I am a voracious user of the social medias. They are sweet, sweet catnip to the part of my soul that apparently is a cat. I am also introspective and suspicious. When you put that together I often find myself wondering: “How should one think about Facebook / Twitter?”
Facebook feels intimate by design, but I think this is a deception. We select what we share of ourselves on social media, whether we are particularly careful about the selection or not. In other words, we construct our social media ‘selves’ – they are a persona.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that this persona can’t or shouldn’t be true. Or even that it can’t represent our aspirations or our ‘better self’. It’s natural to post more pictures of when you’re dressed up going out to a fancy restaurant than when you’re binge-watching the new season of House of Cards at home in your jammies, eating heart-shaped Peeps you got on post-Valentine’s clearance. But I digress.
Recently I have discovered a tool that has helped me keep social media in it’s proper box. I don’t know if it can help anyone who isn’t as addicted as I am, but here it is just in case. The tool is a post scheduler. It allows you to drop in a bunch of posts in advance, and then it schedules them to publish at regular intervals.
The most common one is Buffer, but it’s focused mainly on business. I tried Twuffer and Circular and am using the latter for personal posts. It’s allowed me to make a number of subtle changes to my social media habits:
Helps escape periodicity. The web is full of interesting things, and its relentless pace (which makes the old television news cycle look glacial by comparison) exerts a subtle pressure to be the first person to share a particular thing that’s making the rounds. Using a scheduling service changes this around – if it’s not worth looking at in a few days, it’s not worth sharing now.
Provides an extra layer of self-censorship. I often start to type a tweet, or share something on Facebook, only to decide mid-way that it’s not worth it. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but for me it’s a regular occurrence – I discard dramatically more than I post. A scheduler adds an extra layer to this. When I see my upcoming slate of posts, which makes for even more opportunities to have second thoughts.
Gives a little extra distance. Facebook uses complex algorithms to determine how many of your friends will see your posts. The simplest version of this is that Facebook shows your post to a small sampling of your friends, and depending on how many of them interact with it they will then show it to a broader group. Sometimes when I post I find myself checking back to see whether people are responding. When I schedule my posts, I often don’t see them for hours after they’ve posted.
I’m trying to think of the Upworthy headline for this post, or the tl;dr version. Simple tool allows man to take control of his social media life or something like that. I think the ultimate triumph here is the discovery that you can nerd out about esoteric web apps and the examined life at the same time. It’s a new layer of cross-disciplinary nerdiness – the Internet is nerdiness all the way down.