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How to make better use of social media

By Gary Bloomer

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Social media.

It's either a benefit or a curse.

It can also be a life saver or a huge time sink.

Often it's all of these things and more.

For every positive post there seem to be ten pieces of negativity.

For each high there are a dozen lows.

Often, social media does more to weigh you down and wear on your patience than it does to lift you up.

Ultimately though, how you use social media and how it impacts you is up to you.

You control what you see, you govern who comments, and you're in charge of the way you react.

If you want to gain more control over your social streams, this article might help.

Back in 2006 I initiated a new policy for work: I would stop opening, reading, and responding to emails after 4pm on a Friday.

I did this after a former colleague sent me a particularly negative email the last thing on a Friday afternoon, an email I made the mistake of opening, and reading, and responding to.

The exchange rattled me so much that I was still seething about it on Monday morning. My whole weekend went off the rails because of my reaction to an email from an idiot.

Why? Because I let it, making me the bigger idiot.

Which brings me in a round about way to business use of social media and the idiots these platforms attract.

I sometimes wonder why the major platforms don’t change their names to FeckOffBook, and to You’reWronger, Instawrong, and LinkOff.

Often, the biggest issues with social media are the opinions of haters and the toxicity and misinformation from idiots.

Rather than helping small business, social media has become a place in which we can be psychologically and emotionally set upon; a soap box from which anyone can have their say about anything and anyone.

I don’t know of a single business owner or entrepreneur on
social media who hasn’t been attacked, ridiculed, shouted down,
or bullied, myself included.

While I’m all for spirited debate and respecting the opinions of others even when I disagree with them, what I find least appealing about social media is the manipulative nonsense, the name-calling, and the accusations and assumptions based on ill-informed opinion, gossip, assumption, and supposition.

A major way to stop this madness and to change the way you use social media. It’s either that or get off it completely. Personally, I will not be harassed, harangued, or bullied. Instead, I choose to reclaim my power: I choose to fight.

After having been pulled into numerous “discussions” on social media, I’ve learned that the best response is often no response.

If you must have the last word (something that’s practically impossible on social media anyway), the only way you’ll change things is by being the one to change.

Since initiating the following rights, rules, and responsibilities for my own sake, my use of social media has transformed into an island of calm.

The first thing I did was to stop checking social media and email just before going to bed.

If you look at the Facebook dashboard of any group page you’ll
see a spike or hump in user activity that peaks at around 9pm, local time.

For many of us, that’s when we turn in for the night and because we are also addicted to social media, that’s the time when we have one last check to see who’s liked what.

This is a mistake.

By checking any social media right before bedtime you are asking for trouble.

If you have added anything on social media earlier in the afternoon or evening and you check social media just before you go to bed, that’s the time you’ll be most likely to see any response which, if it’s negative, has the potential to keep you tossing and turning all night with witty retorts and thoughts of, well, we’ll see about that!

If you must check social media before bed, do it at least two hours before you turn-in. Ideally, don’t check it at all. This point alone will help you sleep better.

Another way to calm the madness of social media is to stop responding to the posts or comments shared by negative people.

Don’t interact with these people, don't try to help them: they won’t thank you for it and they’ll bitch, moan, and whine about whatever advice you do offer. As for the morons, halfwits, dimwits, and imbeciles? Stop responding to them as well.

On Facebook I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to simply block these kinds of people. And yes, this even applies to “friends”.

Understand this: most of the people you're connected with on Facebook are not your friends. At best they are acquaintances, some of them you might have met in the real world, and at a pinch, you might have done business with a few of them.

But unless you've known them for years and know can call them
in the middle of the night when everything is going to shit, don't count on these people.

Unless you know you can depend on them, unless you've laughed, and cried, and fought, and got drunk with them, and unless they've seen each other at your worst and fallen out and made up, and can still talk about anything, friends they are not.

Proper friends buoy you up and support you, they are there for you, even if they challenge you and you challenge them along the way.

Proper friends celebrate your wins and commiserate on your losses and near misses. Social media friends do very little of any of this, if any of it.

The two most valuable assets that any of us have and that we control are our time and our attention. How we use them is up to us. How and on whom we invest these things is our choice.

And the key with time and attention is that what we focus on tends to get bigger in terms of the amount of time and thought we give it.

This analogy makes more sense when you start seeing social media for what it truly is: as a gold mine or a diamond mine, the contents of which you have to dig through in order to find the valuable stuff.

Most of the content of social media is time-sucking, thought- snatching, attention-robbing crap (including, at times, some of my content).

It's difficult enough to find decent content on any social media platform,—you know, the kind of stuff that lights up your day and that sparks genuine joy, delight, splendor, and amazement.

So why waste your valuable time or attention—which you could easily direct elsewhere—on the thoughts, rants, and misinformed opinions of morons and imbeciles?

Either ignore, unfollow, unfriend, ban, or block these people or stop engaging with them. The moment you cut these kinds of people out of your social media life, the easier life becomes.

If you must remain connected to these people and you must have your say in no uncertain terms, do so but do not to share your reply.

By all means write out your response—and ideally, inside the safety of a word processing document to eradicate the possibility of accidentally responding—but once you've done this, do yourself a favor and delete it.

That's right.

Have your say on your terms, but don't engage.

Do you really need to be right?

Or would you rather be happy and right?

Life's too short to waste hours dealing with idiots.

While writing your response and NOT sending it gives you that sense of much-needed release and satisfaction that many of us feel when we fire off some rip snorter of a response—not sending it eliminates the potential for more outrage and angst.

When I feel some point or other must be challenged, I revert to this tactic more and more these days and it’s hugely cathartic.

And honestly, I care less and less what some imbecile with a half-empty opinion thinks anyway.

Finally, and something that’s changed the way I consume social media content, both on Facebook and more recently on Twitter, there are two options I gravitate to more and more these days: one of which is the ultimate extreme in terms of making better use of social media for business.

The first option is to switch your browser from whatever you’re using to Google Chrome.

Once you’ve don’t that, you need to go the Chrome Web Store and search for an extension called Newsfeed Eliminator.

It’s available for Facebook and Twitter and it has changed the way
I use social media, both personally and for business.

Once installed, Newsfeed Eliminator hides the content of your Facebook newsfeed.

This is huge.

It means all those posts, all that chat, and all those opinions that so often suck the hours out of your day and the joy out of life are hidden.

You can toggle Newsfeed Eliminator on and off from the Settings menu in Google, which means that if you need to or really want to, you can still take a peek at what’s going on, but once you've weened yourself away from the mind-numbing crap that is most of social media, you'll want to go back less and less often.

Not long ago, and after having used Newsfeed Eliminator for just ten days, I made the mistake of toggling the extension off, just to see what was going on with my old pal Facebook, and oh, dear, was that a mistake!

Post after post oozed negativity and ire. Comment after comment stank of ill-informed opinion and misinformation. I quickly toggled Newsfeed Eliminator back on and suddenly, calm was restored.

This is my new favorite extension and as I’ve said, it has changed the way I interact with my main social media streams.

Finally, there's the scorched Earth option from which there's no going back. It will solve the problem of negativity and angst on social media forever, and it’s to shut it all down.

That's right, just shut it all down and delete all your social media accounts. Sever all connections between you and social media and instead, use your website and decent SEO techniques to promote content that blows the doors off the competition.

If you can’t or don’t want to do this—and I understand why because I can't bring myself to do it—another way is to change the stream through which you access and see things on social media, specifically on Facebook.

You do this by changing your settings so that you logon through your personal account but that you view your main content stream only via your business page view.

My wife’s done this and it’s altered the way she uses Facebook for her business. Now she doesn’t see the negative stuff: she’s just communicating with her clients and constituents.

Ultimately, either we control and monitor our use of social media or it controls us and our reactions. Whether that control is the way we spend our time on it, or the way we focus and lavish our attention on it, or the ways in which we react to it. Ultimately, how we use social media is up to us.

I choose to consume social media content on my terms, not on someone else’s. These days I'm less shy about blocking, banning, un-friending, or unfollowing people than I was a few years ago, and as a result, the way I use social media for business has changed for the better.

It’s taken effort for sure—and, at times, a good amount of soul searching. And while my approach may be far from perfect, this new-found attitude towards social media is working for me.

Perhaps something here will resonate for you.

Perhaps just one or two changes will help you focus or help ease
some of the personal or professional clutter that social media has unwittingly unleashed on the world.

About Gary Bloomer

Gary Bloomer is originally from the UK. These days he lives just outside Philadelphia. Since 2009, he's answered over 5,000 marketing, branding, and social media strategy questions from small business owners from all over the world on the Know-How Exchange of His website is a love letter to the world of small business marketing.
To learn more or to get in touch, read the About page.

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