Friday, 26 July 2013

Dealing with social media 'noise'

I love socialising online.  I live in a regional community (translation: country town with mining bloat) where it's not easy to find people who share my arty-farty interests, I'm quite shy, and there are the obvious social difficulties that come with having Aspergers, so the internet's been a great way to find some likeminded souls and share ideas.  I won't lie - I feel far more "community" in some of my online haunts than I do in the actual physical community I live in.

But the downside of being active online is digital 'noise', a background hum of constant information you're not interested in, but can't really block out.  As I try to reach out and make friends, I've been following a lot of extra people on Twitter and Tumblr and 'friending' people and liking pages on Facebook.  But the more people you connect with on social media, the more noise you have to sort through - retweeted witticisms by celebrities you've never heard of, animated .gifs from shows you've never seen, pictures of other people's lunches, and Facebook's insistence on telling me which dull corporate pages my friends have 'liked'.  There's some great stuff, but a lot of crap too.

illustration from Alice in Wonderland of the white rabbit blowing a trumpet.  A stream of social media icons are coming out of the trumpet.

Since I only have so much energy, my whole social media approach is getting an overhaul to cut down on the noise and clutter that's making it really hard to find the good stuff.

1.  Twitter lists

I've unfollowed a lot of people, to thin my feed back to the point where I'm able to keep track of who's on it.  Usually, when I check Twitter I scroll right through everything that's been posted since I was on last, so following a few extra people can quickly make that blow out if they're chatty.

Instead, I now have a series of lists - for autism, arts, people I've worked with, local news outlets - which I can check when I have time or want to catch up on a particular topic, rather than having all that information crammed into the one feed.

2.  Following Tumblogs via RSS

My Tumblr dashboard had become even more chaotic than my Twitter feed, and like Twitter I like to be able to see everything that's been posted since I was last on, rather than knowing I've missed goodness-knows-what.  So I've restricted my actual following to people and issues I really care about, and have the blogs of a nice-but-I-don't-really-have-to-see-every-post nature over to RSS.  I use Feedly these days, since my beloved Google Reader went west.  Paste the blog's URL into Feedly's "add content" box, add "/rss" to the end, and you can add it to your reader to peruse at your leisure.  And if you do find there's a tidal wave of content building up, just hit 'mark all as read' to get rid of the lot.

3.  Tumblr saviour

Sometimes a post or an issue blows up on Tumblr, and suddenly my dashboard is crammed with something I'm either not interested in or just don't get.  That's where Tumblr Saviour comes in - it's an extension that lets you block certain terms from your dashboard.  I have a heap of stuff "savioured", from other people's fandoms (Elementary, Homestuck, Sailor Moon, Les Mis) to gore, bdsm, and similar nasties I'd just rather not look at.

4.  Liking with your Facebook page rather than your personal account

You can't 'friend' people with your Facebook page, but you can 'like' other pages.  Then, when you're using Facebook as your page (rather than as your own personal account), those pages are what shows up on your timeline.  For instance, the Facebook page for this blog likes an assortment of other autism- and disability-related pages.  I see their updates when I'm using Facebook as the page, and if I comment on their stuff the comment shows up as having been left by Letters from Aspergia.  This has multiple benefits - not only does it get the page some exposure, but it means I get to keep the different parts of my life separate.  The autism stuff and the arts/blogging stuff all stays in its respective boxes, rather than being strewn throughout my own personal timeline interspersed with pictures of other people's babies and sales pitches from a coffee company that promised me a free sample if I "liked" them and then never delivered.

5.  Choose where you're going to be

I have a Linkedin account, but it's really only there to remind people I exist.  I have a Stumbleupon, but haven't used it in months and can't remember my username, let alone password or what email I signed up with.  I have a Pinterest which I tend with sporadic bouts of enthusiasm interspersed with long periods of complete inattention.  I have a Google Plus, because it just sort of started exising one day.  I'm on Quora, a site which is equal parts excellence and complete nutjobbery.

I'm technically present in those places, but I don't really consider any of them part of my social network.  I only have a finite amount of energy and attention, and have to choose wisely where to direct it.  So, I've chosen to be actually present on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, because that's where my friends are and where I find conversations I like to join in on, or just listen to and learn.

Image:  White Rabbit from the excellent From Old Books, social media icons from Elegant Themes