Give your social media the ladder check

There are positive aspects to social media, definitely, but it can also suck away a lot of your time, motivation, and positivity. So how do you balance it?

First of all, you do balance it. You think about how it impacts your day; what the impact of different services have on you; how you feel depending on what you’re encountering in your timelines. You deserve to have this part of modern life feel good and help you be who you want to be, whether that means you end up engaging with social media a lot or not at all.

Think about different ways of using social media as ladders. There’s the short ladder that gets you out of a hole, that helps you break your isolation. That can be a really good use and if you’re going to use social media at all, make sure the services you use and especially the list of things each is showing you meet that basic requirement.

Looking down through a hatchway to a metal utility ladder that leads up out of an underground chamber. Another ladder leading up is in the foreground. All the metal in the image shows heavy use, with its orange safety paint worn away where feet tramped up and down.

This can be a very difficult minimum standard to maintain on services like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that don’t give users control over what appears in their timeline. If you’re seeing promoted posts or viral content instead of the posts of the people you care about, reconsider your use of that service; its interests do not align with yours.

Even on services like Mastodon or Discord or Slack, where algorithms aren’t obscuring the posts of those you follow, examine what is appearing in your timeline. Many excellent people you like a lot do not feed you what you need or want.

Unfollowing isn’t rude; it’s self-care.

Unfollow that funny friend who’s burbling constantly about a new hobby in which you have no interest. Turn off boosts from that one who’s boosting magazine-loads of content into your timeline. Filter out keywords. Drag all your little-used Discord channels atop each other to create a server folder. Mute channels you don’t actually care about keeping up with. And especially turn off notifications; everything on social media can wait until it’s a good time for you to have a look.

The short ladder can be your friend. It’s good to have a way to climb out of your own head and make a connection with others, find a laugh, and be reminded of interesting things to learn or ways you can help in the world.

Old color photo of two wooden ladders in a room with built-in wooden bookcases, wainscoting, sedate wallpaper and a balcony (presumably with more bookshelves). One ladder is just four steps for reaching the top of the shelves at the ground level. The other is thirteen steps and has a handrail along the wall side.
from Het Utrechts Archief catalog number: 21516.

The next ladder is the one that gets you out of your bubble. Follow people who teach you about stuff you want to understand better. Let real voices of other people’s lived experience help you unlearn your biases. Follow people who are elsewhere in the world and see how life in different countries can be different. Follow hashtags which bring images of landscapes different to your own and gain a window on the world. Bonus points for places with very different climates and opposite hemisphere views of the seasons. Let this mid-size ladder be the one you use when you’re feeling good but need inspiration and insight.

Black and white photo from the 1940s. A person with short wavy hair and a mustache stands on a ladder while painting kettle drums in a stylized mural with a piano, sheet music, a microphone, and various wavy lines and geometric forms.

The long ladder is generally to be avoided. When you’re up at the top of it, you mostly see other people balancing at the top of their long ladders, trying to achieve the greatest visibility, but constrained in their choices and distanced from normal life. Don’t fixate on follower counts or other metrics; keep your life goals oriented to what you’re doing when you’ve stepped away from social media.

Black and white photo of an incredibly tall ladder leaning against a sizable church. The ladder extends well above the tall chimney and the roof of the church, with the vertical line it forms drawing the eye up past the church buttresses and tall narrow stained glass windows, across the tiled roof, to the person nearly at the top. A bird flies by below the level of the person.
from Het Utrechts Archief 406502

If you find social media eats up too much of your time, prune and prune heavily. Use fewer services. Follow very few accounts. Find interface preferences and apps which let you view just your follows and don’t automatically display the stream of activity and trending posts. You can like people and subjects and services and still not give them more of your time than you want to allocate in your day. Prioritize your real priorities, and configure things so the easiest thing to do is support them.

Make it easy to keep the ladder short; just enough to trot up out of your hole and then move on in an enlivened mood.

Use the tech that brings you value

… and use that tech in a way that brings value to the people you use it with.

Hello, Rocketboom viewers!

Twitter is good for keeping in touch, but be sure to populate your list of friends you follow with only those whose updates you really want to see.

Also, you don't have to get every message sent to your phone or IM client. As a quick thermometer of what a group of people are up to, the web page view is a nice service. Brief, frequently silly, ignorable as necessary.

If Twitter isn't for you, you can probably get a similar effect from your Flickr contacts page or blog post titles in an RSS reader.

Bottom line: just because you're friends you're not obligated to keep up with the entirety of each other's electronic output.

Public Thanks

Say thank you today. Even if what you want to thank is big and a bit abstract.

Here are a couple lovely examples of grateful writing from the wonderful and deeply lamented Leslie Harpold. It's nice to think of her in the sort of Heaven she describes.

The Thread that Runs So True (Some of what the web has taught me.)

The web is made of people holding hands for safety muddling through the
mazes of life, love, work, success, failure, and everything in between.

Possible Scenarios for Heaven

The novel you wished would never end doesn't and peonies bloom year
round. You are encouraged to watch movies from an oversized bathtub.


Thank you everyone for a great year exploring Discardia. Your comments and emails have been so encouraging and I'm really happy with the way I've been able to bring these principles into my life and to share them around the world.

Writing for a whole year on a single topic was a crazy idea and I'm so grateful for the way you've cheered me on and kept me at it. I hope you have projects that blossom this way and get to stretch yourselves too.


You'll probably see posts from me now and then – I've got the Discardian life fully under my skin now and I'm loving it, so I bet I'll have new things to share – but there's no predicting when. Keep me in your feed reader or check back every month and see if inspiration has struck me.

I encourage you all to keep exploring Discardia and finding ways to make your lives richer with less in your way. It's been great to have your voices joining into this grand idea.

Thank you.

And happy discarding!


Sorry for the late post today, gang, but I was off last night having dinner with friends and then going to a biiiiiig party (the EFF's sweet 16 birthday bash!) and chatting with tons of my online friends I don't get to see face to face often enough.

This weekend grab you friends and go do something fun. Go to parties [Happy Birthday, Matt!] and visit favorite haunts.

Now's the time to pick up the phone or open that chat window and say "hey, whatcha doin' this weekend? Let's hang out!"

Seasonal Flavors

This past week I've really been enjoying the delicious flavors of January in the northern hemisphere.

Sounds odd? Not at all.

It's a good time of year for root vegetables – slow cooked carrots, parsnips & onions with rosemary, for example – and for deep green treats like Brussels sprouts – the best ever of which I just had the other night at Cav on Market Street in San Francisco and which were cooked with cider, I think, to take off a little of the bitterness.

It's also a perfect time for baking – breads, pies, casseroles – and soup-making.

Mmm, and time to break out the aged treats – cheeses, wine, cured meats, pickles, jams.

What good flavors can you find in January where you live?