When I joined Facebook over a decade ago, I assumed it would be a fun little social network like MySpace. I’d check it once a day at most, but probably no more than 4-5 times per week. After all, I barely knew anyone who was using it. It was largely the same handful of people that would comment back and forth with me on our “walls.” There was really no opportunity to catch up on news or any type of day-to-day commentary.
In 2009, I joined Twitter because Facebook was getting too busy. Again, only a few people used Twitter and it was a quick-and-easy way to connect with a few people. Of course, Twitter has grown tremendously over the years, as well. I didn’t expect either one to become a major part of my life. And podcasts? Those were too non-mainstream for me.
Fast-forward to 2016, and I check Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram several times per day. I listen to 2-3 podcasts on a given day and I co-host one. It seems like 90% of my world—friends, professional connections, news, cultural commentary, theological conversations, and links—are concentrated in these platforms. I don’t read the homepages of ESPN or Yahoo! or CNN to catch the news anymore–I roll over in bed and check my Twitter timeline. My reading life has totally changed too, as I’m more apt to read books from authors who I don’t read constantly on social media or blogs.
Aside from all of this, I’ve bought into the 4 a.m. wake-up time. I used to be a night owl. I would do most of my writing, sermon prep, and general unwinding after 11 p.m. My sleep schedule has now gone from 1 a.m.–7 a.m. to 10 p.m.–4 a.m. My sleep schedule has changed (for the better!) for various reasons—most notably an increased workload, more writing projects, and being the daddy of two young girls who get up early. Further, I’m trying to find time to hang out with my wife in the evenings when the kids go to bed.
What’s My Problem with Social Media?
If I’m honest, I can point much of my increasing writing and teaching opportunities to relationships and idea-sharing on social media. But sitting on social media when I could be hanging with my family or working on a bigger personal project makes my new productivity schedule kinda pointless. And getting caught up at the office can distract me from getting actual work done. Social media distracts me when I need to be distracted least. My best guess is that I turn to social media when I want to autopilot, rather than digging into something that’s difficult but more worthwhile or meaningful.
I recently hired a productivity coach (James Kinnard, who’s a total beast!), and he’s helped me put systems in place to (a) not get distracted and (b) organize my increasing workload inside and outside of my 9–5 (ha! 9–5…) at B&H. I’ve already increased my productivity tenfold by being more organized and having accountability. It’s helped with my social media consumption, but I’ve not taken his advice. And if I could get back to regularly exercising and eating better, I’d be in really good shape (pun totally intended).
Though I love social media, it’s become clear to me that I need to begin safeguarding my time and energy. I love social media; I’ve been encouraged and grown and shaped by both the people on social media and the resources it puts at my fingertips. But it’s also a vortex of endless scrolling and clicking, which might feel productive in the moment, until I’m ignoring my wife or getting behind on a project.
So, I share my plan with you not because I think you care about my schedule necessarily, but because I want to encourage you to take inventory of your time and energy and proactively seek balance and rest. Pastors and leaders especially struggle with this. I don’t even know if this post makes any sense to you. But here is my attempt at being more faithful to priority items (family, community, work, full-scale writing projects) while reducing distractions I’ve been clearly unable to handle as well as I’d like. After trying everything else (with some success), I think social media is the next time-sucker that needs reordering.
Note: this is not an anti-social media post. I’ll still use it often. I just (hopefully) won’t be as enslaved by it.
I recently created a public page to share my writing and other general thoughts on books, theology, etc. My personal page has been maxed out at 5,000 friends for some time, and it’s taken me an hour every few weeks to selectively cut my friends list back so I can make room for new ones. My personal and public life were more or less in one place.
So instead of having everything in one place, I’m going to make my personal page private and cut it back to family, friends, and professional acquaintances. The public page has no cap on it, so that can grow as it needs to, and it allows me some privacy and selective usage on my personal page. The public page also makes it easier to schedule posts and monitor engagement rather than hopping on to post a blog I wrote and then getting sucked into cat videos (which is my kryptonite, y’all.).
I’ve always been pretty selective about who I follow on Twitter. I tend to place a cap on the number of people I follow. First it was 100, then it became 200, and I recently broke my rule of only following 300. This cap allowed me to be careful that my timeline remain useful and uncluttered. Unfortunately, I’ve broken my own rule numerous times because I feel pressure to follow friends, not to unfollow other friends, etc. But for me, Twitter is a place for specific news-gathering and dialogue. A personal Facebook page, on the other hand, is better for friendly conversations, sharing about my family and personal life, etc.
So instead of following a mishmash of family and friends and professional acquaintances, I’m going to follow those who fit what I want Twitter to be—gathering news and engaging in meaningful dialogue about theology, culture, and other items. This means my only social media connection with some people will be on my personal Facebook feed. In terms of posting, I hope to schedule more tweets and spontaneously check/interact less.
Honestly, I’m unsure of what to do with this. On the one hand, I want to lock it up and make it private. On the other hand, it’s become a great tool for engaging people and sharing ideas. I originally started it when my family wouldn’t stop badgering me about seeing photos of our firstborn, but it’s developed into a lot more than that.
I’m open to suggestions especially with Instagram. I’m becoming more and more weary of sharing tons of photos of my family, but on the flipside, I enjoy bragging on them and watching them grow up in a tangible way on my Instagram feed.
LinkedIn and Google +
Just kidding. No one uses these.
What about you? Any tips and tricks to solving this problem? I don’t normally ask for this, but would love feedback in the comments.