Social media: websites, not a lifestyle choice

When’s the last time you heard someone say “[ site X ] is so addictive, you go on for just one minute and you lose an hour!”.

If you, like me, have found yourself saying something like this but then also wishing you had more time to do things like learn a new skill, spend more time with friends or family, then the following trick might help you out.

For me the worst offenders were Twitter, Facebook and Imgur. Others that I know people get addicted to are YouTube, Reddit, Wikipedia etc. The common thread to these sites is that they’re not created to solve a problem or help you complete a task, they’re designed to be browsed. Much like a casino, they are also designed to keep you where you are and to keep on browsing making the site owners more money every time you see an advertisement.

Let’s get it clear, I’m not saying that these sites are bad, they’re very enjoyable and I still love visiting them. What I’m going to argue against here is that they can start to control when you visit them.

These sites send you notifications. To your phone, email even by SMS. Also, because there is no goal to these sites, there is no point when you’re “done”. There’s no point you reach when you’ve “finished” reading Facebook, you can always post something else or reminisce about that great party you were at. This is why these sites can take up so much of your time. If you want to get that time back and still enjoy these sites, I recommend the following.

Notifications

Turn these off, right now. Turn off notifications on your phone, turn off email notifications and turn off SMS notifications. These are the worst offenders for taking up your time. They demand your attention right now. They ask you to stop doing what you’re doing and potentially lose another hour swimming through their site achieving not very much in real world terms.

Skimming

You do not need to read everything on these sites. That guy you met once at that party, he got a new pair of shoes? Who cares. This doesnt affect your life in any way and you’re going to forget about it tomorrow. I recommend you reply to people who have contacted you and then take no more than another five minutes to skim the rest of the feed. You aim here is not to read everything. You aim is to, as quickly as possible, run through the feed only slowing to read when there is a post by someone that you would meet regularly or is important to you. This way you still keep up to date with friends, but don’t waste time on things that aren’t important.

Make time

You dont want to completely just vanish from these sites however. You do still want to keep up to date with friends and know what’s going on. That said, you dont want to waste an hour again. So, the solution is to set a time limit. Give yourself 15 minutes ( even this I think is a bit long ). 15 minutes once a day to check up on your social media is more than enough. In that time you can reply to anyone who has make contact with you and you can skim your timeline. Eventually try 10 minutes every 2 days. Keep checking these sites less regularly till you find a balance that works for you.

Use idle time

Even better is to carry out this time limited check when you have idle time. I try and do this on the train to work. The journey is only about 15 minutes, so I have that long to check my social media. That means I’m then done for the day and can apply myself better when I have more active time at work or at home. You could also do it in a queue, during your lunch break, waiting for the bus etc.

I estimate that, using these techniques, you can save yourself at least 3 – 5 hours a week. I certainly have. Think of all the things you could do! I’ve been cooking more, exercising more, spending more time with friends and even wrote a little book, something I’ve wanted to do for years but have never felt I had the time.