One of my goals in 2015 was to put down my phone more – to stop mindlessly scrolling through feeds and apps as a way to put off things I should be doing, and to help me live in the moment more fully. I was moderately successful, although I need to keep working on it. But I noticed something as a result of being more mindful about my time spent on my phone and computer. I realized that not only did I want to disconnect more, but I want the time I do spend connected to serve me better.
I still think that it’s incredibly important to disconnect and to spend time offline — especially while spending quality time with the people in our lives. But thinking of myself as the “curator” of my digital experience (instead of just accepting whatever content and notifications I stumbled into receiving) helped me to feel better about the time I spend catching up with the digital world on my phone. The content I receive is now serving me, and helping me focus on my goals. And I practice constant vigilance – if anything appears that makes me feel bad, it goes — I cut off the source.
So how can we better curate our digital lives? To me, digital curation has two sides:
- Seeking out things that make me feel good and/or contribute to my well being and my short or long term goals.
- Getting rid of digital distractions, noise, and things that make me feel bad.
I started by thinking about my short term and long term goals, and then evaluated whether the content I engaged with daily supports those goals. Here are a few of my many goals, and how I approached finding content to support them.
- Goal: Stick to a budget and be more thoughtful about the money I’m spending. Eliminate impulse purchases.
- Digital Curation: I don’t need daily emails from the Gap, Anthropologie, etc. Unsubscribing from all these emails was liberating. I unfollowed similar sources of FOMO on Facebook as well.
- Goal: Be more informed about global news.
- Goal: Eat healthier.
Next, I reviewed everything by channel or type. I went through everything I interact with, and evaluated how it can serve me better. By eliminating things that make me feel bad, I don’t mean attempting to hide hard things so that I live in a world of rainbows and butterflies. I mean things that make me feel personally bad or unhealthy – making me want things I don’t need, or making me feel like a person I don’t want to be (i.e. a jealous or envious person, or a person who enjoys schadenfreude).
Here’s what I learned and changed:
There are several ways to “hide” email clutter – Unroll Me, Gmail inbox sections, etc. But I prefer the old fashioned way: unsubscribing. I like to have a manageable, clutter free personal inbox. I don’t like to feel like messages I might want are being filtered into places I won’t see them. So I’ve just drastically reduced the number of messages I receive, and now the number is manageable. If I don’t like a newsletter enough to want to know about it right when it arrives, I probably don’t need to subscribe to it.
App Alerts on your phone
I’ve found that just putting my phone aside — out of reach and distraction — is the method of detaching from my phone that works best for me. But I also went through the Notifications Center in my phone settings and turned off notifications from every app that I don’t want to distract me. I don’t need to know every single time someone likes a photo on Instagram, if Hipstamatic has a new filter pack, or if I can earn 3 bonus stars by buying a frappuccino at Starbucks today. They might not take up a lot of time individually, but it’s amazing how they can build up and even the attention devoted to seeing our phone light up and checking to see if it’s something important or not can create a significant amount of distraction.
Facebook can be so many things, and I think that’s why people have mixed feelings about it. People talk about quitting it, and some do, but I think most of them eventually realize that it’s still the best way to keep in touch with people you don’t see every day. Delete it and you’ll be months behind on much of your family and friend’s major news. But please: eliminate schadenfreude! Unfollow people who are posting things that don’t contribute positively to your life. Also: Facebook is constantly making tweaks that help you see the content you do care about – stay up to date on these and use them. (Last year they released the ability to set which people you want to see first in your news feed – this can help ensure you’re not missing photos of your niece or nephew, or a best friend’s adorable dog.) Make Facebook serve you, and you’ll enjoy it so much more.
Twitter was my most organized digital space before embarking on this curation quest. I’ve created Twitter lists for all the types of people and content I like to follow on Twitter so that I can focus on them separately: book bloggers, book publishers, travel sites, college football commentators, comedians, social activists and politics, Brooklyn news and events, work related accounts, etc. I use Tweet Deck to make viewing the the lists I want manageable.
I could go on and on about this topic, but I’ll stop here and open the door to keep talking about it in the comments. Is curating your digital life something you’ve worked on? How do you do it? What tricks do you have? What do you still need help with? Let’s discuss!