Managing internet and social media usage

You know that moment when you log on to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or just the internet in general and before you know it, 1 hour of scrolling has gone by and you're not exactly sure what happened in that time? Well, in my opinion, I think it's a growing problem and it's what I want to look at today - managing internet and social media usage.

Now, you're probably thinking, why does an online business owner and blogger want to tell all us all to get off the internet. Actually, that's not the case. What I want to talk about is how to better manage our use of the internet and social media to make it work for us; a personalised analysis, if you will, of how we can use such an incredible tool more effectively, so that when we do reach for our phone first thing in the morning, we don't head down the social media rabbit hole of disappointment.

This blog post is not going to preach, instead it's a personalised exercise to help you get a grip on using the internet and social media in a way that works for you. For this exercise, you'll need a pen and paper and 30 minutes to 1 hour of uninterrupted time. You might want to put a brew on or grab a glass of vino; basically go find a comfy corner with your pen and notepad and we'll get started.

What are your positive experiences?

First up, lets agree on something. The internet is a very powerful tool and it has so many amazing benefits. It helps us connect and communicate quickly, order and receive goods without having to leave our homes, keep up-to-date on news and current affairs, discover and be inspired, share our work, build businesses from the kitchen table, apply for jobs, makes friends and feel a part of a community. Without the internet I would not have been able to start my business, set myself up in a new county and meet new people...and that's just for starters. 

How has the internet helped you? Maybe you discovered your local Etsy group, found a long lost friend on Facebook or met the love of your life. Whatever your positive experiences are, go grab a piece of paper and write them down. Remember, just focus on your positive experiences at this stage.

What's important to YOU?

Now you've written those down, take a sip of tea and mull this over: why is the internet and social media important to you? What do you actually need it for?

If you need a prompt, here are my reasons why the internet and social media is important to me.

I need the internet to run my business and I like using the internet for shopping, finding out about gigs, theatre and comedy and keeping up-to-date on current affairs.

I need social media to share my blog and shop and I like using it to connect with like minded people, stay in touch with friends and find out about creative events, projects and groups.

Now, write down why the internet and social media is important to you.

How are you actually using it?

You might need an extra sip of tea (wine) for this next step. Now, be brave and write down how you are actually using the internet. In other words, take an honest look at what you do on the internet every day. Do you message friends, bid on Ebay, check the weather...whatever you do, write it down.

If you're not too sure, you could try this exercise: starting first thing tomorrow morning, write down a log of how you're using the internet throughout the day. Is the first thing you reach for in the morning your phone? What do you log on to first? How much time do you spend on that app? If you take a detailed analytical look at how often you are reaching for your phone to check the internet/social media for something throughout the day and recording how much time you spend doing so, then that will help you identify how you're currently using it. Remember, be honest with yourself with this exercise.

Ok, so that step was probably a bit harsh of me but I hope you'll agree, it was necessary, yeah? Now, go grab your first two lists you made earlier - your positive experiences and what it is important to you - and compare them to how you are actually using the internet. 

How do they compare? Are they similar or vastly different? Are there any changes you'd like to make? Yes? Good! Write those changes down now, maybe take a another sip of tea while you're at it too.

Making positive changes

The next step should, in theory, be easy. You've got your lists, made a comparison and understand how you would like to use the internet and social media to work for you but now you need another sip of tea and a big old dose of willpower....and your notebook.

Write down the answers to the following questions:

Q1/ How much time can you realistically spend on the internet/social media?

Be honest about this. Think about how much time you would like to spend online, thinking about the points you made earlier about what is important to you and what you need to use the internet for.

Q2 / What time of day or day in the week are you going to be on the internet/social media?

Think about what works for you. Are you a morning person who gets up with the birds and logs on to Instagram first thing before heading off to work? Maybe you're an evening person, who likes to chat with your mates every Wednesday evening? Only you know what time of day/week is best. What works for someone else might not work for you.

For this exercise, I found it helpful looking at the other things I do on average day in order to be realistic about how much time I have for the internet. For example, I like to cook a good meal every evening, go for a walk to ensure I'm getting regular exercise and I tend to do a creative activity, such as knitting or drawing, to help me relax. There are also boring things to consider, such as the weekly food shop, washing clothes etc. All that needs to be taken into consideration. Write it all down and start to form how, when, where and why you want to use that powerful tool, the internet.

Helpful time saving tips

By now I'm hoping you feel a bit clearer about where you're at with your internet and social media usage, how you want to use it, when you're going to use it and how much time you have to use it.  If you're now ready to make some positive changes, here are some tips to help you make the most of your time and this is where that willpower is needed.

- Delete any apps you are not using or that gobble up time without any positive benefits

- Unsubscribe from any mailing lists that you only ever delete and never read

- Set a timer or have a specific time of day to check on social media/emails etc and stick to it

- Turn off notifications if you find them distracting

- Turn your phone off or put it in another room while you're working or concentrating on something

- Call a friend, instead of texting

- Tell your friends that you're going to be offline or that you only check periodically. If they're good friends, then they will respect that.

- Don't whatever you do, feel pressurised to be online all day. Keep a mantra going in your head of what works for you and what you want to use it for. Don't compare yourself to someone else and remember those lists you made earlier.

With these tips and all your notes, you should have a better idea of how you are going to use the internet and social media to benefit you and your needs. Start right away putting this into action. If that means switching your phone off at 8pm in the evening or only checking Facebook messenger for 30 minutes when you get home from work, start doing it. The sooner you do, the sooner it will become the norm and I'm hoping, the better you feel about how you manage your internet and social media usage.

If you're still not convinced or are worried that your mates will disown you for not being online 24/7 (which is totally ridiculous but I promised I wouldn't preach!), try and think of it this way. When you have little sleep, you don't work effectively because you hardly have any energy. When you have plenty of sleep and rest, you work way more efficiently. Finding your own approach to the internet works in the same way - if you're on it 24/7, then your use of it will be poor compared to a short burst where you're concentrating and engaged.

What do you reckon? Do you have any tips for managing internet and social media usage?  Do you know someone who would find this helpful? Come and tell me your thoughts and share with everyone you know!