It’s been clear to me for several months that I haven’t been putting in the work reading and writing longer pieces which give me a deeper satisfaction than the momentary pleasure of an @ reply. In thinking about how I might make more space for that kind of reading and writing, I realized I was spending more time than I was comfortable with scrolling through tweets and reading Facebook status updates. Not bad practices, but best consumed in moderation.
The problem is I’m bad at moderation. I’m an “eat the marshmallow” kind of person. (See Joachim de Posada’s TED talk below) But I’m also a person powerfully influenced by inertia. If the marshmallow’s in the other room, I’m not likely to get up to go get it.
These aren’t traits I particularly love about myself, but I have found I can use them to my advantage, primarily by acting in bursts of self-control that then make action or abstention (whichever I’m aiming for) more attractive and easier options down the road.
So, I decided to limit the number of people I followed on Twitter and to reduce my friends on Facebook. I recognize that’s a controversial action, especially given its potential for hurting others’ feelings, but it seemed a good way to achieve the goal I was aiming for while reducing the amount of self control I would have to consistently exert.
I even thought about deactivating my Facebook account altogether, but when I did this popped up.
I find the ways Facebook taps into human emotions to encourage users to stay members and to friend as many people as they can fascinating and maddening. Facebook benefits from having people participate in the site, and they’ve tapped into human emotions- guilt, loneliness, desire to be part of a group- to try to retain members.
Un-friending people on Facebook was hard, since I’d already culled through my friend list earlier in the year going from 800 to around 350. I consistently found myself asking, but what if I need this person in the future? I realized this was probably a bad standard because a) I was trying to address interactions in the present and b) It reduced my friends to what they could do for me.
I started to ask instead, Do my interactions with this person make me think? Do those interactions regularly bring me joy, rather than just distraction or amusement? Those questions helped me cut the list to under 200.
I emailed a friend about my social media pruning. Her response has me wondering if guilt around connecting or not in social media was more prevalent in women. Ideally, I’d be the kind of person who could resist distraction on her own accord, but I’m not and so I’m trying not to feel guilty about creating the external structures to get the work done that I want/need to.
Do you feel guilty about the ways in which you limit your social circle online?
Do you think guilt over limiting one’s circle/interactions on social media is more prevalent in women or felt more strongly by them? (I recognize the potential for gross over-generalizations in this question, but I still think it’s worth asking.)
What strategies help you interact online without doing so at the detriment of other areas of your work and life?