replace social media time with reading and podcasts as much as possible.
  • Whenever possible, post from a third-party service - Most of my Facebook and Twitter posts come from Buffer. This keeps me from having to log in or have the service’s apps on my phone.

Here’s how I use the major social channels:

Facebook

I like Facebook less every week. I only hop on a few days a week now. The content there is mostly trash. I go on to keep up with friends from high school and college, as well as family. I rarely comment and I almost never engage in a discussion there. It isn’t as toxic as Twitter because you generally have closer ties with someone involved in the thread on Facebook, but it is still usually bad.

I think people waste too much time on Facebook unintentionally and would do well to delete the apps from their phones and only check it from one specific device that you use only as a secondary or tertiary device. For me that is my iPad. I keep Facebook blocked on my computer and my phone to reign in my unintentional time wasting.

Twitter

Twitter is my second favorite social service to browse. It is where I get a lot of recommendations, find out about new apps, and get my news. I don’t read traditional news outlets unless I find an interesting story linked on Twitter or a blog I read (see below).

I curate who I follow pretty regularly, so I have a pretty good “content to garbage” ratio, or at least one I’m willing to tolerate enough to check out during breakfast and lunch.

Mastodon

I still want something like Mastodon to take off, but I haven’t found any communities that are active enough to invest in. I prefer using the internet as a place to consume (find recommendations, keep up with what friends and family are doing, learn new things) and project (write and share my own stuff), but not converse. Most of the internet is a terrible place for conversing. It just isn’t set up for that. Perhaps Mastodon can fill that gap if I find the right community?

I’m trying out https://refactorcamp.org right now and having a pretty high hit rate of good content. Still not great for discussion, though.

If you have any Mastodon communities you recommend, I’d love to hear about them.

Instagram

I’m photographer. I love posting to Instagram. It is probably my favorite social service to browse, too. So much good stuff in my feed! That said, it is the one I’m most likely to waste too much time on because I like it so much. So I delete it from my phone most of the time and only download it when I want to post to it, keep it around for a few days with 15 minute time limits set with Screentime, then delete it until I want to post again.

Reddit

Oh, Reddit. I want to love you, but I can’t. The comments are so toxic, even in decent subreddit communities. Every subreddit I start getting involved in inevitably devolves to inside jokes, gatekeeping, and beginners asking the same question covered hundreds of times. (On the Kombucha sub, it is always “is my scoby okay?!?!). It gets tiring.

I love reading AMAs, but I never get there in time to ask a question. And when I did ask questions in AMAs a few times, I got banned for asking for a month because I asked the same question each time: What are you reading right now? Apparently that isn’t allowed.

Also, the search is completely terrible. There is probably tons of useful stuff locked away in threads that no one can find, forever lost to the ether.

I’m over Reddit. My RescueTime stats show that I visit the site less and less each year.

Pinterest

I don’t use Pinterest. I can’t reliably find anything in that awful sea of ubiquitous images. You have to sift through a pile of garbage to find one useful thing. I prefer to avoid the whole mess in favor of other services. I use http://Are.na as a personal pinboard.

YouTube

I only watch YouTube videos I find embedded elsewhere or that someone sends me. I can’t remember the last time I went directly to YouTube.com to just see what was happening. I don’t like the video medium unless I’m trying to learn something, and I tend to find those videos through search engines. I don’t watch YouTube videos recreationally.

Likewise

This is too small right now to be super useful, but I’m hopeful for it. A service dedicated to book, show, and restaurant recommendations. Requests for this sort of thing on regular social media tend to get lost in the sea of other garbage and algorithmic timelines, so people often don’t respond until days later. Likewise keeps these asks front-and-center. You should join me on Likewise! https://likewise.com/invitedby/5bbe223985965466d44255eb

Hacker News

Great tech news source. I don’t participate in the comments/community there. I’ll often click through to the comments section to get a tl;dr of the article or get hot takes on current events. I find a lot of products and tools here that I bookmark and end up using or recommending later.

Product Hunt

There was a period where I checked Product Hunt daily and found a lot of cool stuff there. Now I check it maybe once a week and only find a fraction of the cool stuff I once found there.

LinkedIn

I hate it. I refused to be on it for years. I have a profile now to set a good example for Praxis participants, and I may even cross post one of my articles there, but I get very little value from the service.

Quora

I went through a phase where I answered questions on Quora, but I got bored by it pretty quickly. I didn’t invest enough to get over the hump and get a large return, so it just felt like I was wasting my time. Plus, there are so many shitty answers on there by people who just spend all day answering questions they only know a little bit about. Costless question asking and costless answering lead to a pretty low quality of content. The early days were cool because it was costlier to be in a small community like that instead of elsewhere. But now it sucks.

Stack Overflow

I’ve never asked a question on SO, but I sure am glad it exists. I’ve had dozens, maybe hundreds, of questions answered by previously existing questions there. I have chipped in and answered some questions there, but I don’t make a regular habit of it.

Where else do I get media?

  • Blogs
    • marginalrevolution.com
    • kottke.org
    • daringfireball.net
    • macstories.net
    • ribbonfarm.com
    • complete-review.com/saloon
    • stratechery.com
    • lesswrong.com
    • seriouseats.com
  • Podcasts
    • Conversations with Tyler
    • Data Stories
    • Design Matters
    • The Knowledge Project
    • Longform
    • Mac Power Users
    • The Memory Palace
    • Presentable
    • Recode Decode
    • The Speakeasy
    • The Talk Show
    • Waking Up
    • Cortex
    • Hello Internet
    • Thoroughly Considered
    • Planet Money
    • This American Life
    • Office Hours
    • Serial
    • Accidental Tech Podcast
  • Newspapers and magazines
    • I don’t read newspapers often, but I occasionally like to pick up a NYTimes or WSJ on the weekend and spend an hour going through it.
    • I like reading the short fiction in The Atlantic and The New Yorker. We don’t subscribe to them anymore, but I’ll pick one up at the news stand in Grand Central occasionally.
    • I read Lucky Peach for a few years until they shut it down. I loved it. I’m looking for a replacement. Any recommendations?
  • Newsletters
    • Breaking Smart
    • Ryan Holiday’s Reading List
    • Studio Neat Gazette
    • MacStories Weekly
    • Tim Ferriss’s 5-Bullet Friday

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