That little computer in your hand is so smart. With it you can tweet, post, Instagram, follow, pin, chat, text, email, edit and even – get this – make a phone call. With endless apps and options for communication and interaction, it's easy to get addicted, over-stimulated and too involved in the virtual world. If the only way you ever spend time with your friends is via an app, or if you're more adept at displaying your emotions with emoticons than with actual facial expressions, it's time to move away from the phone. Use these 6 smart tips for curbing, or kicking, your social media habit.
Take stock of pros and cons
Social media is not all bad. If you think you're spending too much time using it, however, you need to take an honest self-assessment. I like how I can connect with friends all over the world easily through social media. I don't like it when I feel the need to check several times a day or when participating in social media takes me away from people near me, like my family. Making a list of pros and cons, perhaps by each app you use, will help you identify which apps aren't worth the time you spend using them. If you are unable to make an objective assessment, ask a trusted friend or spouse for their input as well.
Out of sight, out of mind
One way to spend less time on social media is to keep your devices out of your hands (or pockets) for extended periods of time. I keep my tablet on my bedside table and my phone tucked in my purse often during the day. This really helps me to stay focused on other tasks. Find a place you can leave your devices so that you can have time away from social media. If you're working on a computer, log out of websites and keep to the task at hand.
If your social media habit is getting out of hand, power down tablets and phones when you don't need to use them. When everyone is home for the night, I power down my phone so I can get a good night's sleep and focus on spending time with my husband. I have my daughter check in her phone and tablet so she's not up late texting and pinning endless hairstyle ideas. It's harder to check Facebook quickly or read your Twitter feed when your device is off. Consider taking apps off some devices so that you can only check them periodically.
Change notifications and set limits
When I first started using Facebook, I was receiving dozens of emails daily with notifications I didn't really care about. Once I learned how to change my settings to reflect the way I wanted to use the app, things improved. Take time with each social media app you use to customize your settings. Choose to be updated less frequently and you'll find you control you social media, it doesn't control you.
If I'm feeling a social media overload, I limit myself to checking things at just a few set times during the day. Some moms pledge not to let social media interfere with time spent with children, making a rule that social media cannot be used when the kids are around. I've chosen not to join certain social media sites because I don't feel I need any more stimulation or information.
Take a day off
When I recently took a week-long adventure off the grid, I kept my phone with me, but used it only to check in with my kids every other day. I thought I might go through slight withdrawals, but I found I didn't really miss it at all. It felt refreshing to take in the sights around me, get to know new people and really focus on each day and task in a different way.
It's not practical for me to disconnect that way often, but you can get a similar benefit from taking a media break every once in a while. Some people choose one day per week to abstain from social media. I choose Sunday as a day I spend little or no time updating my status or seeing what others have posted on various sites. Doing this reminds me of how much I like looking around me instead of at my screen.
For those with true addiction, getting rid of social media altogether might be the only answer. A friend of mine with ADD decided to stop using social media when it distracted her from her children and her tasks as a homemaker. It may seem like a drastic step, but there are other ways to stay in touch and find out what's going on in the world. You'll probably find you don't really miss it after just a few days.
If you are headed towards a social media addiction, or are already in need of an intervention, be honest with yourself. Take time to think about what role social media should play in your life and make changes as necessary. It's great to connect with old friends and keep tabs on the lives of those you love via the Internet, but it's also important to have face-to-face contact and communication with those around you. Be smart and use social media to enrich your life, not detract from it.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.