I read an article several weeks ago about how we overuse social media, because of fear. The fear had to do with feeling like we're missing out. If we're not connected, and paying attention we might miss something, or be left out of an important social loop. Now, in all logic most of us know that 90% of social media is not really ever very important. This is not to say that some wonderful things haven't been done on social media. I don't mean to negate important social movements, charity events, and other such things that do very seriously impact our daily lives. We have to admit that funny animals videos, memes, and pictures of our meals are not exactly earth changing in, and of itself. However, many of us really fear that if we don't check in we just might not be in the loop, or involved in the latest trends. We might find ourselves left out of events, or without knowledge that everyone else will know, but us.
I thought that this didn't apply to me. I really don't care about most social practices. However, I couldn't overcome, or shake this feeling of irritation, and agitation that I would get when engaged in browsing Facebook, and Twitter. It seemed like it was not adding to, but taking away from my life. I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to change some of my online habits, because they clearly were not working for me.
But, what to change seemed to be the impossible question. I had to find the source of my upset. Was it the amount of time I spent online, or was it the content? Was it both?
I made a conscious choice to pay attention to what was happening when these feelings began. I began noticing that they were typically aimed at comments, and content that I found to be unethical, immoral, nasty, or just plain mean. In other words, I found it upsetting to be in constant conflict with so many commentors, and content that didn't coincide with my values. Politically charged posts were at the top of the list, close following were pages penned by parents of autistic children talking about autism in negative ways.
I decided that I needed to spend less time on social media, and in order to do that I need to be able to access the most important to me info quicker. I needed to condense my feeds. I needed to start keeping the good, and letting go of what didn't have a positive effect in my life.
What I was surprised at was how hard of an endeavor this was. I knew I had to let go of quite a bit, but my usually action oriented brain was frozen. It was like having to balance my budget. All my expenses seem important. How can I choose what to let go of? Time is a lot like money. We have to be aware of how we spend it, and much like money we don't have to spend all of we have to have a quality life. Busier does not always equal better.
After thinking about my goals, and values I started being more attentive to the types of things I spent my time on. I began not checking social media as much. When I did I paid attention to how I felt. I let go of the more obvious offenders right away. Autism pages that hold totally different values than I do were the first to be unliked. This is where I started getting worried that I would miss out on things. I felt like by unliking pages (especially popular ones) that I might be removing myself from the autism community. It felt like I was being disloyal to the autism community, as well, I worried that I would be viewed as intolerant. When is the line going to far in disassociating one's self away from people that are not like us to being the kind of person that is intolerant of anyone who does not hold the views? I still don't know the answer to this, but I do know that I had to do what was right for me.
The next pages to go were local news networks. This one was a huge offender for me. For reasons unknown to me, news articles tend to draw out trolls, or at the least seriously miserable people. I am not entirely sure the two groups can be really teased apart. It seems that in the modern era of so many choices, and competing for views news networks often put up articles, and pose questions that are inflammatory in nature. This really tends to bring out the worst in people. It was like I was losing my faith in humanity every time I read awful comments that were full of hate, and intolerance. I really needed to rid myself of this negativity, but I feared that I was going to miss out on important info. This isn't really an unreasonable fear. If I unliked all of my local news pages, and I never watch the news I realistically may miss out on information that is pertinent to me. I decided to give it a go anyway. It's been probably 3 months, maybe more, and I have not once felt like I was missing anything.
What I gained from streamlining my feed was that now with all the junk gone I actually see my friend's updates. I was rarely seeing them before. My most favorite pages were now visible to me, and most of all I feel happy when I see my feed. I feel like it fits me, and not against me. I realized I used to have this mistaken belief that I owed the world my attention. I felt guilty deciding to focus my attention only on certain things, instead of others. Now I realize it's okay to choose what I spend my time listening to, and looking at. Deciding to stop giving my attention to things that don't match my values is not intolerant. It is wise.