I’m about halfway through Jaron Lanier’s book, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, and much of it is like a breath a fresh air, like seeing someone articulate what you’ve been feeling intuitively for years. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of insights or new information; the guy helped pioneer virtual reality and has a long working relationship with Microsoft.
When I first found minimalism, I realized I had kind of been doing it ever since I was a kid. My family home had a lot of junk in it, and I think I intuitively found order by culling possessions and organizing my bedroom meticulously. That later transitioned into lightening my online presence and getting rid of social media. I eventually experimented with getting rid of my smartphone, and found that, for me, it was better to have one and find ways to manage usage (Forest).
I definitely feel like there are gaps or ghosts when writing online or running a podcast. There’s a phantom space where you feel like you should be advertising your stuff, posting links on feeds and utilizing marketing tricks to get views. I’ve had to work against this feeling, but I can understand why some feel the need to have a social media presence.
There’s one important distinction we need to get out of the way: Social media influencers, personalities, etc. are the worst. They are the new age madmen, and you should not be one of them.
You can use social media to promote your work without being a hound or a fake. Below is the way.
Do not look at, peruse, or spend time on feeds
You do not need it for news, to debate with strangers, to make a point. Social media news algorithms build echo chambers and ideology tunnels, and do not expose you to varying opinion. In other words, the exact opposite of what the ancient philosophers said makes you a more informed human being. Challenge your views by reading books that don’t operate on algorithms.
The news is bad for you anyway (The Guardian). You really don’t need it. If you feel you absolutely do, I occasionally use the NPR One app to listen to a 3-5 minute summary of the news. Then I shut it off and go about my day.
Don’t worry about marketing
There are some simple, effective, and ultimately manipulative ways for getting views. If you’re simply out for money, I’d argue against writing or podcasting or selling in the first place. Writing has, for millenia, been a way to help organize and articulate thoughts, to provide value, to compound on human knowledge. When you focus on tricks that lead to more money, your writing is going to suffer because you’re not focusing on the right metrics.
This is hard to tell a “starving artist”, but it’s true. One way of getting views is to come up with the most click-baitey and controversial titles for your articles or episodes. The idea should not be getting views per se, but providing value.
Smart, informed readers will read the non click-baitey stuff, and that’s the sort of readership you want. They’ll challenge your views, strengthen your arguments, make you smarter. Occasionally, though, you’ll have to deal with trolls. They’re not haters, because hater is an overused word to describe people who simply disagree with others. That brings us to the next point.
Don’t engage with trolls
If you have to take a philosophy course on critical thinking to get this, than do so. It’s that important. Learn to separate the wheat from the chaff. If someone is using ad hominem attacks (attacking you personally rather than engaging with your argument), then ignore them, and/or report them for spam or abuse.
Engage with people who want to engage with you meaningfully. This may mean being humble and listening when someone articulately dismantles one of your arguments. Again, this will make you smarter.
If spending too much time on social media is bad for your mental health, then trolls are probably a third of the problem, right next to scrolling endless feeds and reading click-baitey news meant to rile you up.
So how should one use social media? Thanks for asking.
Log in, post a link to your newest article or episode, and log off
That is the path to clarity, to peace. Do not engage. If people are serious about getting in touch with you, they will direct message or email you. The same rules apply. Are they trying to engage you meaningfully? Then engage with them if you like. If they’re trolls? Ignore them, block them, report them.
If you use Twitter, log in, post a link to your newest episode on your feed, and before you get caught up in the whirlwind of shitposts and garbage on your feed, log off. I absolutely recommend only accessing Twitter via a browser for doing this. Don’t put the app on your phone and turn off email notifications for nearly everything. You should only use Twitter when you feel the need to use Twitter, not when it wants to prod you with notifications.
The same applies for all social media, though I’d argue that you should immediately get rid of Facebook if you have an account (NYT).
If you follow these tips, I believe you will notice more mental clarity, more peace, less distraction. Take the leap, get into your trade, make the best stuff you can, and use platforms sparingly to get the message out. Good luck.