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Unplugging in 2013? Less Drastic Resolutions and Solutions for Social Media Overload

Must be the season because I’ve heard “I’m unplugging” and “I’m going off the grid” and “I’m so done with Facebook and Twitter” from a lot of people who, quite frankly, should know better than to ditch social media completely.  

I’m referring to active, much appreciated members of online communities. People whose broadcasted content is so much more than a never-ending stream of self-promotion. Go-to people whose presence and availability on social media make a difference for individuals as well as organizations. These drastic resolutions are coming from people who are clearly exhausted, but probably not totally because of social media.

Making a fresh start with the new year is a nice concept, but in reality people seem more fried than invigorated by the second week of January. I blame the holidays with their fiercely frenetic social interactions in so-called real life. Let’s be honest, shall we? A large percentage of these interactions are with people we keep at a more clearly boundaried distance throughout the rest of the year ─ thanks to social media.

Demonizing and ditching social media is not the solution. Before pulling the plug or going off the grid, I suggest deploying the very tools social media platforms provide to ease the burden and reduce burnout. Yes, you already know about these and probably pay close attention if you manage social media for your organization. Turning to your personal accounts, it’s probably time to:

  • Reconfigure privacy settings: How locked down are your personal accounts? Are you up-to-date with the latest news about how to heighten privacy on the key social media platforms?  Review and reconfigure privacy settings to reflect changes in relationships and your current privacy needs.
  • Sort people into lists and groups: Do categories you originally set up or created during 2012 make any sense moving forward into 2013?  Have networks changed? Who has access to names on your lists, groups, circles, and boards? Review and reconfigure lists, groups, and circles you created on the key platforms.  
  • Reestablish boundaries: Been reluctant to “unfriend,” “unfollow,” or flat-out block people because you might be viewed negatively? You’ll need to get beyond that to reestablish control and reduce noise on your accounts.  Keeping in mind that there’s no such thing as full privacy on the Internet, do whatever you need to do to reestablish strong boundaries.
  • Revisit your content and conversation retrieval schedule: Apps set up so personal and business-related social media posts are delivered in an undifferentiated jumble? What might have seemed efficient at first could be making you nuts now. Review and revise how you retrieve social media content and conversation. While you’re at it, reconfigure how often and when you get all this information streamed into your skull.

To these tech suggestions now add what you know about how relationships work on and offline. Simply put: there’s no difference. 

As a practical matter this means showing courtesy and respect, even if you’re feeling too tired to give a hoot and just want to go MIA. Use social media to let people know you’re in the process of reviewing, reevaluating, and reconfiguring your social media networks. Do that first and then the actual work of reassessment before going completely off the grid.


Join The Conversation

  • MeredithGould's picture
    Jan 9 Posted 4 years ago MeredithGould

    I'm with you on this, Katie. For some people, social media use can become obsessive and toxic. It can become that without some people being able to define/label it as so, something that's true for any addictive behavior. And I know what I'm talking about here. My book Staying Sober: Tips for Working a Twelve Step Program of Recovery (Hazelden) actually earns royalties! I digress.

    In these instances, cutting all ties "cold turkey" may indeed be the best strategy if and when other more moderate approaches fail. FWIW, please know that I went on a "news fast" from 1989-1992 -- no newspapers, broadcast TV or radio news -- the happiest, most peaceful years of my life!



  • Jan 9 Posted 4 years ago Katie Mulligan

    I've been mulling this post all morning. I recently cut back a great deal on my sociall media presence by cutting the internet from my house and reverting back to a flip phone. I still tweet and facebook a fair amount, but creating boundaries around this was essential. The last straw was a series of late night emails and messages from various folks who didn't see any harm in late night confidences and distress calls--they all figured that if I was online it was fine to send a 3am message about whatever. 

    I found it very difficult to simply not check the messages at all crazy hours--the temptation to just see if there was an email or whatever was pretty strong. And I do actually like hearing from personal connections at all crazy hours. But with the way my work and my personal overlap  (I too have chosen to maintain one integral identity on and off line) there was not an easy way to allow access to close friends and block out retrieving messages for work. And frankly, a lot of work folks believe they aren't work and are entitle to a space on the personal side of things. It's complicated, as you say.

    I think what I've been mulling is that for some folks social media is a bit like alcohol or another addiction that can be difficult or impossible too manage or put boundaries around. If I have internet at 3am, no way am I not going to check it when I wake up for whatever reason. So for me, if I want to place a boundary around social media, I need to be in a place where it isn't accessible.

    The folks that declare themselves exhausted and bail out of all social media may be taking good care of themselves by stepping out of an environment that is toxic for them. In the same way that alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation by many people with appropriate boundaries, so can social media. But I do believe that for some people social media is unhealthy and that cold turkey, all the way quitting may be their only way to keep sane. 

    As I read your post I was thinking how frustrated I get when people hear that I've cut my internet at home and offer to pay for it or make suggestions about how I could boost the open signal nearby or how to get internet for low-income families, etc. I think it's probably very true that they do not realize how toxic it became for me to have 24/7 internet connection. I imagine for folks who are leaving social media it is frustrating to be told they are lettting the community down. But then, they won't know we said it if they really checked out :P

  • Jan 7 Posted 4 years ago Dan Hinmon

    For sure! 

  • MeredithGould's picture
    Jan 7 Posted 4 years ago MeredithGould

    And you have lots of company in the fried department. It's especially endemic among those of us who use social media for our work and with our clients. As you know, I've long been a proponent of integrated identity but it does come with a downside. Please put me in a list of cool people!

  • Jan 7 Posted 4 years ago Dan Hinmon

    Great blogpost, Meredith. Place me in the "more fried than invigorated" category for 2013. Thanks for the suggestions. I'm going to do more with lists and groups this year. 

  • Kent Ong's picture
    Jan 7 Posted 4 years ago Kent Ong

    I have to say that, internet makes people less focus. Especially social networking site. I am lucky to realize it. My friend - Benjamin has more than 20 tabs open at the same time when he works on his assignment or project. I am not sure how he can focus and does his work effectively.

    Anyway, nice to talk to you Meredith.

  • MeredithGould's picture
    Jan 7 Posted 4 years ago MeredithGould

    Smart move and good for you! I've never understood the stampede to accumulate "friends" and "followers" and periodically clean/clear my accounts. I tend to use Twitter as a newsfeed, so my cleaning/clearing process includes reevaluating organizations and publications.

  • Kent Ong's picture
    Jan 6 Posted 4 years ago Kent Ong

    Hi Meredith, I had more 4000 friends on Facebook before, but eventually I realized that it is definitely waste my time because I really don't read their posts at all. Rather than focus on quantity, I have unfriended more than 1000 friends (still doing now) to stay focus on quality relationship.

    Social media world is getting crowsded, Make me feels headache.

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