How NOT to Be an Idiot on Social Media

Jason Weiland

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At the very beginning of my online publishing career, I recognized how toxic social media was and closed all my accounts. Facebook went first, then Twitter. Pinterest took a dive, and I deleted my Snapchat account. LinkedIn sunk in the swamp.

The only ones that stuck around were Instagram, because it had not become toxic yet, YouTube for tutorials, and Facebook Messenger to keep track of my family. I tried it for two weeks without Messenger but found I talked to my family far away even less than I did before.

I had to stay connected to my family, and because we lived on different sides of the globe, we had to use social media.

But, even though I knew that Facebook and the others were only selling my attention as a product, and not only capturing as much as they could through nefarious means but actively feeding my outrage at the world with fake news and clickbait because it was more profitable — I eventually started using them all again.

As my career progressed, I started to see that social media could help promote my work to a broader audience. I loved the idea of Facebook groups and business pages for getting together like-minded people, and Twitter for its huge #writingcommunity.

I became more reliant on these platforms as time went by, but with the good, there came a whole lot of bad. As my awareness of world events grew, Facebook caught on and started feeding sensationalism to my news feed. Facebook fed into my outrage and paranoia, and I began spreading it around to whoever might listen in my friend’s list.

The causes and politics I raged about were valid, like racism, police brutality, BLM, Trump, Republicans, climate change, government spending, COVID-19, and anti-maskers. Still, I was so consumed with anger and indignation that my mental health was suffering.

All everyone saw was a guy sharing inflammatory political memes and speaking out about injustice. But, inside I was a boiling cauldron of tribalism and vitriol, and Facebook went right on pushing me to the edge, as long as I was scrolling and liking and sharing and engaging with their ads.

Something had to give.

A Different Path

A little before this time, I wrote and published a piece pitching the idea to my writer friends that none of us needed to promote our work on social media to be financially successful. I pushed the idea that it is much better to spend time improving our writing instead of being on a constant scroll and like on social media.

So for two months, I stopped promoting my online work on my Facebook feed, pages, and groups. I also shunned Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Quora. As far as my “brand” was concerned, I was stuck on mute. Instead, I shared more political posts and family updates. I shared images on Instagram about mental health, body positivity, and tattoos.

For two months, I kept an eye on my traffic numbers, and remarkably, had the two highest-earning months I’ve ever had.

Coincidence? Maybe not, because when I went back to promoting my work on my pages, groups, and feeds, my stats dropped back in the toilet. But, for research, I kept promoting for another two months, and my earnings went further and further down a death-spiral.

I was starting to see that social media may be an evil that is not necessary.

More Ammunition

I was having all these negative feelings and thoughts about social media when I happened across a documentary on Netflix called The Social Dilemma. It scared me so much I watched it twice over two days. I started reading Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier and read every resource I could find on the subject.

I tend to overthink everything, and that is what I did until I finally settled on a course of action.

I could no longer allow myself to continue on the cycle of outrage that was my life, and the only thing that I could do to heal my mental health was to take a break from social media. But, before I deleted my social media accounts again, I thought about it.

The only lifeline I had for my parents and my sons in the United States states is Facebook. I run groups for writers and companion accounts on Twitter. I have a personal writer page where I share photos of life as a writer and use Instagram to do the same.

A complete blackout wouldn’t be fair to my family and the writers who I have connected with, but I can no longer allow Facebook to turn me into a hateful and tribal tool of THE MAN. My mental health cannot stand the constant outrage, and my pride won’t let me be used by the social media platforms to fill their pockets any longer.

What should I do?

A Better Question Would Be: What Should We All Do?

Is there a way to still take part in social media without losing not only our souls to capitalists but our minds to outrage and hate?

For me, I’d still like to be able to share bits of my life with the writer friends I’ve made, followers of my work, and family far away, but I don’t find it necessary to remain a victim of the algorithms that decide who sees the work I promote. I no longer need to feed the fire of outrage in society with angry Facebook shares of memes that could be fake news.

What if you feel the same way?

Here is what we can do:

  1. Turn off notifications — These platforms are using every dirty trick to get your attention on their app; don’t make it easy for them. Go to Settings on your phone, turn off all notifications. Do the same on your laptop. Focus your attention on whatever you’re doing at the moment, whether it be writing, spending time with your family, or eating dinner.
  2. Schedule time for social media — Close the apps on your phone and the tabs in your browser. You pick a time when you want to work or play on social media. Don’t let the platforms tell you when they want your attention. Get your focus back, and stop being a victim of the Zuckerbergs of the world.
  3. Limit usage — Cut back on your use. Some phones allow you to see how much time you spend on social, but if you don’t have one, download an app to do it. I bet we all could make a list of about 100 other things we would rather do than scroll and like.
  4. No technology in the bedroom — When you start settling down for the night and think about going to sleep, leave the phones out of your bedroom. There is nothing worse for your sleep than staring at blue light right before you close your eyes.
  5. Don’t use social media to procrastinate — As a writer, I often use social media as a way to keep myself from doing the hard work of actually sitting down to write. Just get to it! Keeps those apps and tabs closed.
  6. Expand your influences — Get your news and information from sources other than the places you post your selfies and memes.
  7. Check sources before you share — Don’t hasten the spread of fake news and sensationalism. Before you share your outrage, check a few sources to make sure you are spreading the truth. Then, report the ad or post to the platform if it is fake or misleading. You are both reporting false information and telling the algorithm that you don’t want to see more posts like it.
  8. Give your social media an enema — Most platforms will allow you to specify that you want to delete the data they have gathered and opt-out of letting them track you in the future. Please do it! The platforms are getting rich from your activity on social media.
  9. If all else fails, delete all your social media apps — If you can’t have anything but a toxic relationship with Facebook, delete it forever! If I get to the point that I no longer see a purpose using social media, I won’t hesitate to dump it all!

If you are like me, and instead of using Facebook as a tool, you let it turn you into one; stop it!

Follow the eight steps above, or if all else fails, do the ninth and delete the apps and your social media accounts. These platforms are evil, and you are selling your attention as a product to the highest bidder.

Don’t be a tool for the internet marketer. Take control of social media!\

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Writer and advocate interested in mental health, health, family, culture, creativity, and success.

Los Angeles, CA
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