Social media websites and apps can be wonderful tools. They enable us to share content, engage with others, lobby on a particular issue, express ourselves or simply take some time out from everyday life.
What happens, though, when the time spent on social media becomes so compelling that we fail to lose sight of what’s important?
Particularly for our impressionable teens, fear of missing out (FOMO) means that it’s hard to avoid the addictive nature of apps such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr…. and so on.
Here are 10 tips to help put social media in its rightful place
1. Be choosy about which apps or sites to use regularly
If people want to engage with you, that’s where they’ll find you. I’m on Twitter and use Instagram a little. I maintain a personal Facebook account to keep a virtual address list for far-flung friends and relatives, but I don’t have the app’ on my device and I seldom post.
2. Use one device
Only have social media on one device. I no longer use a smart phone, as I wrote about in my post, Digital Detox Trending. Instead, I use a tablet device for the apps I do use. Most of them are not social media ones; the most densely populated folder is entitled ‘Productivity’ and contains the apps I find most useful.
3. Set a timer
If you’re going to dip into your social media of choice, time yourself. When the timer goes off, stop scrolling.
4. Leave your device at home
Do you really need to take your smart phone with you everywhere? Walking the dog round the block? Just take your keys, dog and poop bags (of course)!
5. Manage others’ expectations
Let people know that you’re not all social media all the time. If they want to contact you, they can do it the old-fashioned way.
6. Agree house rules
Once good habits are established, you’ll be on a roll. So, no devices at the dinner table, switch off half-an-hour before bed and make sure the grown-ups model good behaviour!
In his book Essentialism: The disciplined pursuit of less, Greg McKeown suggests an excellent idea. This might work especially well with pre-teens:
Offer the kids 10 ‘tokens’ per week. Each token allows 30 minutes’ screen time. You can earn additional tokens by reading for half-an-hour, but once all tokens have gone, that’s it!
7. Confiscate the teenage phone when homework should be being done
This is a hard-to-enforce tip but well worth it. When homework is being done upstairs, the phone sits on its docking station downstairs. I’ve heard every excuse in the book, but I can tell you that no teenager needs his/her phone whilst doing homework. Indeed, the more focussed they can be, the sooner they can return to their virtual social life.
8. Set an example to your kids: Stop. Look. Listen. Be Present
I would urge you to listen to episode 143 of The Slow Home Podcast. There is a great deal of wisdom in the conversation that occurs between host Brooke McAlary and her guest Justin Coulson. The single most powerful phrase I heard during this episode was, ‘Be present‘.
How many of us hear what our kids are saying, but don’t really listen because we’re continuing to type/scroll/comment/like what we are seeing online?
During the podcast, Justin Coulson cited one of his children who asserted that he couldn’t really be listening because he had continued to do what he was doing when she had begun to speak to him.
Stop. Look. Listen.
9. Don’t multi-task
This tip builds on the above one. Sure, you can listen to a podcast while you’re doing the ironing. That’s what you’ll find me doing most Sunday mornings after our dog walk! However, you can’t be effective at a work task if you allow yourself to dip into social media. If this a temptation, choose the Pomodoro technique and focus for just 25 minutes in every half hour, then take a break.
10. Have a phone creche
Agree with your family to establish a ‘phone creche’. A bit like day-care for your phone, this can be a place where everyone’s device goes when the family is focussing on the important things in life. The phone gets charged and so does your familial relationships.
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