personal

Kicking social media

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This year I’m deleting/de-activating a bunch of accounts on social media platforms. Whilst I’ve maintained these for many years, it’s time to make a clean break.

I don’t make resolutions, that’s not my thing. The thought of only having one fixed point in the year to make positive changes actually makes me nauseous. I know that sounds preachy, but they just don’t work for me.

I try to be constantly improving throughout the year. So I’m always looking at ways to do that.

Last year I came to the conclusion that I simply didn’t have enough time to do all the things I wanted (I never will). Improving things around the house, socialising and especially creative outlets are all things I want to spend more time on, or at least have less distractions impeding me.

Case in point, I took notes for several blog posts which I never found time to finish, including my yearly summary. And I’m still working through photos and video I took in Japan back in November.

Perhaps it’s time constraints, more likely it’s poor concentration. Either way it’s clear to me that I need to eliminate the distractions which offer me the least return.

It’s time to KonMari my digital life. And culling Social Media seems like a great place to start.

The main offenders

Facebook

When I first signed up for Facebook, it was simply an online hang. Somewhere friends could congregate and keep in touch. MySpace was dead and Bebo was… a mess. This was a new way to keep in touch with friends the world over.

Sadly, depending on who you ask, time hasn’t been kind to Facebook. Progress happens, I guess, but it’s very subjective.

Among older generations particularly, Facebook has become synonymous with The Internet, and several years on it’s far from a niche platform where I can share updates with my besties. Instead, it mostly feels like an unwelcoming hub of click bait, political propaganda and targeted spam.

It is the very antithesis of why I originally signed up. It’s just noise.

I’ll be deleting my Facebook account in the next month.

Instagram

A screen capture of Bryan McDowall's Instagram profile page
My soon to be deleted profile page, presented here for posterity

There’s nothing better than that feeling of completion I get after working on a photo, or writing a blog post, and deciding it’s finished.

Instagram gives me that dopamine hit, after I take a nicely composed pic, and throw a filter on top. It’s that “good enough” mentality that’s reinforced with a few likes.

I registered bryPhoto.co.uk a few years back, and besides installing a working version of Koken, I’ve barely touched it. But having also recently deactivated my 500px account, and in the process of doing the same with Flickr, I’d really like to start uploading my completed, curated photography on my own site.

Whilst there is a deluge of great work on Instagram, and I follow a lot of incredible artists, I’ll keep up with my favourites through other channels, or by using a sneaky RSS workaround.

I’ll be deleting my Instagram account in the next month.

Twitter

Last year I cleared out my alt accounts - profiles I had created with specific purposes, like sharing game dev posts.

For the foreseeable future I’ll be keeping my @bryoz account, but trying to rely less on the platform. Whilst I still want to share cool things and engage with friends on there, the official app is terrible.

The general direction of Twitter seems to be stealing users’ attention for the longest possible time. In the same way that supermarkets hide milk at the very back of the store hoping customers will pick up other things along the way, Twitter constantly adds things you might like to your feed. It also keeps changing the way I read tweets to “Most popular first”, and every day I change it back to “Most recent”.

Twitter are relying on distraction as a fundamental business model. And it’s very frustrating.

Data privacy and digital minimalism

I’m deeply uncomfortably with the volume of personal data which is tracked across these platforms and the wider web. Given recent announcements to merge WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook, I worry that the entirety of my personal information could be vulnerable to a single point of failure. Not to mention how it’s being monetised by the company itself.

By reducing my online presence, I’m reducing clutter. It means I can also keep track of and maintain fewer online accounts. There’s a greater likelihood that if someone stumbles upon or searches for shared information, it’s accurate and up to date.

A photograph of Bryan McDowall using his phone in a cafe
The fact is, I am easily distracted. Photo by Andy Draper.

When user engagement is a marketable resource, companies will do whatever they can to acquire it.

Edited for hypocrisy

I hadn’t even finished writing this before Square Enix announced their latest updates to Final Fantasy XIV, at their huge convention, Fan Fest.

Though I stopped playing almost 4 years ago, I’ve been tempted back with the promise of Viera and Gunblades and YoRHa (oh my!), in the latest expansion: Shadowbringers, which is due to release in July this year.

Trailer for Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers

There’s a lot going on here, and I’m behind on my lore, so ahead of the Summer release I’ll probably jump back in and start burning through the main story.

It’s a big attention drain, but I’d sooner spend that time enjoying video games than mindlessly consuming random web content.


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