How many times did you click on your Facebook notification bell today? 5 times, 10 times, or even 20 times? You certainly don’t remember.
Most of us have become so addicted to social media that we ignore our real usage rate. To counter this increasingly untenable fixation, we need a minimalist approach to social media.
I am technically a millennial, but I do remember the “good old days”. I grew up in the 90s when kids beat each other up to claim “territory” on the local soccer field.
If you wanted to meet a friend, you called their parents’ landline. If you liked someone, you had to physically meet that person.
This all changed in my teens. MySpace (who remembers that?), MSN Messenger, and later Facebook took the world by storm. The social media revolution had commenced but it was still far from its peak. We are talking mid-2000s here.
It took another 10 years before WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat became ubiquitous modes of communication. There was indeed a time when social media existed but didn’t overrule real-life human contact.
This brief history lesson serves as a reminder of the fact that life without or with very little social media presence is far from impossible.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to negate the benefits of Facebook, Instagram, and co. Social media can be a highly useful tool to connect, advance your business, or grow as a person.
It’s all about finding a balance between utilizing the perks of social media without falling into the trap of becoming addicted. This is where my minimalist approach to social media comes in.
A minimalist approach to social media
Social media and minimalism are not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to swear off Facebook to live a minimalist lifestyle. What counts is moderation. On this basis, here are 6 ways to adopt a minimalist approach to social media.
Identify your reasons for using social media
If you create accounts just for the sake of being on a certain platform, your social media behavior will consist of aimless scrolling sessions with no end in sight.
Embark on a mental journey to find out what it is you are looking for on social media. Connecting wild old friends? Promoting your business? Sharing funny memes?
Once your goals are clear, you will know what kind of platform you should be using.
Don’t use too many platforms
If you want to regulate your social media behavior, start by limiting the number of platforms you’re on. Don’t get caught in the buzz every time a new service hits the internet. Carefully choose the platforms that fit your goals and priorities.
For example, if your sole objective is to share pictures, Instagram is probably the best option. If you’re keen on organizing events, Facebook might be a more advisable choice.
If you decide on one specific activity, stick with one platform. The problem with using multiple platforms at the same time is that you’ll quickly forget your desired action.
You wanted to post a picture on Instagram but now you are reading every tweet from politician X.
You were determined to organize a business meeting on Skype but now you are watching your friends skateboarding across the living room on Snapchat.
Using too many platforms at the same time will distract you and hinder your productivity. This is why my minimalist approach to social media includes a service limitation.
In concrete terms, I only use the following platforms:
- Instagram for my activity as a photographer and my blog.
- Twitter for my blog and to follow some authors.
- Pinterest for my blog.
- Facebook Messenger to talk to friends.
- WhatsApp to talk to everybody else.
I’ve eschewed every other platform and I don’t regret it. You might find other apps more appealing depending on your reasons for using social media in the first place.
The major challenge is to select the ones you gain value from and refrain from using the others.
Choose your friends wisely
Do you really need 1,200 Facebook friends? How many of them do you genuinely know?
When I first welcomed minimalism into my life, an essential step toward mindfulness was to declutter my social media accounts.
In short, I needed to filter out my virtual connections.
Whether it’s Facebook, Linkedin, or Messenger, there’s no point in connecting with hundreds of people you don’t know. The same goes for people you’ve met once in a bar in 2012.
Choose your connections according to the rules and goals you set for your social media behavior.
Why are you using social media? Does this connection make sense in the broad context of your social media usage?
As an example, you’ve decided to use Instagram as a means to promote your photography.
Following politicians and authors won’t align with those priorities.
Carefully curate follows and likes
On par with virtual friends, follows and likes should be chosen deliberately. Don’t like every single page that pops up on your feed.
Curate your likes and follows according to categories you are passionate about.
For example, like one or two sports teams, a couple of clothing brands, and maybe even a politician.
Be sure to keep track of your social media interests and don’t like a page just to forget about it later. This will engender a mountain of clutter on your feeds.
Always keep in mind that most brands and companies use social media as a means to promote their products.
The difference between a true ad and an ad disguised as a real-life situation is hard to spot nowadays.
If you are comfortable with being subject to marketing 24/7, no worries.
If not, the easiest way to stay clear of any sort of camouflaged marketing is to simply abstain from liking too many pages.
Set a daily time limit
My minimalist social media consumption is based on mindfulness. I know how much time I want to spend on social media and I respect that limit.
If you don’t have the discipline or willingness to respect your self-defined limit, start high with a limit of 3 hours, and work your way down toward a tougher curb.
Embark on a social media detox from time to time
Even the most intricate minimalist approach to social media requires a holistic detox every now and then.
What does this entail? Simple, full-on abstinence from social media. I know, this is very hard in the 21st century.
I usually go on a 3-day social media detox jaunt once a year. So far, it has always surpassed my expectations.
The detox boosts your concentration levels in the long run and also gives you the opportunity to dwell in the past — getting a taste of what life was like without never-ending connectivity.
How does this work in practice? Patagonia, Mongolia, or even parts of the European Alps have very poor connectivity.
If you want to be on the safe side, visit a region with little to no internet.
If you don’t have the time or resources to go abroad, simply disconnect your internet at home for a couple of days.
Get some books and you’re good to go. This might be harder, but it will also enable you to catch up on some urgent household chores in the process.