3 Ways to Get On Top of Social Media Before it Gets on Top of You

700 billion minutes.

That’s how much time Facebook’s 500 million active users spend on the site every month! 700 000 000 000 minutes. That’s the equivalent of 1,3 million years – nearly 18 000 lifetimes!

And 7 years ago Facebook didn’t even exist! What did we use to do with all that time??

A recent study of media habits found that 33% of people surveyed admitted to checking Facebook before they even went to the bathroom in the morning; 21% admitted to checking it in the middle of the night; and half of them considered themselves Facebook addicts. Clearly something about Facebook has captivated us and drawn us in.

Me personally? I love social media – Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc. (just not LinkedIn – please stop sending me invites!) They have all helped me build a platform, learn from influential leaders, and stay in touch with friends around the world in remarkable ways.

But even as I type this on my iPad I have a sinking feeling of being overwhelmed.

And I’m beginning to feel like maybe, just maybe, all of my devices, my gadgets, my apps, my social media, own me as much as I own them. As they constantly beep, buzz and vibrate around me, screaming for my attention, I’m starting to wonder whether all this was a good idea in first place.

Now please don’t get me wrong – social media and technology are good things. But, like most good things, they can become bad things.

Social media is both a blessing and a curse.

How we use it will determine which one it will be in our lives. Here are a few tips that can guide us along the way:

1) Own Up

No one likes to admit they’re addicted to something, but if you want to get on top of your habits, you’ve got to own up.

Ask your friends/spouse/children/parents, “Am I using my iPhone/Blackberry too much? Am I on Facebook too much?” Even if their answer is subjective, it is still helpful. Chances are if your wife says you are using your iPad too much, you probably are. (Thanks darling!) 🙂

Of course there is no right answer to “How much is too much?”, but a really good exercise is to record how much time you spend on Facebook in a given week. We generally tend to underestimate, and a good look at the raw data may be shocking and revealing.

2) Set Boundaries

I am convinced that in our information overloaded culture, discipline is becoming more and more key. Establishing clear boundaries, while tough to do at first, creates freedom and space in our lives. If we are always just reacting to our devices, compulsively checking email or scrolling through News Feeds, then it’s too easy for technology to get a grip on us and suffocate us.

Some ideas may be to have designated times in your family for going online, or perhaps a “tech-free hour” where you gather for a meal and everyone has to put their phones in a basket or switch them off.

The point is find ways of putting boundaries on your social media that work for you/your family – and force yourself to live within those boundaries.

3) Enjoy It

Having owned up, and established clear boundaries, you are then free to just enjoy the wonders of the Interweb! As I said, social media can be a wonderful thing. But we enjoy it most, when we enjoy it best.

Thanks to Tim Challies for the helpful info and statistics.

25 Replies to “3 Ways to Get On Top of Social Media Before it Gets on Top of You”

  1. Well I needed to read this! I ll make sure to ask my flatmates, could it work? Or Do I need a wife first? But how do you control use of facebook, when you are a little “Lord of your facebook page”.. Hmm. I just noticed, only now, did I add all the place I ve been to on my Facebook map, because other people did it too… (@beingEuropean on twitter)


  2. Hey Tom~ we must discuss this in depth I urge you to agree. Your article certainly contains honesty on your part and I have to agree that I feel this a blog I would like to entertain, for a number of reasons. You seem dedicated Tom and I like that, nicely wrote and very personal…I feel you have connected and touched a serious chord with a powerful future, please keep me posted!


  3. I don’t tweet – had an acct, never understood it so don’t use it. I thought yesterday how Facebook has become a large digital village green, where people meet and greet then hopefully go on with real lives. I keep my personal page mostly because I stay in contact with far-flung famiiy members; my dog rescue page is my preferred page :). Keeping away from the digital world is tough – and getting tougher for us Apple geek-wannabes (oh, yes, iPhone, iPad and Macbook Pro).


  4. Thanks, Tom – Great insights. Here are a few things I try to do in order to tame the addiction:

    1.) Require “off hours” from myself (namely, the few hours after work and before bedtime). This would go along with setting boundaries

    2.) Fill my life with productive activites (social media usually kicks in when I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing…)

    3.) Think through the consequences of new technology before making a purchase (or download). It scares me a bit how many of us unquestionably embrace new technologies immediately…I think a little meditation on consequences could go a long way.

    4.) Ask my wife, once a week, how we’re doing (this goes along with taking a good, honest look at ourselves). Her most common complaint is that I’m too occupied with digital media while at home. At that point, it’s time to recheck my priorites and ensure that I’m making the first thing first.

    Thanks and blessings,


    1. Great comment Nick. I think you have put in place some fantastic principles that will stand you in good stead. I think your no 3 is particularly important. To stop and think before just jumping in with technology. Sometimes I think our world creates simply because ewe can, but doesn’t often stop to ask whether we should…


      1. Precisely! I admit, though, that particular thought was also half-stolen from Tim Challies…Still, very helpful.

        Thanks and blessings,


  5. Tom those 3 Ways you mentioned, to Get On Top of Social Media Before it Gets on Top of us are perfect. And after reading those 3 ways, i am having a feeling that it can also be applied to everything in life, so that everything in life will be under control. We just need to prioritize everything in life in right order. And also we need to realize that excess of any thing in life is going to hurt us.
    Thanks for this post! Its really a valuable one like all other post of yours!


  6. Just recently started a blog and twitter and in only one short month have felt myself to be on a media roller coaster. Glad to have some tips so I can enjoy the ride! Amy


  7. Fantastic blog Tom.
    I really enjoy reading all your posts! You have added value to my use of social media.
    I’m definitely learning a lot from you.



  8. I like those ideas. As a full time college student with a part time job, I know first hand what social media can do. I will definitely be implementing these!


  9. I love that picture! Seriously, I believe that social media has become, for many people, a crutch for normal life. Where they cannot succeed in social situations in real life, or where they are not satisfied with who they are in real life, they can become their dream alter ego online. People can lose their selves in social media, and they feel like they are nothing once they log off. My best advice is to someone who feels that they are a social media addict is make sure you are sure of who you are, and your values in real life first.


  10. I am a complete facebook addict, i’m not ashamed to admit it! :] But I can also say it would be scaring to actually calculate how much time I spend weekly on social media…. I’d rather just work harder to give myself limits! Good post.


  11. Actually I just quit Facebook to spend more time on real life and making a productive blog. Those stats are really scary, think of the good that could be done for mankind with all those manhours!


  12. This is what every young people in my generation needs. I was born in the 80’s, grew up in the 90’s, still growing up at 2000’s. Social Networking Sites started when I was in High School.

    There has been a research that proves how young individuals fail on their classes for using most of their time in Social Networking Sites rather than spending those precious minutes studying. I personally have nothing against Facebook. But the fact that it accumulates more of our time compared to the time we spend with our families and friends is not good. I’m guilty beyond doubt. But I hope every parents will share this with their children as much as they wanted it to apply to their own. I’m sure there are still many great kids out there who are being raised with proper discipline.

    Great post, I’ve learned a lot! And no,I don’t have a Facebook account anymore, it’s such a relief 😉


  13. The one thing I love about this post is the idea of a ‘tech-free hour’. That really spoke to me. I too also believe that we are at the beck and call of our devices and we are supposed to be owners of them and not vice-versa. Great thoughts. Keep them coming!


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