Social media addiction has gotten to the point where some people prefer Facebook over sex, do status updates from the bathroom or upon waking at night, or even utter threats to the President on Twitter – a very public electronic medium – (obviously without realizing that sedition is illegal). While the addiction to socialize might be innate, excess time online can aggravate or stimulate symptoms of depression. Clearly there’s a problem and it’s growing, and since social media and social networks are very unlikely to disappear anytime soon, there are some precautions that high-frequency users might to take to keep addiction in check, thus leaving more productive or fun time available for real-life activities.
- Focus. Limit the number of social networks you use to only those most relevant to your work and personal life. For example, in the past I’ve regularly used LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for work and Plurk for personal use.
- Cull your network. If you really don’t know someone well or at all, don’t feel obligated to friend or follow them. Even though social media plays a large part in my daily work, I still do not approve every friend request. The person has to have some connection to me, either friends or interests in common, and has to display a real profile pic, not an avatar, photo of an inanimate object, or some random starlet.
- Use lists and filters. Sometimes there’s are pressing reasons for being connected to someone (i.e., not unfriending them), though you might want a temporary way to filter for a specific group of people without permanently “hiding” the status updates of other people. Both Twitter and Facebook offer friend list features that, if implemented properly, let you quickly view the status updates of a specific group of people. This way, you can view just the updates that are most relevant to you at any given moment. So if you associate certain roles or tasks with each list (business, personal, friends, friends + acquaintances, digital-only friends, etc.), it’ll be easier to filter for the updates you want to see.
- Use a schedule. Schedule your use of social media. Unless there’s an overwhelming reason otherwise, don’t leave Facebook or other social media sites open in a web browser tab all the time. The same goes for desktop Twitter or Facebook clients such as Tweetdeck, which end up being a huge distraction, especially if you follow/ friend a lot of people. I simply have trouble working when running desktop clients, so I’ve stopped using them except when I’m doing a bit of Twitter-based research. One way to avoid problems is to schedule your use of social networking sites in the same way that some productivity experts suggest scheduling reading of email messages.
- Set a timer. If after trying all of the above, you’re still having difficulty keeping track of time when you use social networking sites, trying setting a timer of some sort, with an alarm. For a very extreme method, you can use your smartphone or an alarm clock, but if you can have the timer/ alarm sound as annoying as possible (and out of reach of your arm), you’ll possibly start to associate using social networking with having to get out of your chair and turn off the annoyance. This might not help everyone, but it’s worth a try.
This is just a start on tips for keeping a social media addiction at bay. After finding myself answering email and checking Facebook from my iPhone while brushing my teeth each morning, and once nearly carrying it in the shower, I’ve tried to be more aware of such tendencies. Do you find yourself addicted to social networks and other social media? How do you cope with it, or does it affect your life? Feel free to share your thoughts.
Addiction image via CrazyNFunny.