How To Do A Digital Declutter

how to do digital declutter

Let’s talk about how to do a digital declutter, or maybe in this case more specifically a social media decluttering.

And I want to distinguish it from the idea of a detox.

In my head, at least a detox is where you’re withdrawing or taking a complete “cold turkey” kind of break from social media.

And decluttering in my view is just simplifying and streamlining, so there is a purpose to your using digital technology. So not withdrawing entirely like you would with a detox.

Part of what prompted me to do this episode is that I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix. And that got me thinking about my own habits and thought I’ll share some of what I’ve been doing to manage my time on social media a little bit better.

My Social Media Usage

With my current work, which is largely around digital media and online marketing, I’m not in a position to fully withdraw or fully declutter as much as I’d want to.

But that makes it much more important that I’m more mindful of it with my personal time.

I think to be fair we all probably spend more time on social media than we either think we do or we tell ourselves we do. Your screen time report from your phone could probably vouch for that.

A couple of weeks ago on my phone, I had the following apps:

  • Facebook
  • Messenger
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter – logged into multiple accounts
  • Instagram – also with multiple accounts
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • TikTok
  • Reddit

I haven’t logged into Reddit from my phone or from the app in God knows how long so I wouldn’t even know when I added this one!

What I wanted to do was try to change my use of social media apps from a habit to a tool that actually serves a purpose.

How I Did A Digital Declutter

The first thing I did was look at how much I’m using each app for work and how much I’m using each app for personal use, and then whether I need it on my phone or whether I can access it when I’m actually in front of my laptop.

Deleting Apps

I figured Facebook, Messenger, and LinkedIn, anything and everything I need, I can basically do on my laptop.

There’s no need to have those on my phone. And so those were the first ones to go.

I haven’t deleted my accounts, but I’ve just deleted the apps off my phone and I have logged out from the web browser.

I’ve noticed that my screen time has probably come down about 6-7% on average from doing that.

I deleted Twitter as well.

Twitter’s a little bit of a strange one because I’m on there, but I’ve realized that there’s no social media app that’s worse for my state of mind and mental wellbeing.

In my feed at least, the highest percentage of users are talking about politics. And not that I’m politically apathetic, I think that’s the right word, but it’s just I have my own thoughts and I express them at the right time.

And the last thing I want or need mentally for my own wellbeing is to just keep getting hammered with that and keep getting drawn into going down that rabbit hole.

So Twitter also deleted the app from my phone and logged out from the browsers.

Pinterest was also deleted because I can do everything I need to on a desktop.

YouTube I’ve kept. I don’t really watch YouTube videos on my phone that much.

I actually use it for my morning and evening meditation.

I’ll just go into YouTube and search for a five-minute meditation track. So for that, I find it’s actually better for me to do it via the app, than log into Safari on my phone and go through the browser method.

I ended up with just TikTok and Instagram.

If I find a way to make the main features of Instagram that I need – posting to the feed, stores and reels, liking, and commenting, all from a desktop – I will delete the app from my phone right away.

So for me, that just leaves Tik Tok. And to be honest, out of all of them, that’s probably the one I have the most fun on at the minute. So I’m going to keep that as my one vice.

Only Using Apps For A Purpose

Going back to what I said earlier, focus on having a purpose for why you’re using an app.

If you find it’s an app that you’re just opening out of habit, you’re not really getting any value, enjoyment or benefit from, and are getting lost in that endless scroll then that’s probably one you want to delete from your phone.

In my grand decluttering thing, that’s probably the first thing.

Streamlining how you’re using social media, or how are you accessing social media rather, and being more mindful of making sure that it has a purpose when you’re using it.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t allow yourself just to log in for the sake of it because you enjoy doing it. By all means, do that. That’s why I keep logging into TikTok.

Control Your Feed

Once you’ve figured out which platforms or which apps you want to keep, and you’ve streamlined the purpose behind you’re using social media, the next thing is to start getting better control of what’s showing up in your feed.

And Facebook and Instagram are both, to their credit, pretty good with letting you block out or filter out things without creating a ruckus.

And when I say creating a ruckus, that means we’ve all got that one friend or relative or whatever that will post epically long rants on a daily basis. And whether you agree with it or not, it is mentally and physically, mentally, and emotionally draining.

But then if you unfriend them or block them or remove them, stop following them, whatever, they’ll know, and you will get, a long abusive message or something.

We’ve all got at least one person like that on our social media. So if you just want to save yourself the hassle then sometimes this is just easier.

On Instagram, you can mute people. On Facebook, you have fairly good controls over what shows up in your feed.

So that gives you better control over those.

Twitter does let you do that to some extent as well. As far as I can tell, it’s not quite as intuitive.

And it doesn’t result in the rest of your feed being more tailored based on what you’ve said about the content you do or don’t want to see, but it’s starting to bring in those features as well.

The one that bugs me a lot is YouTube because you can’t block a channel. And as far as I’m aware, you can’t stop a specific channel from showing up in your search results.

YouTube is a little bit of an outlier in that, but I’m guessing I may have missed something or they’re probably working on bringing those features in.

I’m still kind of working my way around Pinterest. Email, of course, you can set up smart inbox rules so that if you get messages from certain people, they can automatically go to another folder or straight to your bin or whatever you want to do with it.

So that brings me to my last ones – LinkedIn and TikTok.

LinkedIn as a broader social network for professionals, it’s still relatively new. So they’re probably still working on the feature set. But while I’ve realized that if someone in my network likes a post from a certain page and I don’t want to see that I can’t hide or block that page.

I have to unfollow the person that’s in my network or just hide that specific post.

And then if for whatever reason, you don’t like a brand that they keep liking the posts of, and you don’t want to keep seeing it. You have to unfollow that person. There’s no way to stop anything about that page showing up.

And the last one is TikTok.

When you first join TikTok all the content shows up in what’s called the “for you page”, which is almost like an Instagram explore page, but it is where most people spend their time.

What shows up on your “for you page” is largely based on what’s trending close to you, what’s trending more broadly, and all mixed in with posts from some of the bigger accounts. It almost acts like a showcase for TikTok more generally.

And as you go through the “for you page” and you engage with content that shows up, TikTok’s algorithm will start to show you more and more of that kind of content.

So one thing that’s really important to do here is if there’s something that you don’t want to see or a user you don’t want to see, when that video shows up on your “for you page”, press down on it, wait for the pop-up to come up and press not interested.

And then you can either hide this type of content, hide content from the user or hide content that’s using that particular audio.

So that’s an idea of how you can control what shows up on each social network so you can manage it a lot better and not get drawn into that negative side of it.

Don’t Take Recommendations

And the third thing was a recommendation, which I saw on the social dilemma.

So this recommendation was basically never to watch or never click on something that just shows up as “recommended” by an algorithm.

We’ve all been there before, where we’ll tap on something on the Instagram explore page and you can keep swiping up and getting more related content. You can be on YouTube and you’ll see recommended videos show up after the one you’re watching is finished playing.

Same thing with Facebook Watch. They’ll show you the video. And then as soon as it’s done, it’ll automatically swipe up itself to the next video.

I think the idea behind deliberately not watching recommendations is that you stop the algorithm. Not stop it, but you mislead it.

Then if you keep doing that long enough over a longer-term it’ll stop showing you relevant recommendations.

Whatever information you fed the algorithm, it’ll be skewed a little bit. So it’s not going to keep drawing you into watch another one of their recommendations, which was based on your past behaviour.

how to do digital declutter

Wrapping Up How To Do A Digital Declutter

So that’s my three steps.

I feel like I waffled a little bit and maybe it wasn’t as clear as it could have been, but:

  1. Make sure that you find a purpose every time you’re using social media or using an app. And then if not, then try and streamline, how are you doing it so that you can still be present on there, but maybe not let it be as disruptive to your day.
  2. Start to get better control over what shows up in your feed so that you can actually enjoy the experience and not get drawn down that negative rabbit hole.
  3. Stop giving the algorithm what it wants. So avoid recommendations, avoid suggestions.

Just watch the thing that you set out to watch or engage with the piece of content you said about to engage with.

And then stop. So the algorithm doesn’t get enough information, or it gets skewed information from you and you can’t over the long term keep getting drawn into the recommended viewing or recommended content.

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