Your Facebook and Twitter feeds can be whatever you want them to be. If you have ever thought your social media is filled with negativity and garbage, it’s not the developer’s fault. Mark Zuckerberg can’t fix this for you. Your social media sucks because of you. Would you like to be a little bit happier on social media and maybe even a little bit in life? Remove news sources from your social media. Stop sharing negative stories and politically charged articles. You should probably stop commenting on them, too.
I know, it’s crazy and I am completely guilty of being politically passionate on social media in the past. We almost feel obligated to tweet about Trump or Cosby. What if I told you that you could instead talk about only good times? Some will be quick to point out that we talk about good times all the time plus politics and news when we are in face-to-face social settings like a bar or the comfort of our home. Why should social media be any different?
Let’s highlight the two key items in those examples which make them vastly different from a Facebook news feed – comfort and alcohol. Generally speaking, in those situations, everyone is partaking of both. But Facebook isn’t comfortable or drunk. You might be comfortable and drunk, but don’t expect everyone else to be. Facebook is an iron curtain. You may be perfectly comfortable on your side, but completely uncomfortable with the other side. You can’t even verify if what is on the other side is real. Yet Facebook has figured out a way for us to communicate across the curtain with people who we may not know as well as we think. This leads to a pronounced lack of good humor, hate and fear, cyber-bullying (which is plain, flat-out bullying, methinks), and even offline violence and suicide.
But Keith, you ask, where will I ever get my news and share my immensely valuable opinions? We have a lot of options, so not parking negativity on Facebook won’t leave anyone high and dry. You clearly like and enjoy Facebook, right? You are reading this article after all. I know, some of you feel an obligation or almost religious compulsion to Facebook or Twitter. You are compelled to engage in it against your better judgement. Your family is there. Your friends are there. Your children are there talking with evil! We are social animals after all. Some of you simply enjoy cat memes. Maybe you have a masochistic behavior disorder that prompts you to torture yourself with social media. Whatever your excuses, you’re there. You may have found my website by way of a Facebook or Twitter share. However it happened, you are a user and you could make your experience so-Much-BETTER.
Actively removing negativity from our social media will not result in a shortage of news options. It also won’t remove news and negativity from our streams entirely. We have the anti-happy people we all know and Facebook and Twitter inject news into our feeds to thank for that. We’ll still have television news and notifications on our mobiles.
Though many people have dismissed them, there’s always newspapers and magazines. If you aren’t into those legacy options, websites built around news are happy to deliver you enewsletters every-single-minute. But many of our social media feeds read like horror novels. They are filled with inappropriate or unexpected humor immediately followed by tragedy. It’s an emotional roller-coasters! One post is about your niece’s recital. The next is about a rape/murder case. It’s followed by an upcoming concert in the park update. Another is about Trump – he’s stupid! Another is also about Trump – he’s great! The next is about Obama. Then there is a dad joke. Finally, you find out that your life-long friend is a hardcore Nickelback fan. He has a tattoo of the band’s logo on his left butt-cheek.
The result is that we skip large chunks of our social media or get triggered about how stupid people can be. You then laugh while a cat tries to climb out of sink filled with Nickelodeon slime. You finish the session crying at a video of your ex’s wedding because you haven’t quite developed a healthy sense of separation yet.
This is emotional overload.
“A UK study carried out by the Royal Society for Public Health tested the psychological impact of social media use on 1,500 adolescents and concluded that almost every major social media platform had a negative impact on the subjects’ psychological well-being, ranging from anxiety to self-esteem. The research is clear; cases of depression have been on the rise right alongside the growth of social media, and the more social media an individual engages with, the higher their chance of having mood disorders.” https://psychcentral.com/blog/does-social-media-cause-depression/
There is a lot more research to support similar assertions. Clear evidence exist that human’s do not handle speed-switching of emotions well. The quest to stabilize our moods, for example, has been at the forefront of depression and mood disorder research for decades. Naturally, humanity has wisely latched onto services which trigger our emotions better than drugs.
Am I advising that we abandon social media? No, absolutely not. I am stating that social media is whatever you make it. If you hate Facebook and use it anyway, it’s your fault you hate it. We control nearly all of what we absorb from social media. Removing the stressors from our social media feeds is an option that isn’t insane at all. It may at times feel that way when we are contemplating the removal a childhood friend or a relative we dearly love. We may even consider leaving certain online groups we regularly associate with offline because of how poorly they are run and moderated.
Beyond being a good social media guideline, removing negativity and toxic people from our lives is solid advice. It’s a freedom we should actively and routinely engage in. Sure, some people deserve a second chance. Some people deserve twenty chances. It’s up to you. Just don’t blame it on social media when the person on their 412th chance posts naked pictures of you at last week’s bonfire. I recognize that some of these people you love with every part of your being. My advice stands. You may never stop loving them, but that doesn’t mean you have to continue reading their bullshit.
There is an entire industry, a science, and a massive blogosphere dedicated to the subject of removing stressors and negativity from your life. It might worth checking out in general. Here’s an example https://zenhabits.net/20-ways-to-eliminate-stress-from-your-life/
Here is what I suggest:
- For news, stay established and traditional first. Find bias-free news sources for local, national, and world news – but do not Like or Follow them in your social media.
- Mostly keep your social media contacts to your friends and family (see the next bullet point). Be willing to ax ANYBODY from the lists – including spouses. Contrary to popular belief, unfriending someone from Facebook doesn’t mean that you are no longer friends. Granted, you might hurt some feelings and you’ll likely need to have a long conversation with your spouse.
- Do the same exact thing for your hobbies and interests. If you are a Metallica fan, go like Metallica’s Facebook page. Like Halloween? Go add your favorite October themed website’s to your friends list. You’ll have a completely different view of social media the day you log in and your news feed is primarily filled with awesomeness. Upcoming concert dates, contests, movie trailers, family tom-foolery, friendly banter, product announcements you actually care about, and 1980’s Saturday morning cartoon memes make social media very personal.
- Don’t allow anyone to share anything on your timeline without your permission. Nothing gets posted on my timeline from anyone without my review.
- Seriously think about how you feel about being tagged in posts made by your family and friends. If you don’t want to be tagged in anything ever, you can do that in Facebook’s settings. Personally, I don’t care. Most of the time when people tag me it’s for great bargains and food recipes. Why would I ever want to miss out on that?
- If you must, pick a social media you will use to follow the Negative Nancys and Carl Catastrophes you feel most comfortable with and respect. Then remember that you chose this and that you are going to be bombarded with it when you log in. It’s your decision. Twitter is actually great for this. It has a sense of life that Facebook misses. Every tweet feels like it’s live and comes with a sense of urgency.
- If you are afraid that you’ll miss the news without your social media feed, your primary source of news might be coming from your social media. I am not sold as that being a viable option yet. There are a lot of reputable news sites out there but a lot – and I mean A LOT – of fake and bias news makes it to social media. Getting your news directly from the source still seems to be the best option for me.
- Look into RSS feeds and develop a personalized, robust RSS reader experience. Unlike social media feeds, RSS news feeds pull their information from a source you requested. You are basically creating your own newspaper or magazine authored by only the sources you approve. It’s also not static. New information and updates are grabbed every time you refresh the feed. The best part is that RSS is free. Most readers offer a premium paid model you can subscribe to for as little as $5 a year after you find a version you like. Unfortunately, a lot of RSS readers are, well, ugly. They look like your email inbox. There are a few that have worked on becoming beautified, like Flipboard, which I love.
- If you must comment on news stories – and I do – I strongly suggest commenting at the news source rather than spreading it across Facebook or twitter. For one, using social media to spread your comments is usually like preaching to the choir. If you have conservative world views your social media contact list is filled with like-minded individuals. And those who aren’t think you’re trying to start a flame war, and maybe you are. Also, the article author is not likely to see your comments, even if you tag them. Posting your comments at the source may elicit a response from the author or editor and start a valid conversation with other readers. And you know damn-well that when you post an article on Facebook the people who comment only read the title!
- Again, if you feel compelled to make public comments about an article or story, Twitter is the best place to do it. Twitter is the master of the hashtag and you can get a lot of attention through likes, retweets, and replies.
Writer, designer, blogger, movie lover, old-school gamer, father, and husband-er.