I recently made the decision to deactivate my Facebook account for a few days. I needed some down time to decide exactly how I should best continue using the variety of social media outlets. I have taken technology breaks before, but this time I just seemed overwhelmed by the technological onslaught of information through social media. Social media is a good thing and for that reason I have hesitated too long over the last couple of years from drawing helpful and necessary boundaries.
Benefits of Social Media ...
- Social media and all of its technology components help make communicating with a lot of people be able to happen almost instantaneously. It is quick moving and wide ranging.
- Social media allows for people to influence others in what they read, think, believe, share and act upon.
- Social media allows for easy and almost real time communication with others.
- Social media allows for an exchange of ideas, or at least a platform for sharing your own ideas whether anyone else is "listening" to you or not.
Pitfalls of Social Media ...
- If a person is not careful they can waste of a lot of time using social media. There is something about the computer screen or the smart phone screen that causes time to vanish without any accountability for how it was spent.
- Social media can also become a distraction. If a person is so concerned about reading who has posted what and whether or not someone has messaged/responded to them they can become distracted from the objective of their work. This is why many workplaces have placed limitations on what social networking sites can be used while on the job. Though I would venture a guess that the smart phone is the cure to that itch.
- Social media can create an information overload. In some instances it is possible to know too much about everything that is going on. And through social media there are only the filters and parameters that a person puts in place for himself.
- As much as social media creates the opportunity to influence others, this becomes a two-way street in that a person can find themselves being influenced by all that he is reading and absorbing. My concern here is because social media outlets can easily become the community soap box. It is too easy to hide behind a computer screen and blast all of one's frustrations and negativity for everyone else to see. If you read or listen to something long enough you may start to believe it.
Social media is not inherently bad. I have had good experiences reconnecting with friends, sharing ideas, engaging in thoughtful conversations, easily messaging people I do not have an email for and getting my message out for other people to read. Yet, last week I still could not shake the overwhelming feeling that I needed to declutter the social media part of my life. Here are a few principles I have learned to try and tame the social media lion ...
- Every issue is a spiritual issue. Ultimately I have to ask whether or not social media is helping or hindering my personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. This may mean that I have to take technology fasts from time to time.
- Know my personal limitations. I cannot handle monitoring too many social media outlets. I also cannot handle the continuous onslaught of information that floods me through all of these outlets. I must set boundaries that help to protect my walk with Christ, my relationship with my family & friends and that keep me from being distracted from what is real & most important.
- Have a purpose for using any social media outlet. Otherwise you will justify anything and everything and become distracted from what is most important.
- Limit the number of social media outlets I use. I realize that one social media tool does not meet all of my "wants" when it comes to social media communication. Therefore, I have chosen to pick the one tool that allows me to do the most in the least amount of time. For me, that tool is Google+. I like to have everything in one place and I like to have control over how it works. With the recent changes to Facebook that has become problematic for me. After some research and input from others I have determined that Google+ provides me with the tools and controls that will allow me to interface on my terms and conditions not on those of everyone else. It also allows me to get my communications posted on all of the social media sites at once. Ultimately, I am responsible for my life. I have reactivated my Facebook account but I have deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I also only check my Facebook page on the computer a couple of times each week. But even then I do not feel compelled to respond to the posts, messages or comments of others. I reactivated my Facebook page simply because I have found a way to use Google+ and still get my message out on Facebook for a larger viewing audience.
- Severely restrict the number of notifications I receive from the social media outlets. I must order my life so that I am in control of it rather than it being in control of me. This means I do not need to be notified every time someone "Likes" my post or tags me in a photo. I need to keep it to the stuff that is important and useful.
- Carefully limit the number of "Friends", Follows or Circles that I allow. If you have a lot of such persons then find a way to organize them into groups or circles so that you can do a better job of sifting through the communications that have purpose for your life.
- If you are not using a social media outlet as part of your overall plan of action then remove its App from your smart phone. In my case I have Google+ and Twitter apps on my smart phone. I do not have Facebook nor do I have multiple forms of Twitter (i.e., Tweetdeck, etc).