Let’s admit it. Social media is an invisible leech.
It sucks our time and attention while distracting us from what matters most—loving God and others. We know this, of course, by way of experience. We endlessly swipe on Facebook and Twitter—knowing that we should probably be doing something else—but the allure of the “new” and “exciting” has us hooked. Before you know it, you’ve wasted another 15 minutes chasing what you’ll never grasp in the land of likes and retweets: significance.
So, what do we do?
After all, social media can be helpful. We can share meaningful content, keep up with family & friends from a distance, and keep up with the latest happenings all over the world. Personally, I find social media helpful for recommending books, posting articles (like this one!), and keeping up-to-date with friends. For me, the question isn’t should I use social media?, but how should I use it?
I’ve spent years trying to figure this out. Between reading books, talking to people who seem to manage social media well, and trying different methods, I finally found a strategy that worked for me.
1. Remove all social media apps from my phone.
Not having social media available on my phone helped me 1) eliminate more notifications and 2) make it a little more difficult to access social media whenever I want (instead of one click, it might take four to five). Plus, I love having a “minimalist” phone.
2. Limit social media use to a specific time frame.
After reading Cal Newport’s excellent book on technology, I made the decision to limit my use of social media to a specific period of time. I choose to only use social media between 9:00-10:00am and 6:00-7:00pm each day. Limiting media use to two, two-hour blocks helps me to be focused in the early morning (time for reading, praying, reflecting), afternoon (working), and evening (time with family, household projects, writing). On average, I spend about fifteen minutes on social media within each one-hour time block.
3. Unfollow everyone.
Instead of wasting time scrolling through tweets and pictures from people I really don’t know, I decided to personally curate my media feeds.
- Facebook: I “unfollow” people I don’t want to show up on my newsfeed. I made the decision to unfollow everyone except my wife. This helped me 1) have no reason to go on Facebook because I can’t endlessly scroll and 2) be more intentional about why I’m logging in to Facebook in the first place (e.g. looking up a friend’s page to see what they are up to, checking Marketplace, etc.).
- Twitter: Since “following” someone on Twitter is a bit like “friending” someone on Facebook, this one is a little tricky. All you have to do is 1) “mute” people you don’t want to show up in your newsfeed, 2) create a private “list” and include people you want to show up in your newsfeed. I only follow five friends on Twitter.
- Instagram: I have yet to find a way to create a curated newsfeed on Instagram. I don’t use Instagram all that often, so I don’t feel an urgency to figure this one out, but if you have ideas send them my way!
4. Take extended breaks.
I’m not great at this, but I try to take a week-long media breaks every two months. I always go into the media break feeling nervous and leave it feeling refreshed. If you’ve never done this before I recommend starting with a one-day break. Turn off your phone (if possible), deactivate your social media accounts, and enjoy a day (or seven!) of screen-free time.
Instead of social media using you, start using social media. Develop a plan. Think through a strategy. Tell a friend who can keep you accountable. Be intentional with your media use.