Want to Rein in Social Media? Don’t Post about It!

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Last fall, CNN posted an article which argued that if you tell people you are trying to lose weight, it can actually make it harder to succeed.

Problems with Losing Weight

There are certainly some great reasons to talk with a community about weight loss, diet, and exercise. Accountability and encouragement are really important, and yet some doctors have found that there are reasons why telling people about your weight loss plans can backfire:

  1. Friends will be resistant – Dr. Jon Walz says that when it comes to weight, we usually choose friends in the same range. As you start to change you’ll fall outside your friends’s range, and they will tend to be resistent to this even if unintentionally.
  2. Reporting intentions messes with your drive – Dr. Peter Gollwitzer, a professor of psychology says that goals (like losing weight) require an “indicator of accomplishment” (like praise from a friend). But when you tell someone that you’re going to lose weight, they often give you praise immediately and that short circuits the drive to continue.
  3. Noticing is Better – The other factor is that it is much more powerful for someone makes an unsolicited comment like, “Wow you look great – have you been working out?” than if they followup on a previous conversation saying, “Looks like you really followed through.”

So what do these doctors recommend for weight loss? They say you should not tell anyone until you’ve hit your goal.

Problems with Losing Social Media

When I read this article, it seemed obvious that it could be applied to social media. We’ve all known a guy or gal who announces on twitter or their blog that they are “taking a break” from it all. Inevitably there are lots of comments and feedback, some of it in praise, and perhaps a few negative ones. It seems to fit the pattern of

  1. Friends will be resistant – Since we all know that overuse of media is a problem, very few people will probably be actively resistant. But if you’re really having a problem, announcing that problem using the tool that is contributing to the problem might perpetuate it more than help calm it down. The cynical, “You’ll be back comments,” probably won’t help your general mood about social media either.
  2. Reporting messes with you – Sometimes an online announcement can feel like you’ve actually done something. “I’m so over facebook!” we say, but then don’t follow through because the announcement itself and the subsequent likes and comments can feel like the kind of “indicator of accomplishment” that should happen after we’re finished. From the studies, it seems that the blog post about not blogging short circuits the intent.
  3. Noticing is Better – When someone posts about not posting and then later posts that they met their goal, it’s kind of interesting. But when I actually notice that someone changes their media habits, I’m much more inspired to do the same.
So the bottom line is that if you’re having trouble cutting down on media of any kind (TV, twitter, pinterest, etc.), the best advice might be to set your own goals, commit to them before God, and then don’t tell anyone for a while (especially on those media).
Then, once you’ve hit your target, let us all know!

Published by

John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at http://j.hn/.

4 thoughts on “Want to Rein in Social Media? Don’t Post about It!”

  1. Good insights!

    The title confused me at first; I read it as “Want to reign, in social media?” (as in, be a ruler in social media), but the meaning became clear soon enough.

  2. I’ve always admired this very quality about you when you try out new things. I remember the time you read your news via non-digital ways only. And you didn’t tell anyone until afterwards….the same with your experiment taking public transportation to work.

    Thanks for leading by example! :-)

  3. Interesting post, John. Excellent point… wish I had thought of this when I deleted a recent account. I think I’ll follow your advice next time, if there is a next time. Keep up the good work.

  4. Thanks for taking this opportunity to discuss this, I appreciate with this and if you have some more information please share it with me.

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