Owning Your Own Social Media

Maybe it was just January’s resolution season, but it seems like I heard a lot of “I’m quitting Facebook” or “I’m done with Twitter” in the past month.   When I asked why, people had some good reasons, FaceBook’s privacy and data collection issues among them.  But other I found less credible: “I am just so tired of seeing all of the political stuff” or “The people I want to hear from least are the ones I see most.”  And my favorite “I like it seeing posts from my friends, but whenever I look at my feed, it’s all just so nasty and negative.”

When I’ve asked them why they don’t control their feeds to better tailor what they see or avoid trouble makers, nearly all have looked at me like I was nuts.  Yes, it’s possible to control what you see on Twitter or Facebook. More importantly, why aren’t you already making good use of filters, friends lists, mute buttons and blocking features?

I work by myself, so often think of FaceBook as a virtual water cooler — a place to ask questions (like “what do you use your convection oven for?), read about the latest restaurant opening, or see photos of my friend’s kids. I like Twitter to follow breaking news or see what my favorite sports figures or journalists have to say.  But not everyone knows there are additional ways to tailor who sees your content (and what content you see) to make social media more valuable and enjoyable. In the interest of hoping you don’t quit FaceBook and stop posting cute kitten videos (because I love them) here are some easy ways to think about making social media work for you  instead of killing your will to live.

1) Have a strategy.  If you’re not just simply into the numbers of followers or connections, you might want to consider thinking of how you use each social media stream.  What do you post to Facebook versus LinkedIn? What do you want to read on each? For example, FB for me is personal.  I generally accept friend requests (or make friend requests) to people I know whether from my home town, the food and wine world, or my travels.  LinkedIn is generally professional. My network is generally work related and I post or share relevant content.  Twitter is a free for all.

Think of controlling who sees what you post (outbound content) and what you see when you read (inbound content.)

Outbound content:

2) Set up filters for who sees your posts.  Ever get frustrated on FB when you post something you think your friends will find clever only to get piled on by people you knew 20 years ago who live half a continent away?  Ever find that those few people with “but what about”‘s and “well, actually”‘s can kill your joy about a cooking short cut or quip about global warming?   On FB and Twitter, you can set up filters for who sees your posts.  Look for the “Friends Lists” feature  on FB to learn how to tailor an audience to specific content so you don’t have to deal with misunderstandings (and even family drama.) On Twitter, look under “lists”.  Only people on that list will see posts with that privacy setting.  You can post cat vids all day without having to hear your nutty uncle from home say “don’t you work? All you do is post pictures of that damn cat!”

3) List management.  Once you have lists set up, manage them.  When you do find that annoying fly in the comment ointment (there always is one), you remove them from your lists of who sees your posts.  They won’t even know you even made a post (unless a lot of mutual friends comment or you tag them.) On Twitter, list management is the same idea but a different interface. It lets you filter posts to address content to specific audiences.

Inbound content:

4) Use mute liberally. Seriously, if people in your feeds are killing your joy when you read your Facebook feed, you need to get more aggressive about using mute and block. On Facebook, you have options to follow a persons “feed” — which is, see what they post, or not (you won’t see all of their posts) or unfollow, which means you’ll see nothing from them. You can also mute them (generally for 30 days, which is a good time-out sometimes), or unfriend them altogether (they’ll never know.)  For Twitter, it’s a simple block.  Have a post that’s gone viral bringing the crazies out of the woodwork?  Don’t be afraid to stop the crazy train by blocking liberally.  Seriously, you need to become OK with using these tools — don’t worry about hurt feelings or upset friends.  Inbound content is yours — you control it and you control what you see.

5) Twitter filter tools:  On Twitter, you can also block content by keyword or hashtag.  These filters can be found in your account settings (on the desktop) or behind the gear symbol on the app.  A particular hashtag making you crazy or caught up in a response thread you want to exit? With block and filter, it’s a simple process.  Desktop clients and apps like Hootsuite also offer additional options for accounts
, hashtags, and keywords that you want to follow.

6) Know your trigger warning.  Seriously, if you find yourself falling down the Twitter hole for half the night arguing with strangers and you love it, more power to you!  If you hate it, and hate yourself for it, and just can’t seem to stop, then you need to use filters to eliminate the trolls.  Seriously, blocking people who start arguments blocks your response to them. Filtering trolls is not the same as filtering people who make alternative points and intelligent commentary to inform your thinking.  Reasoned discussions can be wonderful!  But those people who do nothing but stir things up?  Filtering them is going to make you enjoy social media more.

7) Clean your feeds.  In this world of warnings about bots and fake followers, it’s a good time to clean your Twitter feed or Facebook list, especially if you accept every friend request or allow anyone to follow you. There are a variety of apps that will check to see if your Twitter followers are “real” people (looking at account patterns like postings and retweets).  Additionally, it might to be a good time to check your privacy settings.  Do you want to make your Twitter account private? Do you need to limit your exposure on Facebook posts?  A privacy tune-up is always a good idea.

For a last tip, think about what you post.   I love FB and my group of friends, but I have a “no politics” zone on FB these days (for the most part.)  It’s just not the right place to post the latest Trump meme or blow off steam about Congressional politics — for ME.  If I’m really steamed, I go to Twitter where the heat dissipates more quickly and easily.  Figure out what content you love where and make social media a place you enjoy.

Make some changes and see if they help.  If you still want out, then go knowing you tried something new.  Just know that I’ll miss your cat videos.

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