Part of the “Crazy” in Adrian’s Crazy Life is my interest in all things social media-related. Well, maybe “interest” isn’t really a strong enough word, although I don’t think I’m quite as media-addicted as some of my friends are. Some are completely glued to their screens no matter what the cost.
I think the reason for this is because social media is designed to be massively addicted and our brains simply aren’t wired to deny the lure of the constant reinforcement of Likes and Shares and funny videos, etc. It’s particularly harmful for pre-teens and teens because their brains aren’t developed enough yet.
Here are some tips specifically for teens – Get Your Teen Off Their Cell Phone – Cell Phone Addiction and 5 Tips to Get Teen Boys off their Video Games
I have some techniques that help me keep my social media activities within some kind of reasonable limits. Between my full-time job and all the dozens of other things I do in the average week, I just don’t have the leisure time to sit on Facebook or Twitter all day or check my Email every 5 minutes, yet I still want to stay connected and keep up with my blog and all the other fun stuff that is going on.
This means I need to be very strategic in how I use my time and attention. One way I do this is through the use of what I call “fences”. You know the old saying “Good fences make good neighbors”? That is absolutely true when it comes to social media. It’s all about putting a virtual barrier between you and the things that tempt you – like your phone, your iPad and your computer. Here are some of the tips that work for me.
1. Lock it up!
I bought a simple .99 cent pencil box – like for a little kid. When I have a big project at work and don’t want to be tempted to check my Emails or Facebook for a while, I just pop my phone in the box for an hour or two. It actually works pretty well. And I can always catch-up on Emails at lunch or on the way to the restroom – oops!
2. Post-it Notes
Another thing I’ll do is leave myself post-it notes – it’s almost like being my own Mom. It’s actually only fair because I leave them for everyone else in the house! If I have some housework I want to get done on a weekend morning, I will put a post-it note on my computer that says “Adrian is not allowed on this computer until 11:00 AM.” I know it’s silly, but it WORKS.
3. Turn down the fire hose – unsubscribe, cut back notifications
I also engineer my phone to work in my favor. I’ve shut off almost all notifications, so I’m only seeing the things I need to see. The only thing I allow to interrupt me is my text notifications because it’s usually my family. I also set up my mailbox and my Facebook notifications by priority, so I the important stuff floats to the top and I can ignore most of the rest of it. I use a service called Unroll.me to consolidate most of my shopping and notification Emails into one daily digest. Like everyone else, I get a ton of Emails in a day and that’s a great way to manage them.
Gmail also has some great features to be able to mark conversations as Important, Starred, or Not Important based on the sender. Emails from friends and family – Important, To-do items from Scouts – Starred, Facebook Emails from all my different online groups – Not Important, so I can dig through them at my leisure. Almost everything else goes into my Unroll.me digest.
4. Set a specific time to check social media
Another fence technique I use is to structure my time well. I think you just about have to when you are a busy working woman like I am. Even our weekends are super busy with multiple Scout and church activity every.single.weekend. So I have a few general rules that I live by. One is NO TV EVER in the mornings. Everyone in the house has some amount of ADHD and I view the TV as a huge electromagnet waiting to suck up everyone’s time and attention. So it’s just a no. Computers are the same, although I’d have to put their phones under lock and key to keep everyone from checking them.
In fact, I try very hard to segregate most of my online time for late at night, when my son is getting ready for bed and the house is starting to quiet down. We do manage to have dinner together almost every night and we usually will watch TV together for a while – we all have favorite shows that we love to watch together. That’s our relaxation and family time during the week. After that, it is “ME time” which usually means that I stay up ridiculously late to get my time in. It’s not great – I’m working on it…. But it is a good way to have some work time, some play time, some family time, and THEN some time for me to run my vast social media empire – ha!
5. Use your online time well and have a purpose.
Social media can be an enormous whirlpool that sucks in your time and attention if you don’t set strict limits on it. It’s so easy to end up reading post after post and following link after link. Pinterest is my favorite – I just love to sit on there for hours and pin all the pretty pictures. Sometimes I will set a timer to only allow myself a certain amount of time to spend on a particular site or doing a particular activity.
6. Use games in SMALL doses
Games are something I mostly avoid. I enjoy them as much as the anyone else does, but I know myself and I can get really sucked into them. I’ve played some of the online games in the past but honestly, they are so rigged and full of ads, plus such a huge waste of time, I finally gave them up completely.
I see people who are all wrapped up in Candy Crush or Words with Friends and I just don’t want to go there. I would much rather spend that time checking up on my friends and family on Facebook or updating my blog. If I really need a little veg time, I keep a couple of solitaire or Sudoku games on hand that I know I can play in moderation.
So, those are my tips. It’s definitely not perfect, but I think they work fairly well for me to keep my crazy life somewhat under control. What kind of strategies do you have to manage your online time?
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