America Has a Fresh Start. Your Social Media Feed Should, Too
As someone who called, volunteered, and voted to get Donald Trump out of office, the start of a new administration should be a relief, a moment to celebrate. And yet, for all the inauguration-related euphoria online, my Twitter feed is still bringing me down.
For four years, I operated under the assumption that there was a non-zero possibility of the president announcing a nuclear attack via tweet. To cope, I’d built a follow list of politicians, writers, and pundits who made me feel sane. They made jokes, called out Trump’s outrageous behavior, made sure every sinister detail of his decisions was brought to light. But now that we’re officially entering a new era, the same people who got me through the presidency won’t let me move on.
I don’t believe that a Joe Biden presidency means we can totally relax and check out. But I can admit that continuing at the same fever pitch is unproductive. I’ve let my feed get too crowded, so a tweet about how “X” is good is immediately followed by someone else’s tweet about how “X” is actually bad. Arguments seem to be more about policing the emotions of people responding to the news than the people making the newsworthy decisions. I’m in a social media paralysis. If I curate my feed to be kinder to my mental health, am I choosing ignorance? Am I a good person only if I keep subjecting myself to an online community that makes sure I never feel hopeful?
You can’t pour from an empty cup. If logging on saps my energy, it’s not shameful to cleanse my social feed. In fact, it’s imperative.
I’ve come to think of it as rebuilding my feed to meet the new era. I took a look at popular “cleansing” techniques, like the KonMari method and the Elimination Diet, and thought about how they can be applied to a digital world. Here are the steps I came up with.
Ask yourself: What does your ideal social media feed look like?
I want a space that inspires. I want to replace doomscrolling and snarking with diverse and entertaining voices that are contributing something valuable. I want to hear from the politicians I trust but not get totally caught up in the sniping and frustrations that they, not me, were elected to endure. I want to see more from my friends and less from strangers.
Prune the accounts that don’t fit this ideal.
My vision immediately eliminated a host of bloggers. Media people who cope with the news using sarcasm and negativity—that may be valid and helpful for them, but not for me. This includes accounts that thrive off political theater: the Lincoln Project (not that I ever followed it—their tweets just infiltrated my feed), Sarah Cooper, anyone who quote-tweets with “THIS” or “Welp” or the professional title of the person whose tweet they’re sharing to emphasize just how Bad or Significant something is.
Mute the ones you’re unsure about.
I don’t need to follow every single news outlet. I can pick the ones that I’ve found to be most comprehensive, like The New York Times and NPR, as well as local news reporters who are on the ground in my actual community. But that’s a pretty strict media diet, and there may be a day when I want to read another sweeping Atlantic pandemic prediction or, God forbid, whatever Fox News is talking about. Until then, they’re getting muted.
Seek out the voices you’re missing.
At this point, things are pretty pared down, and it’s tempting to leave the feed in this slow, quiet space. But I still want my social media to be useful. I want to prioritize the voices that guided us through the tough times, like LaTosha Brown, the cofounder of Black Voters Matter, who knocked on doors to get out the vote in Georgia.
I want to make sure I’m still aware of what’s happening on the other side of the political divide. NBC’s Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny are two of the most sobering and important follows when it comes to how the right is behaving online, specifically the QAnoners.
I want to fill my feed with writing from outside the mainstream, from small publications like gal-dem and Salty, which are lifting up nonbinary voices and women of color. I want to follow creators like producer Yessica Hernandez-Cruz and the North Carolina clinic defenders on TikTok.
Check back in in three months.
Like the sweaters I couldn’t fully part with and stuck under my bed, I can wait a few months and ask myself questions about the accounts I was following. Did I miss them? Did I purposefully seek them out for any reason? Or did I not even notice they were gone? Start reintroducing the things that sparked—well, maybe not joy, but sanity. And leave the rest.