We’re all guilty of the dreaded scroll of doom. Aimlessly looking at a never ending feed, on whatever our social media of choice happens to be that day. Damn vortex, drawing us in and stealing our creativity along the way. By mid 2019, Facebook had become an exceptionally negative place for me. Capable of sucking the life out of the word happiness, leaving me feeling miserable and out of touch with the people I actually wanted to interact with. Towards the end of the year, Instagram was having the exact same effect.
Awareness is everything
When absolutely anything – online or IRL – makes me feel crap, I will dig as deep as I need to get to the bottom and find a solution. Might take me months or even years, but I always get there eventually. Now, I totally understand some folks might be reading this, thinking I’m OTT and overthinking it all. Yes indeed I am, but the way I see it is this. Researching now and using myself as a guinea pig will hopefully mean my kids are less likely to jump headfirst into social media when their time comes.
We can’t wrap them up in cotton wool and nor should we want to. But we can certainly try our best to equip them with decent enough tools for navigating their way around the insanity of the online world.
How to curate an enjoyable newsfeed on Facebook
Endlessly and mindlessly perusing the scroll of doom will make the most chirpy among us miserable, but how can we not when 90% of our feed is pointless crap we don’t want to see? Following what I did below will help this cause, exponentially. Admittedly, it does take a long time (hours and hours) over the course of a few weeks, but it’s been worth every minute. Time well spent now means unlimited hours saved on the scroll of doom in the future.
Tell the algorithm who you want to see. Spend some time interacting with your people so the algorithm knows they are your people. Otherwise you’ll still be served up all the nonsense you have no interest in.
Also, confuse the algorithm. Ever the rebel, I like to mix things up as much as I can. Whenever I see an ad, I hit the hide option, citing that it’s not relevant (even when it is). Truth be told, sometimes those ads are scarily accurate and I’m simply not comfortable with Facebook knowing me as well as it does. For more on this, please check out the documentary The Great Hack.
Don’t be afraid to defriend people. Last year I read hundreds of articles and several books on the roots of anxiety and depression. It’s becoming widely known that we’re living in an era of mass discontent and disconnection, but it doesn’t make sense. Never before have we been so connected to our “friends”. Be honest with yourself, though. Are those hundreds (thousands?) of people on your feed really your friends? First and foremost, do you have a genuine connection to all those people and does the connection you once had bring a smile to your face? When/if you’ve gone through crisis, did they give a shit? Would they pop round for a cuppa if you invited them? Actually, would you even invite them in the first place? Personally, I don’t see the point in unfollowing people on Facebook as it’s best to be honest. Should they message you asking why, again honesty is the best policy. Nothing personal, you’re simply tightening up your inner circle.
Come out of all groups that you don’t actively participate in. For me, this meant leaving 99% of all the groups I’d joined, which felt great. Facebook groups are renowned for being hotbeds for whingeing and bitching. If I’m in the market for a moan, then I’ll be calling or seeing a proper friend. Someone I can genuinely confide in without being concerned that my words are screen shotted and plastered all over the Internet. Now it’s worth saying that I have seen proper community taking place via Facebook groups. Also, I’ve had a couple of situations where strangers have helped me out of a bind – last year before heading to Thailand is a great example. Sadly, it seems to be the exception not the norm.
Unlike all the pages you’re no longer interested in. Again in my case, this meant unliking almost all of them. I’ve liked thousands of pages over the years and never once gone through and unliked any. Although this part has been the most time consuming, it’s been essential. Here’s why: when we like a business page, we are voluntarily asking to be marketed to. If being bombarded with sales pitches (however indirect and seemingly innocuous) has become a problem, then unliking pages en masse will make all the difference.
Hit the snooze button. Selecting the “snooze for 30 days” option is a great way to unsee people and pages temporarily if you’re not ready to go the whole hog. It’ll give you the chance to work out what you want to do with your feed in the future. When I first joined Facebook, in 2007, it was a place where I could happily share snippets of my life with the people I care about most. Reclaiming this sentiment has been really powerful.
Instagram is a bit of a different beast
Deactivating Facebook last summer felt huge at the time, but was the social media equivalent of taking a giant step backwards. Allowing me to reflect on what I was using Facebook for and what I wanted from it in the future. Due to using social media to grow my blog audience, both FB and IG had become dismal places for me to simply hangout and chat to my friends. Which, at its core, is what social media was originally intended for. Too bad it was hijacked in the name of £££! Facebook now allows you to remove the newsfeed, which stops the scroll of doom, but means you never see what your friends are up to. Insta does not.
Let’s be honest: we’re all sick to the back teeth of people trying to sell us stuff and largely that’s what Instagram has become. An ad factory. Even sobriety, it would appear, is merely yet-another-commodity to be tapped into so people can flog you their wares. But that’s a whole other blog post.
In the run up to the UK election and directly afterwards, I was feeling very fragile, so deactivated my Insta account and had a month off. As decisions go, it was definitely one of my better ones. Now that I’m back, I shall be keeping it completely real. Sharing what I love, not giving even one shit about how many likes and follows I get. And talking of follows, it’s time to be ruthless. All those baby related businesses and bloggers I never interact with are going. If an account isn’t bringing something to my table then I’m unfollowing them – and I would urge anyone who feels like that about my account to do the same. No hard feelings, I promise.
On Twitter and other socials
Twitter has never affected me the way FB and IG have. Guess none of us are under any illusions that it’s where our friends are. It’s more transactional, honest and easy (for me at least) to ditch when it’s not sparking joy. I have seen some horrendous trolling and mindboggling thoughtlessness on there. At the mere hint of any of that, I simply press the log out button. Ironically, it does bring my blog a decent amount of traffic, as I have an evergreen plugin, which randomly selects an old blog post to automatically tweet each hour. So, I won’t be getting rid of Twitter any time soon, plus it is a great place to source not-mainstream-news from.
YouTube and Pinterest have never been a problem for me. As for Snapchat, TikTok and whatever the kids are obsessed with right now? Well I’ll leave them for the kids…