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Staying connected on a social media sabbatical: how I find interesting people to follow online while on a social media break

Here's how I'm staying up to date with my favourite creators-- without social media.

Elizabeth Butler
Elizabeth Butler
5 min read
Staying connected on a social media sabbatical: how I find interesting people to follow online while on a social media break

Table of Contents

Being away from social media isn't the same as a digital detox

I’m currently taking a social media sabbatical of uncertain duration. Some people may choose to take a social media sabbatical as part of a larger digital detox, where they step away from technology altogether for a time. A digital detox can absolutely be a useful tool– perhaps something I may consider myself down the road. But for right now, I'm still online, staying connected, and enjoying the benefits of the internet– just away from social media at the moment.

Even though stepping away from social media was absolutely the right choice for me in this season of life and business, I do miss the chance to discover interesting people whose work serendipitously crosses my Twitter feed. I think that one of the most wonderful things about the internet is finding new people with insightful ideas, as well as kindred spirits who can help us see topics we may already enjoy and appreciate through a fresh set of eyes.

With social media, it’s easy to discover new content and thinkers— people you already follow retweet or share content from their favourite people, and the algorithm serves up related content it thinks you might enjoy (with varying accuracy). As I’ve stepped away from social media, I’ve had to be a bit more intentional, mindful, and proactive in discovering interesting people to follow online without relying on the ever-changing Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook algorithms.

Here are the ways I'm staying connected (without social media)

In case you’re also thinking about taking a social media sabbatical— or just want to explore new ways of discovering fresh perspectives online— here are some of the ways I’ve been staying connected while away from social media.

Podcasts

My Overcast app is filled with an absolute plethora of podcasts— I love that I can multitask while folding laundry, or doing dishes, or commuting. When I hear a guest interview I particularly enjoy, I try to make a point of searching for other podcasts this guest has also been on.

(Side note: I will delightedly listen to any podcast Marie Poulin is on! She has the loveliest radio voice, so many brilliant insights on Notion, and just comes across as so warm and kind. Highly recommended! You can find a list of Marie Poulin’s podcast appearances here.)

I’ve had good luck searching OwlTail and ListenNotes to find other podcast episodes, checking the guest’s own website, or simply searching “guest name” (podcast OR interview).

Beyond just enjoying another interview with the same guest, I generally find that insightful, kind, interesting guests tend to be interviewed by insightful, kind, interesting podcast hosts. Who then also interview other like-minded guests. It can be quite the virtuous circle. So once I find a new podcast, I check out the previous guests to see if they might be someone else whose work I’d like to follow online.

Blogs & RSS feeds

As I mentioned in my original post on taking a break from social media, I’ve made a point to seek out the blogs from people I miss from Twitter. Almost every blog (whether on Wordpress, Ghost, Squarespace, etc) has an RSS feed available. Some RSS readers will find the feed for you, if it’s available, when you just plug in the main URL of the blog.

I don’t have to rely on spotting an announcement on Twitter or waiting for a weekly newsletter to announce that there’s a new blog post available— as soon as a writer hits publish, my RSS feed instantly updates and adds the post to my reading queue. I get a little burst of joy spotting a familiar name in my RSS reader, knowing there’s a new post waiting from that author for me to enjoy when I have time.

I find this a more relaxing way of consuming content from creators I enjoy. I no longer feel pressured to click through my feed, keep a tab open, bookmark the post for later, save it to Pocket, and wonder when I’m actually going to read it. My RSS reader (Reeder 5 is my current RSS app of choice) politely keeps all the posts waiting for me, ready for me to browse whenever I choose.

Newsletters

Newsletters are where some of the best stuff seems to get shared online these days. I make a point to sign up for newsletters from my favourite creators and thinkers. I’m still exploring the best options for streamlining subscriptions into a single app (experimenting with Stoop Inbox, Feedbin + Reeder 5, and Slick Inbox). On the upside, there’s a built-in RSS feed for all Substack newsletters so I can just add those right to my RSS reader.

Book authors

You know who generally creates some of the most insightful, well-written, useful articles? Book authors. People who have written books often run beautifully-written and curated newsletters and blogs. I’m gradually going through my physical and virtual bookshelf (plus my reading history on Libby for library books) to jog my memory for authors whose work I particularly appreciated. Then I’ve been searching for their own blogs or newsletters, then adding those to my RSS reader.

Old-fashioned internet surfing and rabbit holes

Remember when surfing the internet consisted mainly of going down one rabbit hole of hyperlinks after another? We would search for a term (on Yahoo or Altavista or Ask Jeeves) and then browse through related sites (anyone miss webrings?). It feels refreshingly old-fashioned, but this approach still works.

I’m used to taking this approach if I’m looking to the answer for a particular question, but it’s been great fun to simply do this intentionally, on topics that interest me more generally. I’ve found fascinating new people just by searching for terms that interest me, and clicking through to find blogs, articles, and newsletters published by talented people I’ve never heard of before.

Once I read through and decide I enjoy their work, I add the RSS feed for the author’s work (perhaps their blog feed or their feed for a newspaper column) to my feed reader above.  If you want to automate this process, you can use an app like Matter which lets you follow the work of a specific writer, across every publication, wherever they may publish.

Where to find the latest updates on Calmer Notes

Does my approach to mindful productivity resonate with you? Would you like to stay up to date with my work while I'm on a social media sabbatical? Here's how to stay connected:

Wishing you all the best in your personal knowledge management journey!

Mindful Productivity

Elizabeth Butler Twitter

Your guide to the world of note taking and mindful productivity. Creator of the Calmer Notes method for personal knowledge management. Physician, PhD, parent, tea drinker.


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