Social discipline — gaming social media to minimise exposure

Harry van den Bergh
3 min readSep 29, 2020

I think everybody who saw the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma has at least thought about their usage of social media. And how much we are exposed to the tactics of social media companies. While we all think about deleting our accounts every now and then, there are still a lot of things we do not want to miss. The tactic of social media companies is to keep us engaged as long as possible so they can present you maximum advertising, which is their main source of income. You can game these companies by limiting your engagement to what you actually want to do on their platform. Instead of going in the rabbit hole and never come out. Here are a few tips that helped me:

Facebook. Originally we all loved Facebook. It was a great way to stay in touch with friends & family. But over the years when starting to friend people less related or interesting and following companies & brands, the timeline between cluttered. And it became more difficult to distinguish between advertisements and posts. My suggestion is to get back to this small group of people you are really interested in. Leave all groups. Unfollow companies. Unfollow people that are not interesting (you don't have to un-friend them, un-follow is an easier approach) My timeline is back to a small number of posts every day. And which such a small number of posts, it's easier to recognise (and ignore) advertisement or sponsored posts.

Instagram. That's a similar approach. Limit the number of people you follow. Follow only the companies or brands that you are really interested in. And ignore all sponsored posts.

Twitter. If I had to select one social platform to stay on, it would be Twitter. Very often Twitter is a great source of news or updates on any of my interests, whether that is music, technology or food. But I absolutely dislike the Twitter timeline, with the algorithm that determines which posts I see. And the load of advertisement. The best way around this is to create Twitter lists. I have a list for every subject I am interested in. And when you read these lists with Tweetdeck or Tweetbot instead of the standard Twitter client, you do not see any advertisement. With Tweetbot even your timeline is chronological and without adds. Sorry Twitter if you do not make any money on me (however if you come with a valuable subscription, I will be happy to pay)

Youtube. No platform has more irritating advertisement than Youtube. And it is hard to ignore. I do so often see the same advertisements that I really started to dislike some of the brands. So it looks like the adds worked out negative, since I will never buy these products. A way to go beyond the adds is to watch Youtube videos with a watch it later app. I am using an app called Pocket. You save the video, and watch it in the app. Youtube is very dangerous when it comes to endless watching and jumping from one video to the other. The best way around this is to look only at your subscriptions. Ignore the recommended videos on your Home screen. Don't ever click on Trending. and turn off Autoplay. Simply going through your subscriptions, save the videos you want to see in Pocket. And watch it from there.

Pay for your content. Although the advertisement based social media is hard to ignore, there are some alternatives. Medium for long reads. Substack for newsletters. Pay for quality newspapers. More and more services are moving to a subscription model, away from advertising. If you pay for your content, you are the customer and not the product. Personally I think (or hope) this is going to be the business model of the future.

Turn off notifications. Define your own moments when going to your social media. Don't let the notifications pull you in. Turn them all off.

If you limit yourself with the steps provided above, going to Facebook or Instagram once or twice a day will only cost you a few minutes. And with Twitter lists you can easily ignore the type of information you are not up to (no technology news today, only food & recipes) A little discipline can give you back a lot of time.

Easy? Probably not. Worth the effort? Definitely.



Harry van den Bergh

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