On Facebook, RSS Feeds, and Cleaning Up Digital Clutter
I’m a fan of the Internet, I won’t lie. I check Facebook on my iPhone a bajillion times a day. I keep up with my celebrity gossip with the help of Google Reader and some carefully-selected news sites. I installed Gmail Notifier so I would know the instant I get a new email. I get a little nervous without my phone nearby — what if there is something new online and I don’t see it immediately!?!
There are many reasons to love and hate having a smartphone. It’s always there, but it’s always there, amirite? Our smartphones keep us connected, and in doing so, never allow us to disconnect. I’m finding this to be a less-than-healthy state of being. After one too many evenings spent blinking blearily at the clock after four hours doing who-knows-what online, I’ve decided to take a step back.
Step 1: Facebook
I’m grateful I didn’t join Facebook until after I graduated from law school; otherwise, I don’t think I would have made it through. Facebook, especially in the beginning, is an amazingly distracting site. All your friends are on there! And they’re posting stuff! Right now! Quick, check it again, there might be something neeeeeeeeewwwwww! The problem I’ve found with Facebook is that I tend to have two types of friends: those who post thoughtful or funny updates about their lives, and those who post nothing but crap that I don’t care about. Bible verses, pictures of kittens, YouTube videos for all the songs they’re listening to right now, quizzes, games, polls, political cartoons, pro- or anti-Chik-Fil-A rants, Olympic updates, pictures of what they’re having for dinner… I could not care less, people. I just want to know about that funny thing your kid said at dinner last night, or those amazing shoes you just bought, or how desperately you need coffee otherwise you might just murder someone.
So, Step 1 is getting rid of all those people that post useless shit I don’t care about. If we don’t interact meaningfully on Facebook, if we’re not really friends in real life, if you’re a co-worker and I don’t want you all up in mah bidness — goodbye! All those friends from high school that I friended just to see what they were up to? Well, now I know, and I don’t care. Goodbye!
Step 1 resulted in 83 people gone from my Friends list, with another 20 or so that I’ve got my eye on. It’s a start. The next part is modifying my Facebook feed. Why am I suddenly being notified whenever any of my friends comments on or likes anything? I didn’t sign up for that! Thankfully, with a few clicks, all that crap is now gone from my News Feed. My Facebook page is now much cleaner, with only the relevant stuff and none of the filler. Now for Step 2!
Step 2: RSS Feeds
RSS feeds are one of the more brilliant inventions of the internet. All the sites I want to follow, consolidated into one feed for me to check? Awesome! The problem is feed-overload. I was like a starving man at a Chinese buffet — I wanted to READ ALL THE THINGS. Now, I no longer want to read all the things. In fact, I find myself skimming more than I read, and just ignoring a large part of them altogether. So, I had to cull the list. Do I need to subscribe to six different food blogs? No, I do not. Do I need to read more than one celebrity gossip site? Not really — they all say the same thing. Local news? Eh, don’t really care that much anyway.
Step 2-A meant cutting back on what was coming into my life. Step 2-B is all about reducing the pile of stuff that’s already there. I have a terrible habit of marking things to read later, only later never comes, and I end up with a skrillion articles I will never get around to. Time for a massive purge. First to go — any recipes I have saved. Let’s be honest, I will never get around to cooking all that shit. Second, any items about home improvement or cleaning or organizing. Who am I kidding? Finally, any topical stories that are sorely outdated at this point and all celebrity news/gossip items — if I haven’t read it by now, than I probably don’t really care.
Step 2-C: tagging the items that are left so I can easily find them. I came up with seven tags, and each category has about 10 or so articles/posts. That’s manageable. I might actually read all of those. Later.
Step 3: Setting Limits
Now that I have less digital crap making its way into my life, it’s time to set some limits for what’s left. I do not need to check my email every 5 minutes. Or Facebook. Or my news reader. I do not need to keep my phone with me at all times. I can actually wait a few hours before responding to that email. The world will not end! In fact, without constantly checking my phone, I might have time to, I don’t know, read a book or take a walk or talk to an actual human being. Lifehacker is a great resource for figuring out a better way to balance all the stuff in my life — work stuff, life stuff, digital stuff, family stuff, fun stuff. The hard part is actually doing it, and learning to ignore the siren song of my iPhone (“Check me, check me noooooooooow”).