Making a Case for Social Media Cleansing: How I Learned to Maximize the Utility of Each Social Network

Even though we’re well into autumn now, I’ve been doing a bit of “spring cleaning” recently.

But not the picking-up-around-the-house kind (though I should really do that too). Instead, I’ve been doing a bit of digital cleansing, cleaning up online profiles and clearing out old data about myself.

In this process, I’ve also started to do some “social media cleansing” as well (but not the kind you do when applying for a job). Now, I can’t take credit for this concept; I first read the idea on Medium, this great publishing/blogging site, by a guy named Ian Rogers. Anyways, he has this crazy idea that even though the social networks are trying to compete for everyone’s attention, each should be used to maximize their own utility. Let me explain.

Since I’ve spent most of my adult life within the “Social Era” as some call it, on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and (recently) Snapchat, I’ve learned to identify what I like most about each platform.

But the problem is that it feels like each social network wants to be “all things to all people” so to speak. Instead of Facebook being really good at connecting you with friends and coworkers, it also wants to be your Interest Feed (more on that by Rogers here), your event planner, your video curator and your messaging service. In an effort to increase the amount of time each user spends in their mobile apps, social networks are looking for more and more ways to keep users there.

As a result, you get clutter: lots and lots of clutter. Scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. becomes a needle-in-the-haystack search of looking for the photos/posts you actually care about while skimming over the ones you don’t.

But what if we used each social network to maximize its strengths? Clearly, there is no “one app to rule them all.” I’m forced to use multiple apps because Facebook just doesn’t do what Twitter can do for me and Snapchat gives something totally different than Instagram.

So here’s how I went about my social media cleansing:

  1. Decide what I like most about each social app I use and/or what the app is best at doing.
  2. Identify the accounts that will show me posts which complement the app’s biggest strengths and show me content I like.
  3. Follow all of these accounts; unfollow the accounts that don’t meet this criteria (yes, that means even friends and family on some networks).

Pretty simple right? The hardest part was Step 1. Once I figured out how I used each service, narrowing down the rest was easy.

People’s opinions might differ on this, but here’s how I like to use each social network (and therefore, also what I think each network is the best at):

Facebook – connecting me to people I know and speak to in real life. I unliked and unfollowed all “Interests” to stop getting posts about music and movies and brands; now, I see a news feed full of the smiling faces I actually want to see.

Instagram – displaying high-quality photos that are creative and interesting. If you don’t have a good eye for photography and/or just post selfies, I unfollowed you.

Twitter – links to news articles and updates on breaking news (more on why Twitter is great at this here). If you tweet about how much you hate your life, I definitely unfollowed you.

Snapchat – funny pictures/doodles of close friends. My Snapchat list now doesn’t exceed 5, and I’m not ashamed.

LinkedIn – updating resume and getting recommendations so I can look good to future employers. I don’t really check my LinkedIn post feed, so following/unfollowing didn’t play much of a role here.

A few weeks in, and I’m already seeing enormous improvements in quality of content on each social site. If I want to see what my friends are up to, I open Facebook. If I’m looking for the morning news, I pull up Twitter. If I want to be inspired and look at something pretty, I check Instagram. It’s really become that simple.

Social media cleansing feels good when it’s done. But as with any cleaning, I suspect that in a few months, things will start to look dirty again. I might have to go back through and clear out space for my valuable content to shine through again. But for now, things are nice and tidy. For now, each social network is excelling at what it’s best at.



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