Take control of your social media

Take Control of Your Social Media by Living an Examined Life 

I am not going to start this with a usual introduction asking you if your social media overwhelms you, causes you stress and anxiety, is taking too much of your productive time. 

The truth here is, unless you’ve consciously examined your usage, the chances are it does all the above. 

We are addicted to short, clickbait information, be it in friendship or in news. 

How many times do you see an article with hundreds of comments, only to realize that the comments have nothing to do with the article, but everything to do with its title?

How many times have you written a post on Facebook and added a picture only to see your friends commenting on the picture, but not on the text?

How many times were you forwarded fake, alarming news where accuracy was so simple to check, but whoever was forwarding it didn’t bother to check it at all? 

How many times did you feel down because of something you’ve seen on social media, be it someone’s sad story, a disaster or even someone you don’t like getting to take the  vacation of your dreams? Or living a life of your dreams? 

But hating on social media and still mindlessly consuming it won’t help us take control of it.

Deleting it probably won’t work long term either. Been there done that. You probably have too.

Examining the way we use social media and focusing on the value it brings us will. 

I hope you read along because I have struggled with this for years, I have asked questions of myself and others, I have researched, read, and I finally believe I’ve got it. 

If you don’t (yet) want to completely give up on Social Media, stick around and see if this can help you come up with your very own Social Media Consumption Plan.

I am going to make a bold claim here – by examining the value social media adds to my life, I have taken control of it. 

The Social Dilemma

I wrote this post before I saw the new Netflix documentary. Then everyone started talking about it, so I watched it before publishing this just in case they had something new to say. But the fact that so many people are talking about the documentary as though it were a revelation, just confirmed to me that I already knew.

Most of us mindlessly consume social media without really taking the time to analyze what it does for us, to us and why we are using it at all. 

The alarming nature of the documentary caused many worried announcements on social media among some of my friends along the lines of “they will no longer have my data.”

Were you really not aware of the constant exposure to algorithms that subconsciously influence the way we think, do, feel…spend?

Were you not aware of the anxiety, pressure, time suck, social media can cause? 

How about the constant exposure to fake news (because there is a flip side of that comment, literally EVERYONE has a platform to say whatever they want) that you have to now be aware of how to information check. And check everything. 

Although, admittedly, since I dove into the blogging world I am even more aware of it. 

Let’s put it this way – the documentary did not reveal a well-kept secret, it highlighted obvious challenges. 

Having said that, if this is something you have never thought about consciously, watching this documentary will certainly help open your eyes.

Answer These Questions First 

In taking control of your social media, it is important that we honestly answer a few questions.

  • How much time do you really spend on social media?
  • Did you answer that in numbers? Or was it one of those common answers I hear from my friends: “I don’t really use it all that much.”
  • What is the average time during the day you spend on Facebook? How about Instagram? (you can get accurate answers in numbers on Facebook now)
  • Do you have clear set rules on how you are consuming the content? 
  • Did you write down those rules by any chance? 
  • Have you thought about the ‘why’ of your social media? 

What is really in it for you? 

The urgency to take control of our social media consumption was already there a decade ago and it is now, more than ever, important to take an examined look at how we use it. 

Because as Annie Dillard said:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our life! 

Take Control of Your Social Media Feed

Taking control by measuring time spent on social media

There is so much content to consume that it can become all we do. And for many of us, it is all we do on the Internet. Many times, we don’t even search for a specific piece of information, we consume what is served to us.  

More often than not we don’t consciously create our social media feed, but instead we take in what is offered. 

“The majority of “the social” are merely consuming content — 68% of all socialites according to Forrester, simply listen, never saying or producing anything.”

That is a huge percentage considering that most of us sometimes post at least a picture, click a like button or share an article we like. 

What I often hear when I talk about this is the tone of helplessness, almost like we can’t do anything about it, we are forced to consume it. 

But you are not a content victim! 

You can actually choose what you see. 

Of course, there is that dreaded fear of missing out. So we continue following celebrities, influencers, people we don’t even like and whose posts do nothing for us. 

But just stop and think.  What value is being added to your life? 

It can be a famous footballer, or his wife, a celebrity, a real life friend you follow on Instagram, any other content you think you might need, like the news, or a literary magazine or a local charity organization.

It is important to analyze every bit of information you consume. 

Every. Single. Bit. 

Analyze your Consumption

I am saying this from a ‘been there done that’ stance. 

My sister thinks I take social media too seriously because I constantly analyze my consumption. 

But it is where I spend my time and I like to know exactly where that time goes. I am a working mother with endless interests, my time is precious to me.

Just like your time is precious to you.

You should make sure that you are aware of what is actually happening, where you are looking, what you are looking at. 

Now think about the questions I asked in the paragraph above. 

What do your metrics show?

If you can measure it, you can achieve it, they say. 

The iPhone’s Screen Time forced me to think about this even more. I had the desktop metrics set up years ago, but my phone was my black hole. I knew it, but didn’t measure it. 

Instead I used to implement  more drastic measures for my phone – I deleted social media apps and allowed myself to browse them in the not so great user experience mode, directly in my Safari. 

And I would delete the username/password right after every browser session to make sure that I didn’t make it too easy for myself to log in when I wanted to browse. 

Or I I had those dramatic announcements to everyone, such as the real life example below:

the actual announcement of taking contro of my social media
An attempt to take control of my Social Media

Of course, years ago, I removed all notifications from all social media so that any notifications only show when I open it.

Notifications are evil and they tend to cause so much anxiety. 

I am shocked when I see that some people still use sound notifications, too! Honestly, how does the constant beeping make you feel?

But on the flip side, I do love my social media, Facebook being my favorite because all my friends live there.  

(yes, yes, I am in that age bracket, I was there from the beginning of Facebook) 

My Why of Facebook 

I spent the past two decades working internationally and living in several different countries. I changed jobs several times, attended universities, schools and courses. I had hobbies and joined various groups, virtual and in person. And all this is where I met amazing people. Facebook lets me stay in touch with these people and follow them as they live their lives somewhere far far away. 

I can engage by likes or comments with people to whom I would rarely write an email, but still like to keep in touch with. After all, I am a networker. 

I can see what they post, where they travel, how their kids grow, what their current interests are. Yes, many times I also see what they had for lunch.

I don’t know about you, but I love being able to be a part of that. And I am honest about it. Honest to myself, I mean.

Note that I will mostly be talking about Facebook in illustrating examples, but the principles are the same for all currently available Social Media. 

And I would like to say ‘and future media to come’, but I am not that much of a visionary. 

Taking Control of My Facebook News Feed

Facebook almost always felt intrusive and my newsfeed felt disorganized and full of things I didn’t want to see. 

Like shares of catastrophic events, pleas for help and donations, conspiracy theories some of my friends subscribe to, horrible ways of human condition. Unfairness in the world. And friends who share 347 pictures in one Facebook post from their vacation with no other caption but Our amazing vacation. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t care about world events, human condition, donations to causes. I do. But like everything else, I like to explore these topics in a controlled way that is aligned to my conditions, and my own mind state at the moment. In other words, I prefer to control my News Feed. 

So one day, 5 years ago, after I had returned to Facebook from a month of exile I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I Thought About What It is I Want From Facebook. 

Like I said at the beginning of this article, with everything that we do we want to be sure we know our ‘whys.’ 

My First Why

My own number one ‘why’ of Facebook was to stay in touch with friends I wouldn’t otherwise stay in touch with for the sheer lack of time for an individualized approach. 

And I wanted it to be a place where I can enjoy interacting with friends in a positive and joyful way. To not burden anyone who is following my newsfeed with overly negative information of any kind, because I do like to do my activism in other ways, and not necessarily on Facebook. 

So my own rule is to never share alarmist, clickbait information 

(or if I do, to actually make sure it is true- and that precaution really is another post in itself). 

Actually, at the time of writing this, another blogger I follow had just written a post about how to make sure the information you share is true. I am happily linking it here because I wholeheartedly agree.

So all in all, I want my Facebook Profile to be a great space for me and my friends. A medium where I can freely share pictures of my private life, my children, etc. Things I would never share on my public accounts. 

One of my friends once said, “those pictures from my living room on Facebook are too intimate.”  Of course, if you share them with 2000 people. But I do not collect friends for Facebook, I carefully select who goes on there and who sees what. 

(yes, you can really do that!)

My Second Why

My second reason is the helpful groups I joined on Facebook that reflect my interests and engagement at the time. 

I’ve learned many things through Facebook groups and met many great people too.

My Third Why

And my third is that, depending on where I lived or am living, most local events are shared on Social Media. It is possible that I wouldn’t miss much because I can probably get that information elsewhere, but it is only my third why anyway. 

I Went Through My Friends’ List

First, I went through my friends’ list.

I had one rule of Facebook that I always kept – never accept anyone I don’t personally know in real life.

But I was surprised to find that there were still people there I didn’t recognize. I unfriended them and hoped they would not get upset if they ever noticed.

I organized the remaining friends into default Facebook lists.

taking control of social media through lists
Take control of your friends lists
  • Close Friends for some more personal announcements and pictures;
  • Acquaintances for everyone else;
  • Restricted for those who can only see your public posts.

(Restrict is is a great feature if you meet someone randomly, say 2 words to each other, they invite you to become their friend and you notice they have 1730 friends and realize you don’t use Facebook the same way. But you still don’t want to offend them by not accepting their request.)

You can also narrow it down further by creating your own categories. 

It took me days to sort this out, but once I did that, now I only need to maintain it. Every new friend goes into one of those lists. 

When I mentioned to my friends over a cup of coffee that I did this, I got comments like “where do you get the time for that.”

But as someone who is always looking for better ways to organize, I know that you must spend time to make time, it is as simple as that. 

I Took Control of My Actual Newsfeed

Now that I have grouped what my friends can see from me, I went on to decide what I want to see from them.

Take control of social media by organizing the newsfeed
Facebook (and other Social Media) have many features to help you customize your Feed

I went again one by one (manually!) and followed or unfollowed based on the information below: 

Follow: 

  • Those who share their personal lives on Facebook to any extent;
  • Those who don’t share anything about their personal lives but share interesting (to me), fun and accurate information.

Unfollowed (mostly) 

  • The sharers of bad news and frightening messages of impending doom on the planet who never share anything personal;
  • Those who share every single article that ever crosses their path and clutter my newsfeed. 

However, even the friends I unfollowed on my daily newsfeed, I will every now and then, manually go to their profile and see what’s new, leave a few likes if there is a personal post. 

They are all my wonderful friends, I love them and everyone is free to use their social media as they want but this is how I decided to make Facebook a joyful place for me to log on, observe and most importantly interact with my friends in a way that brings ME joy. 

A friend recently remarked that she sometimes sees my comments on Facebook and wonders how I can be bothered writing. But it is an interaction I am in control of and I love it.

I only see what I truly enjoy seeing!

Of course, the above may look quite different for you and it is important that you find value for yourself. 

I Took Control of Facebook Groups

I love Facebook Groups. They were helpful to me when I moved somewhere new to connect with, let’s say other mums, join a book club or any other interest I have and want to share with others. 

I went through all the Groups I was a part of, examined the value of them to my life, and stayed or left them.

Group settings on Facebook
Take control of your Groups by using these handy Facebook features.

Facebook has a great group feature where you see, follow and engage with all your groups in one place.

Your groups should be useful to you now. If they no longer are, just leave them. Think of it this way, you can always rejoin.

It is as simple as that. 

Remember, you are in control and should see only what you want to see. 

A Note on Facebook Pages

Now, many times I have liked a page to help out a friend. 

My friends have liked my blog’s page to bump my page numbers. 

There is nothing wrong with that. 

Or you have liked a page because you saw value in it back then but now you no longer want to follow it. 

You can of course unlike it and it is gone, but you can also unfollow it (but still remain liking it) if you don’t want it to pop up in your newsfeed. 

Love Your Social Media 

And just like that, my love-hate relationship with Facebook has ended. I am no longer its victim. 

I no longer have to delete the app from my phone. 

If Facebook starts advertising to me, I inevitably go though “I don’t want to see this” and believe it or not, after a while, it stops or at least becomes rarer. 

I thoroughly enjoy my Facebook experience now for what it was first intended for, to keep in touch with friends. I take value from the groups. And from announcements on local events on local Pages. 

Side Note on Facebook

I noticed that the millennials use their Facebook like they use their Instagram (or Linkedin for that matter), the more friends you have, the better it is. 

By doing that, I believe, you lose on the best of Facebook. 

Collecting kind of makes sense on Instagram, it is more public and those “followers” are not even called “friends”. The platform forces you to collect! 

But Facebook still has friends. And you can hide them from view (I do) so that those who aren’t your friends (or even those who are) cannot see your friends. I think that is a great feature and it doesn’t add to the ‘number of followers’ craze. 

Use the Principles of Clear Why and Clear Rules for all your other Social Media

After some brainstorming, here is what I currently do to take control of all my other social media.

I know, you may think it’s crazy, but I do consciously refine these processes continuously. And I really believe that you should, too. 

Instagram

Three years ago I temporarily deleted my Instagram account because it was no longer adding value to my personal life. And then I resurrected it when I started this blog. 

My account is public, open, and loosely connected to my blog, so anyone can follow me there.  

I mostly follow other bloggers and friends who are more active there than on Facebook. 

Like Facebook, Instagram also lets you adjust your feed. You can differentiate your close friends and you can follow but not have to see some accounts in your feed. In other words, you can “mute” them!

take control of Instagram's Newsfeed
Most Social Media have features that let your control your feed. Here is Instagram’s.

Linkedin

Your personal branding here. This is my standalone account. Just for work stuff. 

I did go all millennial on this one and added everyone I know and don’t know to reach that magic number of 500+ which makes your account look…better? 

More Serious? 

Like networking is your thing?

Honestly, I don’t use it all that much, but I do keep it up to date, you know, just in case anyone wants to check me out professionally. 

Twitter

This is my new baby and a good opportunity to connect to other bloggers out there. 

I signed up for it in 2009 (almost from the beginning!) but as it wasn’t widespread among my friends I never really used it. I resurrected the account with my blog in 2020, and changed my handle. 

But I realized I know nothing about how to use tweets and retweets. 

A few YouTube videos later and this post that explains the ins and outs of how to use Twitter for bloggers, I am fully on board and using it with this single purpose. 

Although, admittedly, I don’t spend as much time on there as I would like to. It does often end in a time suck as I tend to follow and read other people’s posts with great interest a bit too often.

Pinterest

I was addicted to Pinterest when it was still an invite only app (bet some of you didn’t know about the invite thing!) and the content was real and useful.

Now it seems to have become more about blog/website/business promotion with little or no real substance to content. 

What I mean by that is click on any clickbait, pretty pin and, more often than not, it will take you to some add ridden post, listing 10 generic things on how to do something, content recycled over and over hundreds of blogs and businesses all trying to sell you the same thing. 

Now, I am trying to create pins for my posts and send them out there, just like everyone else. But, as a user, who used to spend hours pinning, honestly, I don’t find that it adds value to me anymore.  

At the moment. 

I am old enough to know that things change and to never say never. 

But as my husband (who doesn’t use Social Media) remarked the other day when he was searching for something and Pinterest pins kept popping up leading him to articles he did not want to see, he exclaimed, exasperated “How do I turn off this damn Pin Interest.”

That about sums it up. 

Final Takeaways

So there, with some (significant) time investment and purposeful examination, you can take control of social media by making it add value to your life.

Because let’s be honest, you probably won’t leave it for good anyway.

At least not until they come up with something that will replace its value to certain big corporations. 

I hope we will avoid it becoming like the episode of the Broken Mirror that has frightened me the most.

Vow to spend that time and thank yourself later. 

Social media is no longer just a mindless fun activity you do when you are waiting or on your break. 

It has the potential to seriously impact your life and make you feel inadequate, jittery and like you are not living your best life.

Don’t let it. 

Examine and keep reexamining, take control and notice your feelings the next time you scroll through your feed. 

Do you feel joyful, neutral, do posts from a particular person make you experience an emotion of envy, jealousy, sarcasm?

Remove them from your newsfeed even if it is your friend and go have a cup of coffee with them instead. Or call them up. Or just let them be. 

But don’t force yourself to look at anything that doesn’t add to your happiness level. 

You want to vibrate happily. For yourself. 

If celluliteless celebrities make you feel lacking, unfollow. You won’t miss out. 

It would be worst of all, to let it consume you without being aware of what it does to you.

If the time (and emotion) you spend on goes unchecked while you have only consumed and not enjoyed yourself.  

Take Control of Social Media Recap

How to Take Control of Your Social Media Summary

  1. Remove Notifications

    Remove all notifications from your Social Media, both on your phone and your desktop. Remove any email notifications you may be receiving from your Social Media, including “notify me when I am tagged in a post.”
    You can see all of these once you consciously decide to open and take a look.

  2. Figure Out Your Why

    What is it that you want from Social Media, what value does a particular Social Media adds to your life. (do this for all Social Media you are on and using frequently)

  3. Go Through Your Friends/Following Lists

    Do this step manually, go through it one by one and add to categories such as described above. Unfriend, unfollow, restrict, mute everyone and everything you no longer need or want in your virtual life (your News Feed)

  4. Maintain the Lists

    Every new follow or friend should go on one of the lists. Every now and again analyze your Groups and feed from Pages and unfollow, delete or leave.

  5. Does it Still Spark Joy?

    I am going Marie Kondo on you here, but always, monitor the way you feel when you are on Social Media. And if it is anything other than pleasure and joy (ok, neutral is allowed, too) unfollow, unfollow, unfollow.

  6. Remember That Your Are In Control of Your Newsfeed

    Your are not a victim of Social Media. Spend time to adjust your NewsFeed to be just the way you want it to be.

  7. Monitor Your Statistics

    I aim at no longer than 30 mins on Facebook a day as a user. Sometimes it is longer, it’s ok, as long as I understand why.
    Most phones and apps have these statistics embedded and will monitor them for you.
    Find out where they are and check them frequently.

  8. Remember: How You Spend Your Days is How You Spend Your Life!

    Take control!


If this post was useful to you, please consider sharing it with your friends. Much appreciated!

And please do let me know in comments if you have any other suggestions. How do you control your social media?

Social Media Consumption Plan

41 Comments

  1. Stela, this post is truly worth a share. I could relate to everything stated herein. Social media is seriously causing me stress n anxiety. I need to examine my activities for sure. Thanks for this self-realization.

  2. I think if you use it properly, you can reap its benefits. It’s usually trial and error as the algorithms change frequently. You need to also dedicate specific time to avoid anxiety.

    1. Author

      Yes, it is absolutely important that we take time to adjust it to add value and not consume it mindlessly.

  3. Thanks for sharing the settings option. I never would have think to do to that to check my consumption

    1. Author

      It’s such a useful feature, isn’t it! I make sure to check it often.

  4. Now that we cannot live without social media it’s kind of interesting for us to find ways and to keep track of all our activities. For me, I have eliminated some and focus maybe on Pinterests and Instagram lately 🙂

    1. Author

      Yes, that is also a good plan, to focus on one or two.

  5. I watched the Social Dilemma too. It was eye-opening, but not necessarily surprising. I guess it just was surprising as to how extensive the damage and addiction has been. And I have the same rule as you about not friending people I don’t know.

    1. Author

      That rule really helps make it feel friendlier, doesn’t it?

  6. LOVE This post. Social media has more of an impact than we all think and yes it can make you anxious at times xx

  7. Your suggestions ate really good.. Social Media plays a very important role in today’s life, social Media are web-based online tools that enable people discover and learn new information, share ideas, interact with new people and organizations. It has changed the way people live their life today, it has made communication much easier.

  8. Thank you for reminding us that we have full control of our choices. The way the internet works, it preys on our instincts, not allowing us to flex our self control and discipline. I like your comprehensive post.

    1. Author

      Absolutely. So glad it resonated with you. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

  9. Hey Stella, thanks for linking my blog post here, I appreciate it very much, and I am touched!

    I never knew that Pinterest was an invite-only platform. Wow, talk about exclusive! Instagram is my biggest distraction, and I have deleted it off my phone for about ten days now. I realized that I was using it for almost an hour every day. Can you believe that???

    And it’s funny how you read my mind because I was thinking about writing a blog post on social media and my time away from Instagram too. I will link your blog post to mine when I do get down to writing it. Thanks for sharing, have a lovely day, Stella!

    1. Author

      Looking forward to reading your posts in any case. They are well researched and relevant. And I always learn something new. I was happy to be able to link your articles because they really fitted in nicely to the points I was making. (trying to make 🙂

  10. I agree with that the we must learn to take control of our social media usage. I believe that we must be intentional when using it and not simply use to when we are bored or just to pass time.

    For the past 5 years, I have devoted my time learning more about digital and social media marketing that it shifted my mindset to use it to something more productive.

    For personal use, I agree with you that we can clean up our newsfeed and learn to unfollow and let go of people who’s post do not help or contribute to us in a positive way.

    1. Author

      I agree with you, Clarice, controlling our usage ad being intentional in the end is what comes down to.

  11. I think that it is so important to take breaks from social media. I find that when I take a break from it, I feel so much better. I have had to delete so many people, and just let go. It really has helped.

    1. Author

      Yes, absolutely, in the end monitoring our use is and taking a break every now and then to live in our reality is important.

  12. This encouragement to use the “take the bull by the horns” for social media is terrific. As you rightly point out, this is an exercise or method that looks different for each based on individual goals for each platform. For ex, I avoid deleting folks with vastly different viewpoints from me (esp political), & whose content reflects this, for the purpose of awareness.
    It certainly is handy that we are increasingly able to leverage platform features (for me the Mute button is a happy medium!) Your FB customization knowledge is A+!

    1. Author

      Lol, thank you so much. And yes, that is such a great point, not deleting people with vastly different viewpoints from your own for the purpose of awareness! Spot on! It really makes sense.

  13. you did a great job and i am sure it made you feel better. I love it that you made a system and put everything under your and your alone control

  14. This post is really helpful, there are some great points. Thank you for sharing.

  15. This was a really informative post. I have been cleaning up my social media for the past week or so. It was just so cluttered and then watching The Social Dilemma did not help. LOL

    1. Author

      Thank you so much. Yes, we need to spend time to make it work just for us. Good luck!

  16. My social media doesn’t spark joy all of the time, but I use it for my blog and Instagram is a big part of my blogging as well so I kind of need to deal with the negativity it can cause some times.

  17. You are so right, we can always have the choice to control what we see and how our life works with social media use. Being a victim is only another excuse for not doing anything that could prevent being a victim. We always have a choice, and sometimes lots of choices.

  18. This is such an informative post. It made me think about my social media usage and it’s consumption. I am guilty of ignoring my Instagram account…I need to set my social media priorities right. I love Pinterest and I feel that it is one of the best social media site.

  19. Some great tips on social media use. Personally, I only have Facebook and Twitter, and I think it helps me to not have Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and all the others as well. That way, I can make my Twitter account good but I don’t have to spend all day going through my social media accounts.

  20. I have such a love/hate relationship with social media. I know it is important for bloggers and influencers, but it can also be a black hole. I’ve also hidden my friend list from everyone else, and unfollowed more than a few people. I have family who simply can’t stop posting negative political stuff constantly, so I’ve unfollowed. Hiding people and ads is like a “de-cluttering” for my phone, head, and even time. Doing all of these things you talked about does wonders for our minds. I love that you’ve also made an effort to really take control of your time on social media! Everyone should read this and do the same thing.

  21. The struggle is real! Examining the why really helped me back when I had postnatal depression. I realised I was just seeking an ‘out’ of a situation I couldn’t cope with. I spoke to my husband when I finally got help and real-life day time meetings with friends, family (or on my own) in nature and nourishing environments helped me lots – and the need to flip on to FB just evaporated! I still use it, but not in a toxic way.

  22. So true, but too much work for me. But happiness is how you deal with the cards you are dealt in life. Deflection, consumption, etc. I try to ignore the negative. But again, no one makes anyone do anything, this goes without you react. You are in 100% control.

  23. Working on social media makes it much more difficult to take that much needed time away, however, there was one thing that made a BIG difference for me. I downloaded a Google Chrome extension called ‘Kill News Feed’. It allows me to go on Facebook, post, and actively choose to visit the profiles of those that I’m interested in but removes much of the distraction by removing the newsfeed option. You have to choose to see someone’s content. I know that won’t help everyone, but I LOVE it!

  24. Love your comment and insights about “taking control” – while our lives are now evolving around social media, we should be able to harness it and make use to our own benefit 🙂

  25. Such a helpful post. We can’te live without SM.I have recently gotten into figuring out Pinterest.

  26. You are right. I myself spend a lot of valuable time just scrolling feeds on Facebook & Instagram. Your tips seem helpful. I’d definitely give it a try!

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