Reluctantly Returning to Social Media

I have to be on social media professionally… but I don’t have to live there.

Assumed Audience: Others thinking about social media and professional presence.

For a year and a half, I have been happily, blissfully off of social media. I feel today what I felt then. However, I’m increasingly working on projects both for my day job and for my general professional development which would benefit from more interaction with the public at large. It is extremely unfortunate, in my view, that there is no easy mechanism for social interactivity via the indie web, and that the critical mass of software developers in particular is on Twitter in particular. But that’s reality.

So I am left considering how I can employ social media in general and Twitter in particular… while minimizing its injurious effects on my soul.

That’s not being overly dramatic. I could feel the effect of even just being exposed to much Twitter content via the handful of feeds I had piped into Feedbin and that friends would send me via text message. It’s particularly bad for anything about politics, but it’s not great in any category. It’s full of anger and hatred and conspiracy theorizing and arguing in bad faith. I don’t even want to see any of that, much less be pulled into it.

And yet I do want — to some extent maybe even need, for some of my goals over the next half decade — the benefits social media platforms afford: being able to spark conversations, share ideas, and get in front of a larger audience. For developers, that mostly means Twitter.

So after much thinking over the last few months, and after discussing it with my friend and professor of social media (!) Stephen Carradini, I’ve devised an approach that I am going to try:

  1. I will treat social media work as part of my job. I will do it 10 – 15 minutes a day, three days a week. (Probably Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.)

  2. I will avoid flow” state on social media at all costs.

  3. I will achieve (1) and (2) with a simple timer: I will spend that much time, even if I don’t want to, because it’s needful for my goals; but I will only spend that much time, even if I get tempted to do more, because it’s needful for my soul.

  4. I will block social media entirely on weekends.

  5. I will not have social media on my phone or my iPad.

  6. I will have a short list of people I follow. The signal-to-noise ratio for those follows will have to be roughly 100%, and the number of takes” on politics etc. — hot or cold — will need to be roughly 0. Twitter is simply not an appropriate forum for those discussions, precisely because of their importance.

  7. I will do all of my Twitter access through a dedicated app like Twitterrific with notifications disabled — avoiding Twitter’s own algorithmic feed and recommendations and streaming and basically increasing the friction as much as possible.

  8. I will never tweetstorm. Anything that deserves more than a sentence-long response will become a blog post and my reply will consist of a link to the blog post. If it takes a while to get to it, all the better.

  9. I will generally try to respond to any good-faith mentions, but I don’t make any promises about how long it’ll take. If you want a real conversation, email me (even though that might also take a while). I will never respond to obviously-bad-faith comments.

  10. Multiple times a year, I will take a one-month hiatus from social media. I currently expect I will either do three months on and one month off or two months on and one month off. This means that I will have either three or four months a year where I am still totally away from these pressures, stresses, and temptations.

So with a sigh, back into it, a little bit, in a way that hopefully won’t crush my soul.