Slowcial Media - How To Reduce The Addictiveness Of Social Apps
Do social media platforms make you feel happier or worse? Do you feel closer to your friends because of it? For many people the answers are negative.
Many describe social apps as:
- addictive: "I find myself opening the app instincively, without really having made the decision to do so"
- unhelpful: "Sometimes I spend an hour on there, and afterwards I can barely remember what I did on there"
- dehumanising: If I'm honest, I feel further away from people whose posts I read daily than friends I meet once a week
Last week I published the first version of the Slowcial Media website in an attempt to collect apps that foster unhurried and meaningful connection between people.
This post covers how you can implement this philosophy practically.
Urgency is the enemy
There is a reason that sales people like to make you hurry: it makes you take impulsive decisions. And when it comes to social relationships, thoughtfulness is far more valuable than impulsiveness.
Traditional social media do everything to make things seem urgent and important. But how important is "X tweeted for the first time in a while" really? Is that really worth notifying you about right now?
Aggressively reduce your notifications
For a week engage in this exercise, whenever you get a notification ask yourself:
- do I want this notification at all?
- would I have found this information organically in time?
- will clicking this make me feel better or worse?
If the answers are things like:
- I never click those notifications
- I would have seen those messages at some point in the day anyway
- I tend to get lost in the app and hate myself afterwards
then you should disable that notification immediately.
If it makes you feel better, you can tell yourself you can re-enable them at any time.
To do this you can:
- disable the notification type in the app (e.g. on web)
- Android: swipe the notification right (slightly), press the gear icon and click "turn off notifications"
- IOS: swipe the notification left (slightly) and click "manage" to change the settings for this type
No notifications at all
I made the switch a while back to disable all notifications for apps that send more than 1 notification per day. That means:
- No whatsapp notifications
- No email notifications
- No other social notifications
All the things they notify me of are things I would have opened of my own volition anyway:
- I open whatsapp when I feel like it a few times a day
- I open my email when I decide to work on my emails
- I open social media when I want to, not when the apps want me to
If you go for this, do make sure that the relevant people know. My whatsapp status message for example is "I use Whatsapp like email".
The nuclear option: uninstall apps
Do you really need your email on your phone?
And your work email too?
A lot of people use their work email on their computer. So why have the app on your phone at all? In the worst case you can open the email inbox in your browser anyway!
This may also be true for social apps. I for one have no need for Linkedin on my phone. Or Facebook for that matter.
Humanising people online
Of all the posts you see, be it insta pictures, tweets or text posts ask yourself: do you really know how that person is doing?
Maybe this doesn't matter to you for the majority of the people you follow, but even people you care about become strangely faceless on social platforms.
The medium is the message
Think about what social media formats say indirectly:
- text post: I expect you to read this, but your comments are less relevant than my original post
- image (cropped and with filter?): this is what I want to show you and you will never know whether it reflects reality
- video: I expect you to listen to me, and maybe I will read your comments or feel slightly better about myself if you like & subscribe
- chat: your words matter as much as mine, but I don't need to wait for you to finish to say things
Those things are not negative per se:
- a book is not meant to be a conversation
- an artist's picture is meant to be a limited snapshot of an idea
- a documentary is about you being a passenger on a narrative
But if you are trying to create or maintain a connection, not every medium is of equal value.
- If you want to update your friends & fam about your life, why not create an email newsletter instead of facebook posts?
- If you are trying to tell someone they are important to you, why email them a happy birthday chat when they might love to hear your voice?
Your situation is unique so I can't tell you what to use for your relationship with whom. But what I can say is: ask yourself what is the best medium to create/maintain your relationships.
Rarely chosen alternatives
These are some of the media I would love to see used more for human connection:
- Personal email newsletters - I have 2 friends who send these every few months and I love reading them
- Voice messages - these suck for getting things done but are amazing for hearing how someone is doing
- Discord channels - you can even create an open audio channel so people can "walk into the room" to chat
- Periodic group calls - while I'm not a fan of spontaneous calls, pre-planned calls can be a great way to catch up
So what's up with Slowcial Media?
Me and my friend Bram are working on a slowcial app called Nutshell, where everyone gets 1 message a week and they are all released on mondays.
Bram jokingly referred to it as a slowcial app, but the term kind of stuck. It lead to us thinking more about the concept and whether there are more apps that fall within this philosophy, and it turns out there are!
You can check out our most up-to-date list of slowcial apps on the slowcial media website.