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C’mon, You Know You’re Wasting Time on Facebook

C’mon, You Know You’re Wasting Time on Facebook

It’s 3:20 in the afternoon, there’s a 5:00 deadline and your colleague is on Facebook. It’s 2:20 in the morning, your best friend needs sleep but she’s on Facebook. Your cousin skipped lunch to get on… Facebook. Yup, it’s gotten bad, people –Facebook’s July 2014 Second Quarter stats revealed that Americans were spending more time on Facebook than taking care of their pets.

 

Have you gone that far? Do you want to step back? Or are you in denial? Facebook can be addicting, and Gemini Adams, author of “The Facebook Diet,” offers some amusing symptoms for you to watch for: do you Like things with Post-It Notes? If you want the news in the worst black-and-white, because you know you’ve got the mouse on your back and it’s time for the intervention, follow this link to science and tech writer Akshat Rathi’s opinion piece on the evils of Facebook He may just convince you to turn off your feeds permanently: Mr. Rathi believes Facebook to be “irrelevant,” “toxic” and much much more. But what about the rest: Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter? A Cowan and Company poll quoted in a November 18, 2014 Adweek article http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/social-media-minutes-day/503160 found that people spent an average 27.08 minutes a day on one of those top five social media platforms. How many are you on? What’s your combined total?

 

My heart-felt recommendation for determining if you need the Patch: time yourself. The minute you get on Facebook (or fill in your vice(s) of choice), set that app on your watch, phone or computer that starts ticking. Turn it off when you log off. WRITE THAT NUMBER DOWN, and add in the details of when you logged on, where, and what you looked at. Repeat for a week. If you scare yourself, you’ll be gathering valuable data to help yourself kick the habit. Because…

 

…Next, ya gotta figure out why you’re on social media. Understanding your motives, or the traps, helps you find other ways to satisfy the need, or limit the behavior.

 

Is it social time? It’s GREAT to live in Seattle and keep up with the friends in NYC. Maybe you need to make a contract with yourself that you check in on(only) two friends a day, or everybody in the family, or everybody in Philadelphia where you went to college, or you skim your feed for one particular topic -how your friends’ kids are doing, or who had the funniest post. In other words, get creative, mix it up, so it doesn’t become routine and easy to do until you’re glaze-eyed. Set a timer for a limited amount of time. More on the timer stuff three more paragraphs down. And make a phone instead sometimes – social media doesn’t have tones of voice.

 

Is it a way for you to distract yourself from professional or personal unhappiness? Try giving yourself social media breaks instead of coffee breaks, 15 minutes twice a day. But be careful: social media isn’t a substitute for a real walk around the block or vacation. Or a face-to-conversation with your friend, sister, partner, therapist or minister. You can’t see a real-time smile or get a hug on social media.

 

Is it a form of work(you get on to market a company, or see what the competition is doing, or check in on colleagues)?If it’s truly necessary for work, again, ya gotta make that contract with yourself: “I will post X number of posts a week, or check in on X competitors, colleagues, no more no less, and maybe (hopefully) the ‘clock-ins’ will be on a schedule, and the task on my calendar.” Do as much homework as you can to decipher when your work is going to be most successful. Really, I mean it: tie yourself to those time frames ON YOUR CALENDAR. More about calendars in the next paragraph.

 

Julie Morgenstern, professional organizer to movers, shakers and stars like Pat Riley, President of the Miami Heat, and Mandy Patinkin, advises “Never Check E-Mail in the Morning” in her book of the same title (pages 97 – 102, 2005 edition). Ms. Morgenstern’s ideas echo those of Mr. Rathi, but with far less anger. She believes that people tend to check e-mail carelessly, sporadically disrupting their concentration, for example. Is she right? Sometimes. Me, I’m a counterexample – a single Mom and solopreneur, if I don’t get on e-mail first thing in the morning, I lose urgent info about my day. And last thing at night, or my next day may be derailed in seconds. But I’m also very good at avoiding e-mail the rest of the day. And I have very little difficulty switching between projects, environments or thoughts quickly, which is unusual. But so…. Can you use her same ideas for all the pop-out-a-thought-push-a-button apps that only seem to take seconds? OH YEA.

Ultimately, Ms. Morgenstern understands that, for some people, the problem isn’t the “why” but the “how” you get distracted – that’s the issue to solve. It’s sometimes the case that people who get overly-involved in social media don’t have a strong sense of time. Those people can often benefit from external stimuli to break their Facebook focus – set an alarm for X minutes on Facebook, ask a colleague to knock on the office door, get on only X minutes before the company turns off the lights for the day. Use all three techniques and whatever else will help if you need the support. Sometimes people who get overly-focused on social media have a hard time transitioning – tunnel vision. The same techniques for a weak sense of time can work to break hyperfocus. So, again, can the support of a calendar.

And getting strict with yourself about using a calendar, scheduling every single task, can help tremendously in all aspects of your life. So not just e-mail, or social media, for the record. Calendar the projects, the meetings, the travel time to the meetings, the after-work racquet ball tournament. Be honest with yourself about your time sense and time management skills. There’s no such thing as the “right” kind of calendar – paper, digital, white board. Experiment with what works for you and stick to it.

 

I disagree with Mr. Rathi. Facebook and other social media sites connect people across the world, creating friendships, partnerships and communities which could not otherwise exist. It is used for simple commerce, sharing smiles, and great acts of charity. I have seen Monroe, a medium-sized town in Washington, use Facebook to pull together to help reunite lost pets with their people and support young families overcoming tragedy. But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Moderation in all things.”

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