Use social Media Without Begging for Friends

Several weeks ago, I embarked on a journey I’m calling UNsocial networking, which is networking online with out the social obligations. So, with a brand new online profile I started trying nearly every major social network (and a few minor ones), online forum, and mobile app out there that focused on social networking.

In order to make the cut for this list, the network had to meet at least two of the following three criteria:

It needed to be grown-up friendly. I don’t mean “adult,” as in nekkid pics or erotica. I mean conversation that is interesting to someone who is no longer in high school. Simply requiring users to be 18+, or over a certain age didn’t do the trick. The content of the posts and discussion needed to be a little more complex than endless emo laments about about out who has offended whom and why.
Speaking of content, that’s what I wanted to focus on — content — not how many people I could get to friend me back to make myself seem more influential.

I needed to be able to access, update, comment, and edit my posts using via my mobile, either with an app or the mobile version of the website.

So I won’t waste your time with the networks that aren’t working for me right now. Let’s just talk about the ones that I’m learning to love — either for the first time, or in a whole new way.

Medium

Surprise! Yes, I found medium through a Twitter post by Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) on Twitter. It took me awhile to understand it, but it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite sites. While it still lacks mobile flexibility (I’m an Android user), it definitely meets the first two criteria. The content is definitely substantial, and you couldn’t follow other users if you want to. Instead, you follow “collections,” which focus on content.

reddit

Yes, this one definitely fails on #1 — the “grown-up” requirement, but it’s great for getting quickly getting news and opinion about tech and pop-culture. Rather than following each other, the users subscribe to sub-reddits which are very content oriented. And the mobile version of the site is very user-friendly.

Twitter

This network is great for users of all ages, and it’s so huge that it’s easy to focus on the content that appeals and ignore the content that does not. Posts are only 140 characters long, so the content is not very deep, but during certain parts of the day, the pictures and links are just perfect. There are so many Twitter apps, that it’s hard to imagine anyone can’t find one that will work beautifully on their phone or notebook. To find great content, simply use the #hashtags, the search function, or develop a private list. I avoid the “follow back” trap by quickly blocking then immediately unblocking anyone who follows me — this keeps my follower/following counts to zero, hopefully offending no one (at least not seriously).

(Edit 05/07/14: The private list thing isn’t working as well as I’d hoped. I’m not following people whose tweets I have favorited. This idea IS a work in progress, after all!)

Facebook

Yes, I know, all of the cool kids are bragging about how they’ve quit Facebook. I’m weary of it too, but I can’t seem to quit it altogether. With a brand new, clean profile, I’ve been very deliberate with my privacy settings. To avoid the “begging for friends,” trap, I only allow “friends of friends” to send me friend requests (and then I don’t friend anyone). Instead, I follow pages and join groups that interest me and participate in the discussions there. The mobile app is also great, so basically this meets all three criteria.

Google Plus
Yes, I realize it is a major social media faux pas to be a fan of Facebook AND Google Plus, but I’m going rogue for this project. Speaking of breaking the rules, I’ve also broken one of my own for this one, and followed a few people. This is because the main feed is based on both circles and communities, and it just works so much better if you have the people you really want to follow in your “circles” . I still only follow people if I really like what I see on their feed, and want it in my feed as well. I’ve just been so impressed with the people I’ve met on there — mostly through the “communities” feature. Again, the mobile app works great. So this one meets two-and-a-half of my three criteria.

So there you go. I’ve (almost) broken the follow-back cycle, and I’ve freed up the time I would have spent mindlessly following people back just because they followed me. I’m now actually able to read entire articles, and comment and discuss. It’s making social media seem almost…what’s the word…er, social(?!)

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