So my adventure in getting rid of most social media ended sooner than I expected. But before you think of me as weak-willed, let me explain.
In the past few years, my main activity on Facebook is to watch over many of my former students to see how their lives are going. As of today, I’ve finished seventeen years as a high school social studies teacher. Just guessing, I’d say anywhere from a quarter to a third of my Facebook friends are former students. It may be more. The platform allows me to see how they are doing in college, when they get married, when they have kids, and so on, and so on. With graduation season upon us, it’s been nice to see some of my former students finishing their college degrees. Recently, one graduated from Ohio State in just three years and one finished her nursing degree. I can’t even explain how proud these types of accomplishments make me.
The reason I gave up Facebook for a while is because of the toxicity of the platform. Before I reactivated my account, I made a list of things that I wanted to change about my account, and so far I’ve enjoyed my new and improved news feed.
First, I hit “unlike” on ALL pages. Okay, almost all. I’m still a member of the community page for our neighborhood. I also kept the page for the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Houston Zoo since we are members of both. And I just couldn’t bring myself to unlike The University of Texas page.
But beyond that, there are no more news pages, bands, actors, movies, political groups, or random videos that I don’t care about.
You know those ads, videos and pages that Facebook suggests for you? On a whim, I started telling Facebook I never wanted to see this content ever again. The three little dots in the top right corner of any post give you some options about how much (or if ever) you will see that content or anything related to it. After rejecting content multiple times, my “suggested” posts and ads have decreased dramatically.
Just those two changes have reduced the amount of garbage in my news feed. Now, when I check Facebook, I see posts from real people that I care about (at least somewhat). In other words, I’m telling Facebook what I want to see, not the other way around. It also doesn’t take me as long to get through my news feed because the amount of content is reduced. It is now truly SOCIAL media.
As convenient as it is to use Facebook as a one stop shop for all news and such, it is too easy to manipulate for people with ill intent. Until the company comes to terms with that (or is forced to), too much of what gets posted can’t be trusted. If I want to read the news I just find credible news sources.
I’ve mentioned before that I have an educator’s subscription to the New York Times. I also use Google News to aggregate news from various sources for me. That combination covers just about everything.
Getting back to my original objective from a couple of weeks ago, I’ve still managed to drastically reduce the amount of time I’m wasting on social media so I will take the time to pursue my hobbies more often. But I also don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything or anyone that I actually want to see.
I guess, in a sense, I’ve graduated recently too!