The internet is awesome. However, along with a myriad of problems it introduces, we waste a shocking amount of time following, liking, filtering and subscribing. I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with this fact and how these companies turn what seems like such a simple act into a commodity that they use to make a lot of money.
So what then? Delete all my accounts? I’m not quite there yet. Deleting my facebook account feels like going to the post office and telling them to remove my address. A more practical first step is to attempt to tame these beasts and their hold on my life.
Following, subscribing, friending, oh my!
As of December 31st, 2012, I follow 206 people on twitter, am friends with 496 people and like 144 pages on facebook, follow 86 people on instagram and subscribe to 140 rss feeds where I filtered through roughly 10,000 posts this last year.
That’s way too much.
That is 1072 distinct voices vying for my attention. Every. Single. Day. The first step, of this whole process of trying to get control back is a tedious, but rather simple one. Try to cut that number by at least a third Ideally in half. Yes, I intend to be ruthless. Sorry, “friends”.
The problem of my phone
The smartphone is really good at many things, one of them being encouraging bad habits. It makes it far too easy for me to check in with those 1072 voices at any moment. How often do I check facebook/instagram when I have a spare minute? Why do I do that? The problem isn’t just the numbers, it’s how often I choose to engage them as well.
Step two will be to remove all social media apps from my home screen and hide them in a folder. The worst offenders, Facebook and Instagram, I’m deleting from my phone outright. Facebook’s app, though beautiful, has become the biggest source of noise in my day to day. Suggested likes every other post? Really?! No thanks.
Being a good internet citizen
I can’t just leave this exercise at reducing the amount of noise coming at me. I need to be intentional about reducing the amount of noise I create as well. Step three is another simple one. Shut up. When there is a good reason to post, I need to make sure I’m casting a smaller net. I’m going to be using Facebook’s lists much more often to make sure my posts go to the people they should. I can see no value in a person I haven’t talked to since high school “liking” a photo of my son.
Another problem with noise on facebook is all those wretched apps and games that deem it appropriate to post on my behalf (eg: Matt is listening to Avril Lavigne on Rdio! Matt posted a pin on pinterest!). Do yourself and everyone who is friends with you a favor and clean up which apps have access to your facebook account
There is a bigger picture
When we use the internet without intentionality, the sad reality is that we become unknowning cogs in the money making machines of internet giants like Facebook. These companies would prefer that we continue to proceed mindlessly - for when we do so, they are able to turn each like or each tweet into something they can sell. So it’s important for us to be careful of not only what and how much we consume but what and how much information, that is often truly personaly, we let be used for purposes other than our own.