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Using Social Media

As opposed to letting social media use you.

We’re all here on social media for fun mainly. If you’re on here for work, my sincere condolences. This is about using it to try and make your life better. That doesn’t mean making money. Though, it might take on that role for some people, and that’s ok.

The idea is to see how to make it work for you, rather than the other way around.

At it’s most basic, social media is just way of grabbing your attention. And going by human (or animal psychology), that attention grabbing is done by giving you the most reward for the least effort. Like junk food. Lots of bright colours, extreme flavours and tastes, mindless consumption. It’s a feedback loop. You just need to turn it to your advantage

Did you notice that I used the term “reward”in the above paragraph? Your brain circuits don’t care what the reward is. They just want the dopamine hit that comes from the pleasure you were chasing. There’s good news and bad news.I’ll start with the bad news. The bad news is that the system is easily hijacked the more immature you are. The more your rewards system gets used, the more habituated it will get and it will then start forcing you to seek more and more of the same thing. The dopamine surge you get from trolling a stranger over the internet starts to give you less of a buzz than before. You’ll need to get more and more extreme in your behaviour to get the same buzz. Social media amplifies whatever you “want” amplified. Note, that it doesn’t amplify what you “need”

The good news? It’ll amplify what you need. If what you want and what you need, are the same thing. You need to figure out how to align the two along the same path.

Use the filter bubble- People say filter bubble like it’s a bad thing. Not necessarily. There’s a lot of trash out in social media. If you’re an adult and have already decided that you know what’s good for you, get rid of the trash. There’s no need to keep your mind open for people who are constantly dumping negative trash. Get rid of them. It’s a short life and you’re running out of time, can’t waste it on the internet, arguing with strangers.

Learn. Turn your social media experience into a museum. Every post that turns up on your stream needs to be valuable. Value can mean entertainment, trivia, or education. But remember, that social media amplifies whatever your mind wants, so get your priorities right before deciding. If you have an interaction with someone or some post, there’s several points of learning possible.

  • Content of the post
  • About yourself, when you assess your own response to the post
  • About the social media that showed that particular post to you, and why it did
  • About the person who posted
  • What that person is learning about you, from your response (very meta, no?)

Specialise your social media. Diversify. You have several interests. Some of them truly useful. Some of them trivial. Some of them base. If you mix all of those interests in one stream, the base urges will always win out. Because your animal instincts are the ones that trigger your rewards system most powerfully. That would be like putting up Playboy’s centrefolds alongside the Mona Lisa. Guess which one is going to get the most eyeballs? And which one will get the most selfies? Split your interests among the different social media apps available these days.
Facebook to keep in touch and to follow people who post long form content.
WhatsApp for close friends. Instagram for half naked girls.
YouTube for free, in-depth learning.
Podcasts for learning about esoteric topics even when you don’t have dedicated time to sit down and watch or read.
I’m just giving you examples.

Actively seek nourishment. Try your best to consume long form content. Stuff that takes a long time to chew, digest and assimilate. That’s what real food is like. It takes work. Home cooked food should be high in nutrition. The social media stream you spend most time on, should be high on long form content. Step outside for fast food, but don’t consume it at home. For example, my Facebook feed will have people I’ve prioritised as “see first” because they put out quality posts. There’s also people who put out memes. Because memes are important 😬

Gather a tribe. In our increasingly atomised society, we’re all missing a tribe. Social media capitalises on that craving for a tribe. If your tribe is interested in health and self improvement, that’s what you’re going to be interested in. You’ll feed off each others energy.

Provide value. If your posts provide value to your tribe, you’ll find that you’ll get encouraged by them. You can set up a virtuous cycle. If you read something that you find interesting, try your best to post a summary of what you learnt from it, where you agree and where you don’t. Add extra from whatever you’ve read before. Make an effort to learn further about that topic. Or, ask questions that might get you another perspective. Make your own content. Start with a paragraph, slowly build up to an essay. Maybe there’s a book in you, and social media might help you write it.

Avoid areas of the internet where you cannot create content. I’m talking about Netflix, Amazon prime. You’re just a mindless consumer there. They have their place, but because they make consumption so easy, they end up sucking away all your time. Remember what I said about home cooked food? Eating out all the time isn’t good for you. Even if the stuff is gourmet, five star. A side note about podcasts- we’re all mostly consumers on podcasts, but the consumption is far from mindless. If you must spend long periods of time consuming media, spend it on podcasts.

Look for feedback. This is just an extension of the idea of learning from every interaction. Not all feedback is explicit. Sometimes even the lack of response is feedback. Tailoring one’s approach depending on feedback/response is the very definition of learning/intelligence. Just be aware of what feedback you’re going to respond to.

Care. You need to genuinely care for your audience and they should feel so. Because that is probably what will push you to be better. Self improvement is an excellent goal, but the motivation for self improvement is usually most powerful when you’re striving for the betterment of something larger than you. Your self improvement becomes the happy side effect of a happier, healthier community.

Switch it off once in a while. This would be like intermittent fasting. Give your system a rest everyday, so that you can digest and assimilate what you’ve consumed.

Please let me know if I’ve missed out anything, that you’d like me to add.

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