A few weeks ago, I did something unthinkable: I took the Facebook and Twitter apps off of my phone. I’m not off of the networks themselves, but my fiancé and I both decided that it was better not to have constant access to these social networks. Social networks aren’t inherently bad, and in fact I see a ton of good in them, but their habit-forming tendencies are more bad than good at this point in my life.
Facebook has been a fantastic way to keep in touch with my far-flung friends and family, many of whom I would have completely lost touch with otherwise. I am happy to get glimpses into the lives and news from those friends; it’s a genuine positive in my life. I’m also able to connect with people and topics that make me happy – I’m in an Italian language learning group, and a group that specializes in my dream of renovating an old property in the Italian countryside. Those are also positive contributions to my life.
But over the years, I’ve accumulated a lot of what I think of as “negative data” on Facebook. Do I really need to Like Will Arnett, the movie Arrival, and the US-Ireland Alliance? What good are these adding to my life? Did I need to tell Facebook that I laugh at The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, or can I just laugh at it privately?
As for Twitter, there’s a lot of good there as well. There used to be more, but it hasn’t all gone away. Ten years ago, Twitter was a place where you could make friends, form communities, and more. I met a lot of “Tweeps” in real life in NY and as I traveled; I’ve happily formed genuine friendships with people I’ve yet to meet. But today, everyone is a pundit, everyone is an activist, and Twitter is a stressor.
I know all too well that this is a highly hypocritical post. I both own and consult for brands that rely on Facebook, Instagram, Google and/or Twitter for their distribution and marketing efforts. I don’t have a good answer for it, and I am still using those networks for marketing products and services. They work. I understand why. Someone will scream “PRIVILEGE” as well, for saying that there are times I want to avoid political bad news in my life.
But for me, I’m happy to use social networks more intentionally. I do check Facebook and Twitter, but I don’t allow them to alert me of anything via apps, and I’m working hard not to allow them to draw me in during spare or quiet moments. I’m not always succeeding, but when I’m on, hopefully it’s not default behavior. Maybe that’s enough?