Social media rationing

Social media is not always my friend. I use several networks, but I don’t feel all that productive when I check them. I feel especially unproductive (read: guilty) when I “fall down the rabbit hole” and check people’s statuses, “like” various posts, watch cat videos… you know the drill.

When I read books like Deep Work and The Shallows (there’s more than a little coincidence in those titles, by the way), cat videos seem ever more pointless to me.

Why I don’t leave social networks

I also recognize the upside of social media:

  • People use networks to contact me directly, often for good reasons.
  • I “broadcast” any blog posts, events, articles quotes and random thoughts (my version of cat videos) using a social media desktop tool.
  • When I need support for products I own, I contact the companies who make them via Twitter. Some of these companies, particularly the fruit one, are quite responsive.
  • I found out about several important professional and personal events thanks to my networks.
  • I even reported my girlfriend’s cat as missing once. (It came back the next day, so I posted about that too.)
  • Watching the occasional animal video can make me smile.
  • And, of course, it’s great to keep up with friends, see their vacation photos, converse and so forth.

Leaving social networks entirely seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. That’s why I’ve been pondering ways to strike a balance between occasional checkins and losing 20 minutes at a time (20 minutes? Who am I kidding?) watching cat or sports videos.

Keeping time-wasters in check

I’ve already developed several habits to maintain focus on my work. These habits help on days when focus is hard to come by.

Some days these habits just aren’t enough. So I’m always looking for new ones, and I recently came up with this one.

Limiting social network usage

Here’s my latest “restraint” game plan:

  • I put apps for social networks on the “last” page of my iOS devices. Here’s what that looks like:
  • I turned on ONLY badges for unread notifications – no sounds, no banners, nothing intrusive.
  • I check that iOS device page occasionally (well, OK, more than just occasionally).
  • Once the unread count on a given network rises to 10 or more, I open the app, review notifications and check recent posts in the stream.
  • I have turned off social network notifications on my computer.

The badge app may be the “quietest” (least intrusive) notification of all, presuming it isn’t on the home page just daring you to check unread posts. With all “badged” app icons on their own screen, they’re less likely to get to me when I do have focus.

So far, this has been working for me. I check networks on my iPad or iPod Touch, update things where necessary using voice dictation, and check out  of my networks as soon as I can. I’ll check social networks on my computer if absolutely necessary (and sometimes it is). This plan is a variation on the habit of only checking email twice or three times a day. I hope it sticks.

Other habits to develop

I’m considering more time-efficient ways to get value out of RSS feeds and Twitter. But that’s a task for another day.

Have you also struggled to keep social media usage under control? Have you figured out ways to help you do so? Please share them in the comments below.

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