The Social Dilemma + 5 Steps for taking a break without leaving Facebook
It’s an eye-opening docudrama about how social media platforms manipulate our behavior, even beyond the point of their original intent to make money from targeted advertising. You may have heard this before: If you’re not paying for the product, it means you’re the product.
I highly recommend the film, especially if you have not read as much as I have about things like algorithms, echo chambers, political bubbles, fact-checking, and media bias. (Shoutout to AllSides, which I follow on Facebook. They present the same news story from publications across the media bias spectrum, so you can compare them for yourself.)
I have known for years that we weren’t all seeing the same news, or ads, or posts, as our friends do. The result is undeniably polarizing, and I have not had a clue how to fix it. It is good to know that there are people — engineers who helped create the social media platforms and understand how they really work, not just users, and not owners or stockholders — who are coordinating their efforts to fix the problems that have inadvertently arisen over the years.
The consensus seems to be that social media should be regulated, not abolished. And that users should be made more aware. The Social Dilemma website explains why they’re (ironically) on social media, and includes the code of ethics that they follow. There is also a list of suggested ways we can all take action.
My own social dilemma
Meanwhile, knowing how Facebook works doesn’t make me immune to its psychological influence. (I participate in other social media platforms, too, but spend much more time on Facebook.) I freely admit to being addicted! It was somewhat of a relief to learn, in the film, that even the creators of these platforms admit to being addicted to them. Many don’t allow their children to use social media at all until age 16.
And, as the election nears, and 2020 continues to reach new lows, my newsfeed gets more depressing. Which is saying a lot, because I already know many ways to improve my newsfeed which are included in previous blog posts, all summarized in this one:
I have not seriously considered leaving social media altogether, because there are too many benefits to being there. But I do propose that one can “take a break” from bad news, virtual squabbling, and general unpleasantness by taking these 5 steps (most of which have NOT previously been mentioned in my other posts).
Step 1: Check your News Feed Preferences
Facebook is making it easier and easier to shape what you see in your news feed to your liking. Why put up with negative (or repetitive) posts from people, pages, and groups when you can choose who and what to See First, Unfollow, or Snooze for 30 days? You can always Reconnect. No need to Unfriend!
These 3 images are current, since the August 2020 Facebook update:
Step 2: Unfollow groups, don’t leave them
I don’t know about you, but I belong to a lot of groups (genealogy, organizing, etc.). And I’ve recently been invited to join a lot more of them (social, political, etc.). Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re being invited specially, or if someone’s invited ALL of their friends. It’s like the difference between being invited to a public festival or a small dinner party requiring an RSVP.
In any case, if you don’t join, and you also don’t decline the invitation, you will see lots of posts from that group until you take action, or the invitation expires. So, it’s best to just decide.
You can leave groups, too, certainly. But you can also join them and then Unfollow them. Unfollow just means you won’t see their posts in your newsfeed. You can always click on this icon to check up on, and participate in, all of your groups whenever you like.
Some groups are more important than others. You can set them to See First (see Step 1) and/or elect to be notified of certain posts. In this example, I have elected to be notified if there is a post by a friend in that group. If there is, I might take the extra step of clicking on the group’s name and checking to see what else the group has been up to lately. I do not need to see all of the posts in this particular group all of the time.
Step 3: Block the source page, not your friend
Does a friend keep sharing posts from a Page you don’t like, or that you are simply weary of seeing so much of? (It doesn’t matter what it’s about, or whether you agree or sympathize with it.) Did you know you can block that Page, and still see all of the friend’s other posts?
(This one almost tripped me up because it’s recently changed. But I figured it out. Also, I am using a fake example so as to spare feelings with a real example. I chose this “Liz and Mollie” page because I love it and the friend who shares their posts, and have no intention of blocking it.)
Look at the bottom of your friend’s shared post to see where it originated:
Step 4: Add beauty and fun to your newsfeed
You know how when you Googled “masks” you got a ton of mask ads on Facebook? Well, try Googling something else! You can also search Facebook (instead of Google) for topics that the algorithm will then show you more of. Instead of telling Facebook you are interested in unpleasant things by constantly clicking on them, try subscribing to non-controversial, funny, entertaining, and beautiful pages that will bring a little lightness and joy to your news feed. Mark them as “See First” (see Step 1). Or mark as Favorites (as shown below).
If you pack your newsfeed with pleasant posts, interspersed with your “See First” friends and pages, there is simply less room for unwanted posts. I am currently enjoying “Birds & Blooms Magazine”, “Thomas Mangelsen” (wildlife photographer), “Beauty of Planet Earth” and “View From My Window”, in addition to more serious topics. My friend Jane, who shares the “Liz and Mollie” posts, has requested “all otters all the time” in her newsfeed. I suggest starting with “Monterey Bay Aquarium”:
Also, did you know they have a live otter cam?!
Step 5: Remove the app from your phone
If adjusting (or turning off) notifications isn’t enough (a ubiquitous stress and time management tip which applies to all things that offer notifications such as email, apps, messaging, and social media), try removing the Facebook app from your phone altogether. Presuming you also have a computer, you can always check your news feed there and do your posting on a less frequent, more controlled basis.
See? Isn’t that better? Enough better, perhaps, that you don’t need to leave Facebook after all?
There’s nothing wrong (and much right) with taking a planned break, which is different from leaving out of frustration.
Which of these suggestions might you try?
Have you seen the film? Do you have a different social dilemma?
What tips can you share with us that have helped save your social media sanity?
Please share in the comments below!
Copyright 2020 by Hazel Thornton, Organized for Life.
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