How not to let social media take over your life

How not to let social media take over your life

How not to let social media take over your life

    I'll admit it - every morning, I wake up and grab my phone. I tap a button or two and quickly scroll through my email, then my Twitter notifications. Then, I toss the phone aside and start giving our dogs good-morning pets.

    It's called "checking social", for short. Us veteran Internet users tend to assign short-word phrases because, you know, we're cool like that.

    And, checking social is something that a lot of us do. I do it because I genuinely want to. I enjoy scrolling down through my notifications to see what people are saying. If someone asked me a question or commented on one of my tweets or posts, I begin mentally formulating my response.

    Though most of the time, a response isn't truly necessary, so I let it go.

    The idea behind early retirement is to design a life that you don't need to escape from, and that includes social media. I am on Twitter and Facebook because I want to be, that's it.

    But, I also:

    • Don't take it seriously
    • Use it as a conversational outlet, not my life's purpose
    • Rarely check my Facebook profile because it's not where "my people" are

    I've found that happy medium between the two extremes: Deleting all of my social media accounts with the assumption that the absence of social media will somehow magically fix my life, and spending all damn day scrolling through my social profiles because I gotta keep up.

    I check social because it's fun. That's really it.

    And then there's this whole SpaceX thing that aims to provide high-speed Internet access all over the freakin' world, giving people everywhere less and less of an excuse to not keep their social profiles updated.

    How not to let social media take over your life

    I used to live on social media. In a previous life, I would debate politics like it was going out of style, a habit that I now realize ripped years of my productive life away from me doing something so meaningless and without a shred of value.

    I no longer argue or debate politics. After all, people are going to believe whatever they want to believe regardless of what I (or anybody else) say.

    That's the #1 rule of social media. Avoid useless chatter.

    Avoid useless chatter

    Whatever that chatter is that doesn't add value to your life (for me, it was politics), avoid it. Who cares what your friends think. There's something remarkably freeing about not giving a damn what your followers believe about current events and politics in general.

    Their beliefs don't add anything meaningful to your life.

    Engage selectively

    Believe it or not, you don't NEED to respond to every single comment that you get - either through your blog or in social media. The second that you start believing that everybody needs a reply is also the second that you've trapped yourself into an arbitrary time sink.

    Pretend that the number of words that you can write in replies is limited. Pick the most important or interesting comments to respond to, and respond in such a way that doesn't leave them itching to continue the convo.  :)

    Then, move on.

    I used to believe that it was rude to reply to some comments but not others, but I no longer believe that. It's MY time that I'm most concerned about.

    Don't believe everything

    Social media has a way of deceiving almost everybody who uses it. People post when things go right in their lives, or when they just finished spending a whole ton of money. New cars. More stuff. A bigger house. Whatever.

    And, this crap feeds some deep-seated thought within us, making us believe that we aren't as successful as they are. Or, that we need to acquire the same level of stupid stuff that they just bought.

    But, here's the thing: We don't. Don't let someone else's spending habits (especially the habits that they choose to reveal on social media) affect your own spending habits. Often, that's just not the whole truth.

    Don't just delete everything

    Some people have written highly popular articles after deleting their social media profile, which strikes me as a bit...umm, disingenuous. Why must you tell everybody that you deleted your social profiles? Oh, for the hits?

    Deleting social doesn't fix the underlying problem of your fears. Fears of missing out. Or a fear of not truly belonging. Fears of not being as successful. And, a complete inability to manage your own time.

    If you no longer derive any value from social, then fine, maybe deleting your profiles is the right step. But, don't take that drastic step and just assume that everything will be magically better once your social media profiles are now gone. It doesn't necessarily work that way.

    Instead, try a couple of experiments:

    Try removing social apps from your phone. If you're knee-deep in social media from your phone when you're out and about, try removing those apps from your phone for a week or two. See what you think. Maybe keeping your friends guessing for a whole hour is sorta entertaining.  :)

    Try to eat a complete dinner without your phone. It's not very often when I'm at a restaurant and the people at the next table aren't all on their phones. What if we engaged in the lost art of organic conversations instead of maintaining our impeccable social response rates? At least when we're eating?

    Limit your social to an hour a day. This one can be super tough to stay disciplined with, but it helps some people. Limit your time on social, then make sure your time is well spent. Only the most important or interesting posts get your attention.

    Your social media profile is an extension of you and not the other way around

    In other words, your social profiles don't control you. You control them. They work for you. They are only as useful as what you make of them.

    That means if you want to take the day off from social, do it. You don't need to ask your Twitter or Instagram account if you can. Or your friends or followers. They aren't your boss. Your profile will be there when you come back.

    And, resist the temptation of creating an "online persona", where you only post certain things in order to get your friends or followers to believe a certain thing about you. Maintaining some bullshit social personality can be exhausting, and it takes a lot of time to not make a mistake with it.  :)

    Are you addicted to social media? What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself in check when it comes to social?

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    Steve Adcock

    774 posts

    Steves a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence.