How I’m Using Social Media in 2018

A few days ago The Minimalists published a blog post explaining why they took January off from social media and how they are going to use them in 2018. I really enjoyed reading it and it inspired me to write something similar since I’ve made some quality changes during the last few months.

First of all, I’m one of those people constantly complaining about the algorithm changes, starting from Facebook back in the days to Twitter and then Instagram. I firmly believe it ruined the experience on those platforms, not just for me, but for all the people who don’t want to invest money in ads.

I used to open Twitter and scroll my feed to the last tweet missed being able to read what the people I’ve followed had written while I was away, I replied to tweets, retweeted some stuff and shared a couple of thoughts. It was nice, Twitter was the place where I chatted with like-minded people about Tolkien and Middle-earth, blogging and books. It was my favourite social media, to be honest. Now it’s a completely different experience. When I log in, I scroll my feed and I have to actually look for the people I’ve followed because it’s now full of sponsored posts, tweets from people I don’t know but that the people I follow liked and, the worst, they are no longer in a true chronological order. You can imagine that when you tweet a good old status like “I can’t wait to see Black Panther this week!”, nobody would notice in that chaos because your tweets now need to be visually appealing, containing a link, 200 hashtags, and so on.

Same thing with Instagram. I’ve read so many blog posts about the best strategies to “beat the algorithm” and they sound just too much for me. The most insane one I’ve read was that, in order to get more engagement on your photos, you have to be active commenting and liking stuff 15 minutes before AND after sharing a photo. Sure, engaging with others helps you to get more visibility on Instagram, but we have a life to live! And we can’t beat bots (that people hire to do the dirty work for them), so why bothering.

I’ve spent 2017 forcing myself to make it work for me and my blog, to still use social media to get visibility, in order to prove that on my résumé, to let people know that I can use tools like Buffer, Later and Hootsuite. But, in the end, it didn’t work and it deeply affected the way I approached my life online. It doesn’t matter if I was scheduling my tweets or my Instagram photos, I was still spending too much time online without even getting the results I wanted.

Taking a 48h break from Instagram during Christmas made me realize that the problem wasn’t the blog, the problem was my relationship with social media! Since then, I decided to take it easy, I was very stressed by my last University exam, some health issues and things like that and the fast-paced nature of Instagram (thanks to Stories) didn’t help me at all. I decided that, in order to follow my word for 2018, I’m going to take more breaks here and there more often. I already crafted two little rules that worked very well so far:

  • Don’t check social media before noon.
  • Take Sunday off.

Here is a more in-depth look at my accounts (maybe this will also help you understand where I hang ou the most).

Instagram. Let’s start from my favourite one. I used to participate in so many different challenges, take lots and lots of photos in batches and schedule them in order to always have something to publish every single day. It was just too much for me, so now I post when I have something to share and I try to not stress too much if I miss a post or two from my favourite accounts. Same thing with Stories. This is the best place to reach me out, after the blog, because it’s still the platform where I’m most active (except for weekends, you still have my Contact page for that). 🙂

Twitter. At the end of 2017, I had tons of applets on IFTTT to automate all the things, then I decided to quit and keep my profile only as a placeholder. Then I thought about tweeting the old way (in real time without scheduling nor automating) and, while I enjoyed it more than I expected, I felt like I was talking with a wall since the engagement was basically zero, meaning that my links didn’t even get clicked once, so what was the point of that? I blame the algorithm. To be fair, the only tweet that got some engagement was Tolkien-related and this means that 80% of my followers are still fellow Middle-earth nerds, so I should probably consider that in the future. For now, I will just automatically share my posts through WordPress (no more IFTTT recipes), but I’m not planning to engage there anymore, that’s why I removed the icon here on the sidebar. Last but not least, this is the platform that brings less traffic to my blog. It used to be the first one, but now things changed and so I think it’s useless for me.

Facebook. I deleted my “official” profile 3 years ago and I never looked back. Now I have an anonymous-ish one that I use to interact in a couple of Groups and to manage pages, including one where WordPress automatically shares my posts that I created solely to let people know that I have a blog if they visit my profile from a group (since links aren’t clickable in the Fb bio). I check it only once or twice a day just to catch up with Groups, so it isn’t an addictive platform for me anymore.

Pinterest. The only reasons why I keep it are: you can’t actually delete your profile, it brings a lot of traffic to my blog. Currently, I just use it to do some research and nothing more (it’s the best place to find laptop/phone wallpapers FYI). 😉

Goodreads. I still use it to read book reviews and find interesting readings, but I’m not sure if I will keep updating it, to be honest. I stopped joining the Goodreads Challenge because it gave me too much anxiety and, for now, I feel like a simple list in a notebook works well enough for me.

That’s it! Writing this post gave me even more clarity on how I’m going to approach my online life and helped me to finalize some points.

 

How are you using social media in 2018? I’d love to hear from you!

How to Create a Custom Productivity Dashboard with Milanote

Being myself a procrastinator (on recovery), I always tried to create a dashboard to be more intentional with the time spent on my laptop, you know, something like a single page to open on my browser with all the links to click in order to do what I have to do, without being distracted by social media and things like that.

I tried spreadsheets on Drive, Evernote tables, the Momentum Chrome plugin, and Trello boards. They were good solutions but none of them was what I was looking for. Enter Milanote*.

After watching Francesco D’Alessio’s review (and hearing positive comments from a couple of friends), I decided to give it a go and I’ve finally found the perfect tool to build my creative and productive dashboard.

My main board is where all it starts, it might look a bit chaotic at first, but I treat it like a vision board, adding new images according to my mood. But this is also where I keep my main links. For that, I create 4 different boards, about my areas of interest: University, my blog, the website I write for and Relax, which means the sites I like to check out during my free time.

As you can see, my University board is pretty minimal. I added a list with useful links I usually visit (my profile, my email, grades, news & info, and so on). I added a link to my Trello board because it’s where I plan my study. Google Drive is where I store all my files and documents since my University uses GSuite. The checklist is to keep track of the exams I still have to study for.

This is the board I created for my blog, it works as a dashboard, so I can see all the most used links all in one place. I’ll probably add notes with inspiration and screenshots of things I’d like to try in the future, but for now, I prefer to keep it simple.

Milanote* can be used in tons of different ways, it’s such a versatile tool, this is just how I structured it for my own needs. I can’t wait to try the Windows app because it’s only available on Mac at the moment.

 

*The link to Milanote is an affiliate one (to give me more storage). I’ll be very grateful for you using it. ❤

A Smartphone Packing Party

My very first smartphone was a second-hand iPhone 4 that I got for my birthday in 2013. A friend of mine was upgrading his phone and offered to give me his old one for free that Fall, I couldn’t be happier!

The problem was that I was starting my smartphone journey with a phone that was already old and made by a brand that releases new updates every few months and, being myself a tech gadget gal, it started to be an issue for me. In fact, 4/5 months in or so a new iOS update was released, but my iPhone was left behind, because it was too old and I ended up being stuck with iOS7. I had just discovered the world of apps, when I found myself not being able to download new ones because they required iOS8 or, the worst, those already on my devide stopped working (I’m looking at you, VSCO).

I LOVED all things productivity, project management and things like that, I didn’t care about games, I desperately wanted the newest version of Evernote or Snapchat filters (which weren’t supported by my old phone), but I didn’t have 700€ for a new iPhone nor less money for a cheaper smartphone.

Then, last Fall, my parents along with some relatives teamed up and I got a Huawei P9 Lite (much cheaper than an iPhone). I was over the moon! Not only I could install and try new apps, but the Huawei layout and laucher were very similar to the iPhone, even if it runs Android. And this is how it started my personal addiction to productivity apps.

I don’t even know how many apps I downloaded “just to test them out” on my phone during the last 9 months. I don’t even own a blog or YouTube channel where I do reviews all the time! It was my daily dose of instant gratification. Any.Do, Trello, Asana, Wunderlist, Todoist, TickTick, To Do, Keep…I tried them all. And every time I had to import all my tasks all over again, set up notifications, look for the perfect widget, decide how to set projects/folders/boards, and so on.

I was supposed to use those apps to stay productive, but this constant switching “just to test them out” ended up making me feel super unorganized to the point that I didn’t know where I’ve stored that specific information when I needed to find it quickly.

The last Android update brought to my phone a feature that surprisingly wasn’t included before: the app drawer, which is basically a single page with all the apps installed on your device in alphabetical order (it isn’t included in the iPhone as far as I know). It’s very nice to “hide” those apps you only use once in awhile and don’t want them to clutter your home screen pages. With this new feature, I started “hiding” the ones I’ve installed during the last few months just in case: the scanner app, Shazam, Pokèmon GO, that app for reminders I only used for one single medication, tons of photo editors, both Netflix and Amazon Prime (because you never know, you might need them!), and so on.

But just putting them away from the home screen wasn’t enough for me. I knew they were there and my phone memory was almost full, so I decided to take a more drastic solution and, inspired by Ryan Nicodemus’ Packing Party (the way he started getting read of things before becoming a minimalist), I deleted tons of apps. My personal Smartphone Packing Party. I only kept the essential ones:

  • all the Google apps (it’s Android, after all)
  • Instagram
  • A Color Story and Snapseed (to edit my photos)
  • Trello (I use it to collaborate with other people)
  • CastBox (for podcasts)
  • Dropbox
  • Instapaper
  • Facebook Lite
  • Litsy
  • Mindfulness
  • TV Time
  • WhatsApp
  • WordPress
  • WordReference

While I was playing around with my new home screen setup, I also ended up discovering new widgets. For example, I didn’t know that Drive has a built-in scanner feature (!), you only have to put the right widget on the screen and use it to scan documents. Same with the Google widget to recognize music, I don’t need Shazam anymore! Evernote was deleted too, but I keep using it on my laptop, the reason why I decided to not keep it on my phone is that I noticed I wasn’t using it at all while on the go, I prefer the big view on my laptop. Finally, all my reminders went on Google Calendar (long-term) and Keep (short-term). Following Ryan’s method, I’m going to reinstall the other apps only if I’ll realize I’ll actually need them for daily stuff.

I’m so excited to start this experiment!

Thoughts On Building a Healthier Relationship with the Internet

I recently started thinking about my (several) passions and the role they played in my life. When I was a child, my main hobbies were drawing and painting, and doing random craft projects inspired by Art Attack, in addition to playing with friends or alone. Growing up, I abandoned all the former (offline) hobbies and blogging became my new passion project, especially during highschool, when I discovered the web. But we all know that the internet is like a black hole, once you’re in, times flies and you can spend 3 hours at the computer without even noticing it.

Lately, I started missing my old hobbies, so I decided to be more intentional with my time online, because this instant gratification thing that social media give us is very bad for my ability to focus on one thing at a time for more than a couple of minutes, plus it’s unhealthy. I also realized something that made me freak out: I couldn’t even watch a TV show without checking my phone, it’s a bad twitch. It’s scary.
Here are some steps I took forward to have an healtier relationship with my tech during the last few months:
  • I check out Feedly only from my tablet. After abandoning Bloglovin’, I moved my list of blogs to follow over Feedly, which is more robust, has more features (even a Chrome extension) and it isn’t social. These perks, though, made me accumulate a ginormous library of sites and it was so easy to reach out the browser bookmark when I got bored at my laptop, because I knew there was always something new to read there. So, I purged my list and deleted the bookmark, using it only from the tablet app now, this means I can use it only when I actually have time to spend intentionally reading.
  • I save articles to read later on Instapaper. I love this tool, because it’s free and has a cleaner interface than Pocket, also it allows me to highlight quotes and save articles for future reference. It’s also a good way to properly read the articles and posts from my favorite blogs when I have time to dedicate them and leave meaningful comments.
  • I use the Medium app only from my tablet. I used to check Medium on my phone all the time, that site is the hub of productivity articles and I could spend hours browsing through the contents (very unproductive, I know!), but having it only on my tablet prevents me to procrastinate.
  • My tablet is my reading tool. I still use and love my Kindle ereader for books, but my 10 inches tablet is a nice companion and my mind associates it with “serious” stuff, because of all these reading apps installed and the lack of social media and games that might distract me. Also, I use it for taking notes at university, store articles, slides from my professors and so on.
  • The only social media app on my smartphone is Instagram. Well, I have Snapchat too, but I only use it to send silly selfies to my parents and close friends these days; since the launch of Instagram Stories, basically all the people I was following stopped posting on Snapchat.
  • I use Facebook like an hybrid version of Reddit. I deleted my actual profile 3 years ago and I created a new (secret) one that I use to manage a couple of pages and to interact inside groups, I don’t have any RL friends or family members there. Most people says they couldn’t leave Facebook, because they use it to stay in touch with people, well, I never used it that way, because I have WhatsApp for that purpose!
  • I don’t use Twitter anymore. During the last 6 months, Twitter became the hub of sadness for me, because of politic and negative tweets that come out every hour of the day. I started purging my following, create lists and things like that, but they are useless if even your friends share that stuff, so I decided to step away from that. I’ve set up email notifications for mentions and I have a couple of IFTTT recipes to share my latest articles and blog posts. I feel incredibly better away from that negativity.
  • I’m taking a break from Instagram challenges. I decided to try and stick with photo challenges for the last couple of years, because I wanted to consistently post at least once a day, but I didn’t have enough ideas to do that, so they were what I needed to keep sharing with consistency. I used Later to schedule photos to share at certain times and I had monthly lists of prompts on Trello. Now I am enjoying the app sharing photos only when I feel like it, even if I stay a week without posting.
Stepping away from all this, made le realize a couple of things. For example, I didn’t have a private hobby anymore, everything has been shared online. I started studying hand-lettering and calligraphy last year, but I stopped it eventually because I felt the pressure to share my progress all the time, because I thought people expected it. This sounds incredibly silly, I know, but this is how my mind worked. I definitely want to start this hobby again, but I won’t tell the world about it this time. Same with LOTRO, I felt the need to share my in-game experience because some players followed me back on Twitter, I even wrote a couple of posts here on the blog, but, to be fair, it wasn’t super spontaneous, I was, once again, feeling the pressure to let people know my progress.
While I was writing this post, a blogger I admire also published a recap of her social media detox, I think it’s an inspiring reading and I invite you to visit her blog.
I leave you with a quote by Alexandra Franzen:

Yet, in the midst of my tweetery, I often felt a nagging feeling inside. A voice asking, “Alex, is this really how you want to be spending your life-minutes? Isn’t there something else that might be a more meaningful use of your time? Wouldn’t you rather be walking outside, talking to your mom, writing a novel, having sex, working out, mailing a letter, volunteering, you know, all of those things that you ‘never have enough time’ to do?”

How I Use Google Keep As My Main Inbox

After the announcement of the upcoming Wunderlist demise, I started using Todoist for my daily tasks, I also moved there all my other random lists, but not having due dates, those tasks were a bit hidden to me, especially on the mobile app. Todoist is great if you basically only check the Today or Next 7 Days sections while on the go, but the rest of your projects aren’t immediately reachable, it requires too many steps for me to get there and this way I tend to forget about them. I know the desktop app is better and I use it to plan my week, but I mostly check Todoist on my phone.

That’s why I decided to use Google Keep as my main Inbox and Capture tool. The main reason why I love the app, in addition to the smartphone widgets and the Chrome clipping extension, is that, when you open it, everything is in front of you. Sure, you can archive notes (and I usually do that adding tags for things I want to reference in the future), but everything you add stays in this general space which is like an infinite inbox or, how I like to see it, a digital whiteboard full of post-its. You can drag and drop the notes, search them, and order them the way you prefer, but you can also pin them to the top or add tags to keep things organized. No notebooks, text formatting or similar though, Keep is super simple.

I started using it more and more after purging my accounts, because I wanted to simplify my life and it was nice having all in one place. I tried to use Evernote as my main capture tool for some time, because I wanted to take vantage of my Premium subscription, but, since I already used it as an archive for my articles and university class notes, I noticed the app was always working in the background using too much battery life and power of my smartphone. Google Keep, instead, is a super light app and works amazingly well on my Android devices.

Being able to add checkboxes and change the color of my notes makes Keep the perfect place for lists (grocery lists, book lists, movie lists, wishlists, you name it), for example, I share a note with my mom that contains the links to the websites of the cinemas we like, so we can easily check their timetables each week.

Other things inside my Google Keep:

  • ideas and random notes
  • books I want to check out at the library
  • articles I want to read later
  • websites to check out from my laptop
  • Instagram hashtags
  • photos of the products I have to buy (like medical stuff that are usually difficult to remember)
  • ebooks on my Kindle that I still have to use
  • drafts of articles
  • quotes

I usually process Keep once a day from my laptop and move tasks to Todoist, ideas to Trello and visit websites. But I don’t practice “Inbox zero” there, I still keep my lists for future reference, because, again, I don’t like the way they are displayed on Todoist. You can also add time/location based reminders (that are also connected to Google Calendar), but I don’t usually use this feature very often to be honest.

I couldn’t recommend this app enough, it’s free and connected to your Google account (so you don’t have to remember another password), it’s easy to use even for non techy people, it has a nice layout and it’s even connected to Google Docs.

If you like Google Keep, but aren’t still sure how to use it, I highly recommend this video, it gave me tons of inspiration.