Quick Guide: How to clean up your social media feed

Another day, another endless scroll. Cat Videos, Stand Up Clips, Ad. Starlet on her way to the airport, starlet on her way to the gym, starlet on her way to the restaurant, ad. Khaby Toxic Gyaan Unpacking Ad. Right-wing propaganda, left-wing nonsense, chicken wings recipe, ad.

Why is your feed and everyone else’s such a waste of time? That’s because individual social media users rarely resist automated curation — timelines dictated by what your friends like, what advertisers think you want, and what topics you’ve shown mild interest in.

Beat the bots at their own game with tips from social media strategist Rohit Agrawal, life coach Chetna Chakravarty, beauty brand social media executive Shreya Verma, and Dr. Neha Jaiswal, a psychologist currently researching social media and its impact on mental health at the University of Nottingham, UK.

Mute, unfollow, snooze: It’s the holy trinity of digital detox. “If you’re feeling bad about certain people/Pages/accounts, don’t feel guilty about unfollowing them,” says Dr. Jaiswal. You will avoid falling into the self-loathing trap where you start comparing your everyday life to someone’s online life. Influencers who seemingly live permanently in the Maldives, shop in Dubai, eat frothy, Michelin-starred meals in rural Spain—they don’t enrich your life. So mute.

Actress Millie Bobby Brown has spoken out about deleting all social media apps from her phone (AFP)

Or just block: Especially when users, even close friends, present negativity and cynicism on social media, damaging your positivity. “Follow people and organizations who align with your values,” says Dr. Jaiswal. Unfriending isn’t always possible—perhaps you don’t want to offend a family member. Instead, hide their posts from your feed.

Instagram lets you stop seeing posts from people you don’t know for 30 days. “To defer recommended posts from Instagram, find one in your feed and tap the three dots in the top-right corner,” says Agrawal. “Then select ‘Not Interested’. Instagram will hide the post and give you a menu of choices. ‘Tap Push back all suggested posts in feed for 30 days’.” A month later, if new recommendations come in and you’re still not impressed, push them again.

“Social media today is more complicated than we think. No matter how much time you put into it, make sure it makes you feel happy, knowledgeable, and inspires you instead of tripping you up,” says Dr. Jaiswal.

Be your own curator: If you had to list the topics that interest you, the usual online posts probably wouldn’t be one of them. Customize your experience. Like books? Follow 10 authors or publishers. Culture fascinates you? Follow museums from distant cities. Do you prefer wild animals over petting cats? There’s a whole corner of social media dedicated to rescue and conservation. Add these to your favorites so they get prioritized.

“One way to curate your social media timeline is to list people whose content you enjoy the most,” says life coach Chetna Chakravarty. “We only have the mindspace for content from five or six people at a time. Find the accounts you really love, favorite them, like their posts, and your feed will be curated automatically. If you stop paying attention to content you don’t like, eventually it will stop showing up in your feed.”

Musician Ed Sheeran has done away with his smartphone altogether to avoid scrolling through them
Musician Ed Sheeran has done away with his smartphone altogether to avoid scrolling through them

Take control of your feed: Consider filtering comments to avoid having to deal with aggressive and offensive online replies. “On Instagram, you can block specific words or phrases so that comments, including those words, don’t appear on your posts,” says Agrawal. You can also turn off the comments section for specific Instagram posts, cutting out the negativity at the root.

“On Twitter, a user can produce great original content but have terrible taste in other people’s tweets. If you only want to see their tweets and not the tweets they’ve retweeted, go to their profile page, click the gear and select “Turn off retweets”. This will make your Twitter timeline show more original content,” recommends Agrawal.

Do a time check: Creator Studio and similar content scheduling apps give you more control over when you’re active with your own accounts. “It allows us to plan content ahead of time, take a break from social media, and avoid chatty friends and family. We can act on it later and better manage our social media and our lives,” says Verma.

She also has a hack for Instagram users who are fed up with unwanted ads and suggested posts. “When you access Instagram through your internet browser [as opposed to the app]you won’t find any ads or suggested posts – just dozens of stills, which many of us prefer.”

From HT Brunch, January 28, 2023

Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch

Connect with us at facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch