Remember when opening up social networking apps was exciting? Now, all your friends seem to post about is politics/their baby/their side business/what they’re eating. The good news is that the best social apps go way beyond your friends and family – there’s interesting content out there if you know where to find it.
Instagram is a good app to start with: of course, you can sign up to follow people besides your immediate social circle, whether that’s a celebrity who inspires you, a sports star who entertains you or a comedian who makes you laugh. In fact, you could fill your entire feed with people you’ve never met in real life.
There’s more though. Open up the Explore tab in the app (the magnifying glass) for some inspiration – websites, channels, pets and fictional characters have Instagram feeds. You can find feeds full of gadgets, movie scenes, or people buying paper roses on the New York subway. If it interests you, you can find an Instagram feed about it.
What’s more, Instagram lets you follow hashtags: from the Explore tab, type in a hashtag, then tap the Follow button (you might want to scroll through some of the more recent posts with the hashtag, just to make sure they’re what you were expecting).
Instagram hashtags. Screenshot: Gizmodo
Instagram will sprinkle a few posts a week from your chosen hashtag into your feed, depending on its popularity – obviously, the more commonly-used hashtags would overwhelm your feed if every single one appeared, so the app uses a bit of algorithm magic to give you the selected highlights.
On hashtags that aren’t so popular, you might see more or even all of the posts, so choose your hashtags wisely. Have a look at the hashtags other people are using and you’ll soon get a feel for which ones might be good to follow – and of course, you can always tweak these over time as well.
When it comes to Twitter – which is a very broad church, as you’ll know if you use it – some of the same rules as Instagram apply. You can follow all kinds of interesting people besides folk that you actually know, whether it’s journalists on a beat that you’re passionate about or musicians you’re into (the less famous the artist, the more interesting the Twitter feed is the general rule here).
Twitter profiles. Screenshot: Gizmodo
And Twitter goes way beyond people of course – you can follow lyric bots and famous landmarks, fill up your feed with short Wikipedia entries and Louis Theroux pitches, pore over the artwork of just about any description, and much more besides.
One of Twitter’s lesser-known power features is the way you can build up lists of specific accounts: these separate lists can be based around a certain set of people, or a particular topic, without cluttering up your main timeline. You don’t have to follow an account to add it to a list: from any Twitter profile page, click the three dots at the top, then choose add/remove from Lists.
To find your lists (and create new ones), open your Twitter profile then click the Lists button on the left. Lists can be public or private, and you can bookmark them too, if you want to jump back to them quickly – you’ll see tweets from all the accounts in the list, so you could have a list for comic book art, a list for gadget news, a list for entertaining videos, and so on.
TweetDeck columns. Screenshot: Gizmodo
You can do even more with Twitter’s own supercharged TweetDeck client. TweetDeck is based around columns that auto-refresh inside the browser. As well as having columns showing your timeline and any of your lists, you can also use them to follow hashtags and searches in real-time.
You might want to follow local hashtags, for example, or hashtags around movies, music and literature that you enjoy. You can keep track of job openings in your industry, or online competitions to enter, or scientific studies, all without seeing any tweets from your family and friends if you don’t want to... and all you need to get started with TweetDeck is a Twitter account.
Even the bloated, inane nightmare that is the Facebook news feed can be salvaged to some extent – you don’t necessarily have to wade through all the memes and political opinions and baby photos that your friends are posting every time you open up the app or Facebook on the web.
Facebook ‘friends’. Screenshot: Gizmodo
If there are people you want to (or have to) remain connected to on Facebook, but never want to see any of their posts in your news feed, go to the relevant profiles and click Following then Unfollow. You can also temporarily ‘snooze’ posts from a particular person by clicking on the three dots in the top right-hand corner of one of their posts in the news feed, then choosing Snooze.
You might have never come across the feature, but Facebook supports lists too – you can access and create them from here, and then bookmark them in your browser to see posts from just a selection of your friends rather than from everyone at once.
And, as on Instagram and Twitter, you can add much more to your news feed besides family and friends: tech websites you love, your favourite movie directors, museums of note, and so on and so on. These accounts can all be added to lists if necessary and unfollowed again if you don’t like what they’re posting.
In short, if your social media feeds are boring, you’ve really got no one to blame but yourself: with some careful pruning and tweaking, you might be able to make your social apps worth opening up again.
Featured photo: Erik Lucatero (Unsplash)