Downsizing Negativity: A Minimalist Approach to Social Media

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Our key tenets here at Mostly Mindful —aside from eating plants, drinking as much coffee as possible and saying yes to crazy adventures—are centred around adding value and getting better at life.

To further these endeavours we’ve been actively avoiding the news for some years now.

We’ve found that it serves no purpose whatsoever.

If you’re entrenched in the ‘I have to stay abreast’ camp, perhaps you’re staring aghast at your screen right now. Horrified at the mere thought.

Allow me to quell your concerns. If it’s important enough we’ll hear about it. Even when it’s not important we’ll hear about it. 

If you’re in the ‘I also hate the news’ camp, maybe you’re thinking, “Ha! My sister from another mister. I knew I wasn’t alone.” Or something along those lines.

Downsizing Negativity

The problem is, it’s no longer enough to simply switch the TV off. The news we’re trying so hard to avoid is showing up everywhere nowadays, especially on social media.

Even if you make a habit of following upbeat and inspiring folks, the chance of negative nonsense showing up on your timeline is still pretty good.

Up until now I’ve been ignoring these instances. I simply scroll past them in the hope of finding something more cheerful, like chickens walking on grass for the first time.

But it’s time for a more proactive approach.

The iPhone Effect

iphone effect

The other thing I’ve noticed is how habituated I’ve become to my smartphone. I recently came across a study, aptly named the iPhone Effect, which looked at the quality of in-person social interactions in the presence of mobile devices.

What it boiled down to was this: conversations without a smartphone present were reported to be superior to those where there was one on the table. In short, our phones distract us without us even realising it.

What do you do with your phone when you’re out with others?

Even though we wouldn’t respond to calls or messages, Sporty and I would still put our phones on the table when we went out. Since learning about the study we’ve taken to leaving them in our bags (on silent).

I’m not sure if it’s improved our overall experience, but knowing we’ve made the effort to be more invested in the conversation has made us feel decidedly pleased with ourselves. Which I guess is an improvement of sorts (even if there is an element of smugness about it).

Between writing the last paragraph and starting this one, Sporty and I went out for sundowners. She left her phone at home, while mine languished in my bag.

I asked her if she’d noticed a difference since we’d instituted the ‘no phone on the table’ rule. She said she definitely felt more relaxed and at ease and also found that she no longer obsessed over the time.

As we chatted I realised that not having a phone in sight has resulted in me being more in the moment and less distracted. Good times.

Downsizing Social Media

downsizing-social-media

I’ve become more and more disenchanted with social media of late. Aside from the negative aspect I mentioned earlier, it’s also a huge time suck. Which, as a writer prone to procrastination, is definitely something to avoid.

I also think it’s just another way we take ourselves out of the present moment. And given that this moment is all there is (to quote every spiritual teacher ever), I want to make damn sure I’m fully in it.

A Minimalist Smartphone

As much as there’s a part of me that would love to get a feature phone again, I love Uber and Google Maps too much to give them up. So here’s the plan.

I’ve deleted all the social media apps off my phone. I’ve also deleted all other apps that could possibly serve as a portal down the rabbit hole e.g. Pocket, Brain Yoga, etc.

I still have Gmail and Whatsapp, but they’re both useful and don’t really offer that much of a distraction anyway, so I figure they can stay.

A Minimalist Browser

Before, I had all my social media profiles saved on the bookmarks bar in my browser. You know, for easy access whenever the need to procrastinate overtook me. I’ve deleted the lot.

And, because I know all I have to do to get Twitter back is type the letter ‘t’ into the search bar (yeah, I’m that predictable), I also logged out of all my profiles as well.

That means I now have two hoops to jump through before I can settle down to the serious business of procrastinating. Hmmm…suddenly it’s not all that appealing.

I checked the ‘remember password’ option when Google asked me, so it’s still pretty easy to get my procrastination game back on. But for now, I think it’s enough.

Should I notice matters getting out of hand I’ll just go ahead and clear my cache.  Ha, I see your devious ways Resistance and I’ll raise you a third hoop if it comes to that!

A Minimalist Approach to the People I Follow 

The third and final part of my three-pronged approach to downsizing negativity is to unfollow the people who are sharing and/or reacting to the negative nonsense I’m trying to avoid.

Maybe it’s a bit extreme, but here’s my thinking. If it serves no purpose, I don’t need or want to know about it. I think the world would be a much better place if we invested more time sharing the good stuff and less time hate mongering.

Maybe it’s all just Pollyanna pie in the sky idealism on my part, but I reckon it’s worth a try. After all, we’re way happier since we stopped watching the news, so why would this be any different?

I’ll give it a month and get back to you.



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6 thoughts on “Downsizing Negativity: A Minimalist Approach to Social Media

  1. I’m with you on the news! I stopped reading the news years ago, when I realized it just made me anxious and depressed.
    Inspired by this post, I just UNINSTALLED FACEBOOK FROM MY PHONE!!!!!!!!

  2. I love my “dumb phone”…an old flip phone from SafeLink. I have never gone online, have taken one picture in 4 years by accident and bounced the thing from here to kingdom come. I get free texts and free minutes every month that might last me until my next incarnation 😉

    They want to give me a reconditioned SmartPhone to replace it….No. thank you

    • Hi Andrea

      Good on your for not buying into your service provider’s attempts to ‘up-sell’ you! It’s amazing how they’ll keep trying though, isn’t it? I must say, I have a much better ‘relationship’ with my smartphone since removing all those distracting apps. It’s liberating! 🙂

  3. I’m probably what most would consider an extreme minimalist. I don’t do social media at all. I don’t link blogs or YouTube into that category, but I don’t do Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc… You’ve probably seen the TED talk from Cal Newport.

    Also, I gave up the smartphone. Yep, I have an old school flip phone. I’m no luddite either, I just like to live simply and not worry about my possessions. When I left the corporate world about 4 years ago, I gave back my organization owned smartphone with the intention that I would just get another personal smartphone. In the meantime, since I was moving several states away, I just used an old pay as you go phone that my husband had. Well, as time went by, I kept finding myself NOT wanting to get another smart phone. It felt very liberating! Now, I look at it as my ‘treat’ to myself for being in a financial position where I don’t really have to work, so I only work part time. I walk and take public transportation everywhere, so I’ve actually never used Uber, but I’ve taken just a very few cab rides in the last few years. I also have a very light laptop and a portable MiFi that is usually with me, so I can always access maps when I need it. Most people say they couldn’t give up the camera feature, but I personally have never been one to take many pictures. Especially on vacation. I find that if I savor the moment without technology, I will appreciate the moment and remember it in far better detail for much longer than any picture can provide. 🙂

    • I totally resonate with everything you said! However, your last comment about experiencing the moment rather than taking a photo really struck me. We were out with a friend on the weekend and she’s in the process of going through her Dad’s stuff after he passed away recently. She asked me what my opinion was on photos.

      As we started talking and I made suggestions about how she could best downsize them, it suddenly occurred to me that photos —by their very nature— will keep you stuck in the past. I’d been mulling over the idea for some time, but speaking to her made me realise that being present in the experience means you will enjoy fully and remember fully too. Pretty much what you said. 🙂

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