On scaling back a social media garden

“I quit social media and now life is awesome” posts are sometimes entertaining but often tedious, so I’ll keep things brief. Одним словом, I quit Instagram and put Twitter on probation.

It might come as a surprise that I was ever on Instagram. I was there for about a year and barely did anything. I initially joined to follow shops in Petersburg that lacked websites, plus a handful of friends and acquaintances. The account was pseudonymous and mostly silent, only ever publishing two photos: both of grasshoppers.

When compared to the others, Instagram is one of the least offensive social media platforms – there’s no news unless you deliberately seek it, commenting is limited, and content is visually appealing (albeit bland in its curatedness). Some users report FOMO with sustained use, but that was never my experience. (The accounts I followed evoked many emotions, but fear of missing out wasn’t among them.) Still, I didn’t vibe with the community, disliked the UI, and got limited enjoyment out of the content. Plus, I wanted to return to a state of zero engagement with Facebook products. By April, the account had fallen into disuse, and I had found alternate ways to keep in touch with people. Both points made Instagram easy to prune.

No more Instagram, ever. Probably. Unless there’s a sudden change of location (Petersburg, perhaps?), life becomes interesting, and sharing photos online becomes the best way to document it.

I’d delete Twitter if I had the willpower. Its downsides, commented upon by every other content creator and which I don’t dispute: social comparison, FOMO, dopamine addiction, information overload, data harvesting, tracking, politicization, cancel culture, cluttered UI, ads. But mainly, Twitter possesses a unique ability to bring out the worst in me. Counting the number of times the platform has enticed me to leak innermost anxieties or underbaked thoughts under the guise of catharsis would require an extra set of hands. And it doesn’t even work – I usually log off feeling worse than when I logged in. Twitter’s redeeming quality is the people: it’s got great bibliophile, translator and slavist communities. It’s fun to follow their exploits, when they don’t trigger FOMO (see above). For that reason, I’m not going to delete my account. But that bird (by extension, myself) better be on its best behavior from here on out.

I’ve cleaned up my tweets and will follow more quietly from now on. Also, I’m enacting a temporary ban on venting. The platform remains…trash, but *fixing* Twitter was never the goal. We as individual users can take steps to minimize the harm and maximize the good. By changing the way I interact with Twitter, perhaps I’ll accomplish that. If not, then there’s always deletion.

And so, Instagram (and maybe Twitter one day, who knows) joins Reddit, spare Google and Outlook emails, and a shadow Goodreads account on the pile. Online presence is fun, but when it’s superfluous, bad for privacy, or stands in the way of more meaningful work…snip-snip!

Want Instagram and Twitter content but without the bullshit? Consider these clients: Bibliogram | Nitter

Featured image: Last year’s tufts of grass on an overcast day in Gåseberg, Lysekil Municipality, Sweden. W.carter, Wikimedia Commons.

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