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Technology is a gift, but it can also overwhelm us with its never-ending demands. Last fall, I made some decisions that made using technology more pleasant. The changes fell under three main categories: my email inbox, my social media, and my news.
I’m a Gmail user. I switched from the priority inbox to the classic inbox, which might sound counterintuitive. However, my promotions tab had morphed into a place where emails went to die. I never went through that mess. It’s more efficient to keep junk out of your house in the first place, rather than having to declutter it later. The same applies to our email “house.”
After the switch to the classic inbox, I was inundated with emails, as expected. However, I took the extra few seconds to scroll down to the bottom and unsubscribe, unless it was something that was truly bringing truth, goodness, or beauty to my day. I was ruthless. Virtually all business emails were gone, with the exception of my beloved ThriftBooks. No more Old Navy, Sephora, or TIME IS RUNNING OUT, RETURN TO YOUR CART NOW.
Ashlee Gadd suggested writing down what positive things are in your life because of social media. For me, that included keeping up with far flung friends and relations and networking with other writers.
Next, she said to make a list of what accounts bring value to you. Do not actually open your app and check the list. Just write down whoever comes to mind. My list was pretty small. As I write this, I am following a whopping 64 people on Instagram. And it is perfect, because I chose those 64 with care.
If you want to get even more granular, you can mute stories without unfollowing the person altogether. I use that feature for accounts who share wonderful information, but way too many story slides.
At this point, I use Facebook only for groups. I frequent my church’s women’s ministry group, my writing group, my local homeschool organization’s group, and the Literary Life podcast listeners group. That is it. If I’m opening Facebook, it’s because I need information from one of those four places.
Since these changes, I’ve used social media less, but enjoyed it more.
The year 2020 was the most bizarre news year of my life. Historical! Unprecedented! Are we getting a whole chapter on 2020 in history textbooks on the events of the 21st century? Time will tell, but it was a lot to live through. I knew that I needed to adapt my news consumption habits.
More generally, I made the decision to shift to consuming long-form content. I define long-form content as books, quality articles, and podcasts. I unfollowed all political and news accounts on social media. They tended to post memes and pithy quotes of outrage. I found myself trying to figure out what on earth X was so fired up about, and then I’d be down a rabbit hole of internet drama, and that wasn’t adding any value to my life.
I only read my news. I don’t listen to it in podcast form, and I don’t watch it in video or television form. I read quickly, so this is the best way for me to get the information I need and move on with my day. I read The Dispatch for a right-leaning perspective and Politico for a left-leaning perspective.
I am a paid subscriber to The Dispatch. I believe that dependence on social media algorithms is corrosive for us both personally and collectively. Performing well on social media means preying on people’s emotions, and even the most principled organization will eventually cave to the beast, because more eyeballs means more money, and news outlets need money to survive. But it’s not enough to just complain about how algorithms shape us. I have to be the change that I want to see in the world.
Your path to digital peace might differ from mine, but I hope you’ll consider making some changes that work for your lifestyle.