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The Minimalists
The Minimalists are Emmy-nominated Netflix stars and New York Times–bestselling authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Alongside their podcast cohost, T.K. Coleman, this simple-living trio helps millions of people eliminate clutter and live meaningfully with less. Learn More.

How The Minimalists Are Using Social Media

Have you ever quit social media for an extended period of time? How did it change your perspective?

After using social media almost every day for the last seven years, we decided to walk away for a month to see what would happen. So, on December 31, 2017, before the ball dropped, we deleted all our past tweets and Instagram photos, we ceased our Facebook and Pinterest activity, and we uploaded a cryptic video alluding to our disappearance.

Then we were gone.

And now, a month later, we’re still alive, and we’re entering February 2018 with a blank slate.

During our month away, we learned some important lessons. And we unlearned a few bad habits. Most important, we discovered a need for us to use social media differently going forward.

Lessons Learned

Purpose. For us, once we’d created a blank slate, the purpose of social media became evident: communication. Not to sound overly simplistic, but we want to use these platforms to effectively communicate our thoughts, ideas, and creations, and engage our audience directly with questions and answers—not broadcast our every thought. Social media can be a noisy place, and we don’t want to add to the noise—we want to whisper to the people who are listening.

Mindfulness. Whenever an activity occupies much of our mind, we need to take a step back and assess whether it’s worth the time we spend on that activity. Our friend Jessica Lynn Williams, who helps us organize our social feeds, discovered an important insight without the pall of social media in her everyday life: “Stepping away from social in January gave me the clarity of mind to see ‘the asshole in my mind running amuck’ (as Dan Harris says), and it has prompted me to adopt a regular meditation practice, which is something I’ve been afraid of for a while. This will be the year I take back my mind.”

Augmentation. We want to use social media to augment our creations—blog, podcast, books, films—not as the main platform on which we create. While we’ll be active on the different platforms, it’s worth noting that the best place to follow The Minimalists isn’t social media; the best place to follow our creations is by subscribing to our blog or by subscribing to our podcast (or both). Social media will simply append those platforms.

Unfollow. Whether it’s celebrities on Instagram, friends on Facebook, or news outlets on Twitter, the folks we follow often negatively affect our moods. We get caught up comparing ourselves with others, we get dragged down by naysayers, and we start twitching for 24-hour “breaking” news. Whenever this is the case, it’s best to unfollow those negative influences and instead curate a feed that includes people and brands who inform us, challenge us, and improve us. Letting go of the negative is the only way to make room for the valuable.

Value. As The Minimalists, we’ll post to social media only when it will add value for others. Before we publish to any platform, we must be able to affirmatively answer one question: Does this add value? If not, then delete.

Unlearned Bad Habits

Idiots. If the purpose of social media is to communicate with other humans, then we also must be careful with whom we engage. People find it easy to be keyboard crusaders, interactions with whom are rarely productive, so it’s important not to engage with the snarky critics, because this isn’t for them. Hence, if you’re a seagull, you’ll be blocked without discrimination, and you won’t be unblocked—ever. We have a renewed desire to communicate with our audience and a new vigor to avoid arguing with idiots.

Pacifiers. By removing the social media apps from our phones—which often pacified us whenever we had a silent moment in an airport, waiting room, or other interstitial zone—we learned that new pacifiers always appear. If you get rid of Facebook, you twitch for Twitter. If Instagram is gone, YouTube steps in. Two thousand years ago, the Stoics complained about people getting lost in books instead of going out and experiencing the real world. Today, we complain that nobody reads books anymore because everyone is lost in the tempting glow of their screens. Whether it’s books or social media we get lost in, we must work hard to use these tools deliberately to help us function in the real world—not remove ourselves from it.

Promoless. There’s too much “branding” going on these days. No, there aren’t any advertisements on our website or podcast or social media feeds, but even we have been guilty of too much self-promotion getting in the way of our own creations. Perhaps Derek Sivers said it best: putting ads in your work is like putting a Coke machine in a monastery. We feel the same about all the shameless self-promotion that’s going on these days, including our own. It’s solipsism run amuck. We’re pledging to remove the Coke machine from the monastery immediately so you can better enjoy what we’re creating and sharing without the promotional eyesores. Yes, we’ll occasionally talk about what we’re working on—including events, books, and projects—but we won’t let it get in the way of what we’re creating. If anything, promotion should be similar to the end credits of a film, not the main plot.

Triplicate. Over the years, we began using the different social media platforms the same exact way, which, when you think about it, is insane. It was a digital version of those old carbon-copy forms from decades past: post a photo to Instagram, repost it to Twitter, and then re-repost it to Facebook. Lather, rinse, repeat. Triplicating our efforts isn’t only tedious, it’s the opposite of using these platforms intentionally.

Using Social Media Differently

Because each social media platform is different, we want to use them differently—not as a carbon copy—so we’ve decided to focus on the specific strengths of each platform by identifying their primary and secondary uses. These changes should help us avoid creative overlap and will allow us better communicate with our audience as a result.

Facebook. We’ve found our Facebook audience engages most with the articles we post. Thus, we’ll use our Facebook account primarily to share useful links, be it our essays or others’ articles. Secondarily, we’ll use Facebook to publish short Audiograms and photo albums from past tours.

Twitter. Twitter is the best platform for us to share our text-only Minimal Maxims, so that will be its primary use. Secondarily, we’ll use Twitter to communicate directly with our audience: the brevity of this platform makes it the best place to interact with other people, so if you want to interact with us directly, Twitter is the best place to do so.

Instagram. Instagram is undoubtedly the best platform to share photos, so, going forward, we’ll use IG primarily to share beautiful black-and-white images. Secondarily, we’ll use the ephemerality of Instagram Stories to broadcast updates, current events, ephemera, and useful excerpts from our blogposts and podcasts. And we’ll occasionally use Instagram Live for unplanned live broadcasts, which are deleted after 24 hours.

Pinterest. Pinterest is the Internet’s corkboard, so it’s ideal us for us is to share letter boards that contain challenges and simple-living reminders from The Minimalists. We’ll also use our Pinterest account to repost photos of minimalist living spaces.

YouTube. Since YouTube is the premier video platform, this is where we’ll publish videos created by The Minimalists. This will be especially relevant when we add a video version of our podcast later this year. Secondarily, we’ll use YouTube to post other video creations: video essays, web series, and scheduled livestreams.

You’ll notice our absence from most social platforms: Snapchat, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Ello, Google+, Periscope, Flickr, Reddit, Quora, et al. That’s not because these services aren’t useful; they simply aren’t useful for us right now.

All things considered, we hope to use our new strategy to creatively add value to people’s lives. This is our recipe, and it isn’t ideal for everyone. Truth be told, it might not be ideal for anyone but us. And even then, we’ll likely adjust how we wield these tools after using them differently for a while.

No, we don’t expect you to follow us on every platform. Hell, we don’t expect you to follow us on any platform. But if you find value in what we’re communicating, feel free to join us on our new journey. And if you ever stop finding value in what we’re sharing, please unfollow us at anytime.

P.S. Ella will continue tweeting her beautiful nonsense as usual.