You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Think about that for a moment. The people you’re around the most influence how you think and how you behave. Their effect on you is subtle yet complete. Now think about Facebook, or Twitter. The friend who posts the most, or the content the social network’s algorithm throws in your face, becomes just like one of those five people.
Who you follow matters, because it changes you.
They Change Your Mind
The content curator controls the message, and in the same way, you are controlled and remade by the messages you allow in.
What you read changes your mind in obvious ways, presenting facts and allowing you to rethink and come to your own conclusions. What you read can also change your mind more subtly. In the same way that television shapes our culture by deciding what themes and issues it wants to present and how it wants to present them, we are shaped by what we don’t see, too.
A steady diet of only one perspective starts to make it seem like that’s the only one in existence. Your mind becomes locked in a way of thinking regularly supported by a dangerously one-sided scaffolding. A choir made up only of sopranos is not as rich as when the bass, tenor, and alto join in.
Find truly interesting people to follow, and skip the overly clever. Choose to allow a variety of thoughtful, high-quality perspectives.
They Change Your Attitude
Character is the result of two things: mental attitude and the way we spend our time. -Elbert HubbardClick To Tweet
I am always pruning my Twitter following list.
Sometimes it’s in response to people who tweet too much. Other times, it is because of the things that they say, tending towards negative or crude. Sometimes I wonder why I followed them in the first place. Perhaps someone retweeted a particularly good post, but overall their feed isn’t going to help. Maintaining a feed of people that aren’t only posting good links (instead of spraying the internet with a firehose of mindless social media marketing links), but are also maintaining a certain attitude has proven to be vital again and again.
Garbage in, garbage out.
If your social media feeds are a constant stream of negativity of inflammatory comments, you will become the same. Interacting with such posts will necessarily bring you down into the fray, and the more you become accustomed to a negative attitude the easier it is for you to have one of your own.
They Change Your Interests
One thing I've learned is surrounding yourself with inspiring people is now just as important as being talented or working hard. - Drew HoustonClick To Tweet
Social media is like a forced injection of outside interests, if you allow it.
It is not unusual to find a new book, album, or artist that I hadn’t been aware of until someone mentioned it in a social media feed. I’ve found essays and blogs that I immediately add to my regular reading repertoire. I’ve purchased books based on social media discovery. These are all things I would not have found on my own, likely.
If you’re following people who bring the cream to the top, you won’t regret it. Your interests will grow and change for the better with every challenging discovery.
Follow people who help you discover something new, and do the same for them.
Choose Your Change
There is great pressure to have an “open mind”, but even better is to have a mind that is thoughtful and has room for thought. In order to do that, you must enact some controls.
Choose what you want to fill your day with. Be honest with things that you don’t care to see or read if you notice they are setting you or your day on its side.
1. It is OK to be selective. Use the controls provided by the social network to strain out the content you no longer wish to see, and don’t feel embarrassed about doing so.
2. It is OK to say no. You don’t have to friend everyone, and you can always later unfollow. It isn’t a personal statement on you, nor on the person you choose to unfollow. Take control of what you allow yourself to be continuously exposed to. We could all use a little less drama or divisiveness every day.
3. It is OK to reduce your availability. It might sound counterintuitive to the idea of building your tribe, but locking down some privacy settings and using customized audience features allows you to control who sees your content and, in return, who will respond with feedback.
For some of us, allowing in too much without being selective has a negative effect. It can cause distraction, unsettled emotions, twisted perspectives, and skewed priorities. You don’t need to have the full firehose of commentary, opinions, and shared posts from every person you’ve ever known each time you login to Facebook or Twitter. It can become abrasive and wearing at times.
Take control over how you interact on your social networks. The networks may seem unimportant, but they have an impact on you in your real, day-to-day life.