Written by monthly contributing writer, Trina Holden.
My addiction was out of hand. Though I knew it was unhealthy, I indulged multiple times a day, couldn’t go 24 hours without withdrawal symptoms, and constantly made excuses for my habit.
My vice? Social Media. This tool – wonderful for networking, business, and ministry – was taking more from me that it was giving. It was stealing vast amounts of time and leaving me stressed and burnt out. I knew I wasn’t the only one with this problem (I could name plenty of people who were worse than me – one of my many excuses!) but I didn’t know what to do about it. I needed to use this tool – how was I to keep it in balance?
Then I heard about a friend who took a month off Facebook. Just the thought of such a sacrifice caused my typing fingers to start twitching nervously. That was a sure sign to me that my addiction was out of hand and needed to be addressed. So, I took the plunge and – without even saying goodbye – I gave up facebook for a month.
It was an incredible season, opening my eyes to all I was missing in real life when I let myself get sucked into the virtual, synthetic “Home” of my facebook page. Facebook seems designed to distract, to never let you finish a thought or task, with so many links on every page pulling you further and further into its time-sucking, mind numbing, stupor inducing grasp – Ahhhh! Taking a break helped me regain vision and balance in my online time.
Even as I realized the need to stop letting facebook use me, I was learning how to use social media to market my business, glean valuable information, and find mentors for everything from blog-building to mothering. In fact, since my fast, I’ve re-entered facebook, joined twitter, and am more committed to my online presence than ever. This presents the challenge of staying in control even as the opportunities to get sucked in and waste time have multiplied. It is a constant battle, requiring regular re-evaluation and lots of prayer, but I’m committed to the challenge of finding balance in this media-saturated world.
Here are some practical ways I manage the tool of social media…
- I only visit my personal Facebook page three days a week. Do I miss stuff? Yes. Has it killed me? No. As fun and fascinating as facebook can be, I’ve never read anything I couldn’t live without or couldn’t have learned by calling a friend.
- I do the same thing with Twitter – every other day. Another incredible tool, another dangerous time-waster. I figure, if something is really good, it will make it to my feed eventually.
- I read my favorite blogs through an RSS feed (essential for saving time) and constantly sift through the blogs I subscribe to, keeping to a lean list of the very best blogs for me to expose myself to in this season. (Lindsay taught me this)
- At least once a week (usually on Sundays and lately, at least one weekday) I stay off the computer for the entire day. I schedule posts for my blog in advance, and let email go for a day. This gives my mind a chance to breath, refreshing and sharpening my vision for all areas of my life.
These simple boundaries have been very effective in keeping my online time balanced and productive. I’ve experienced much personal growth in the past year, due in large part to my online mentors and research. Also, my schedule has been freed up to invest in real life relationships. After, all, that’s what we’re really called, to, right? Besides the pivotal relationships of being a wife and mother, we need the honesty, accountability and fellowship of real-life friends. Face-to-face trumps facebook every time.
- Just for a day – Track how much time you spend on facebook or your favorite forum or networking site. List 3 things you would rather have done with that time. Tape the list somewhere you can see it whenever you log on.
- Do this test – scroll through your RSS, Twitter, or Facebook news feed and take a survey of all the the news that is actually relevant or of personal interest to you. Take it a step further and judge how much content actually enhanced your relationship with God or inspired your unique calling or passion.
- This week - Choose one of your online friends that you have an email or phone number for (or live within driving distance to!) and make the effort to contact them on a more personal level. See what kind of fun and fellowship ensues!
- Take a trip – go to a really popular blog in a niche you enjoy. Take the time to check out the links the author recommends. Compare the enjoyment and input you receive from purposeful reading to an hour of casual blog-hopping or browsing your facebook feed.
It is my desire that my computer time glorify God. It’s so easy to lose sight of that goal and slip into casual interaction and low quality input. I pray these tips can inspire you to use the internet wisely, to build up your home and deepen relationships.
What do you do to keep perspective, manage your time, and make the most of social media?