Maintaining My Second Self

We live in an increasingly connected society. We have iPhones, tablets, laptops and every other piece of technology out there to let us do whatever we want whenever we want. Talk, text, facetime, skype, tweet, pin, post, and surf all the blink of an eye right at our fingertips. We expect instant access, on-demand information, videos and likes. We live with a device in our hands.

Social media is a part of this life and we share an inordinate amount of information. Depending on which report you read, adults spend an average of 1.7 to 4 hours per day on social media; nine hours a day if you are a teenager. That itch to check our phones at any given moment of the day is intense, almost an addiction.

Lately, my use of social media has been bothering me enough to do something about it. I feel as if I am not present with my family. Additionally, too often I feel like I am missing out on something online. If I am not checking Twitter or Instagram, or reading ALL the blogs in my feed, my mind is telling me I’m missing out. Finally, I started to feel like I was wasting my time. There wasn’t enough added value in reading everything that showed up in all my accounts.

When you use social media accounts, you are reading other people’s posts, writing posts yourself, and having conversations. All of that takes time. A blog post I read awhile back by Present Path did a nice job explaining how you are maintaining a second self with all your social media accounts. How true that is! You have to put time and effort into them, and you create an online persona. Friendships take maintenance, as do any relationships you want to build online, or even any casual conversations you want to have. You comment, they comment back, you comment back to them etc. You write about your life, develop new interests and hope people “like” you. My second self was growing, taking too much of my time and I wasn’t happy. 
Using social media is akin to maintaining a second self. 
If you are not careful, it grows bigger than you. 

In the meantime, my original self was shrinking. I was checking my phone while my husband was talking to me in the morning. I was checking my phone when our kids were talking to me. I was doing less creating, because I was always checking my phone. I felt rushed, because I felt I needed to check my phone. Physically, it wasn’t good for me to stare at my phone so much. Mentally it was a burden.

I know I am not the only one feeling this way. Fran, over at The Simplicity Journey, is getting intentional with her Instagram account to allow for more creative time during her day; and Lisa at Life is in the Details, is trying to reduce her social media use to increase time for stillness during her day. Both sound wonderful, time for creativity and peacefulness!

My goal for this year has been to try and make sure what I do adds value to my life. One by one, I examined each account and decided where I wanted to go with each. My blog feed has now been drastically reduced, Twitter and Facebook are gone from my phone, and all my Instagram notifications have been turned off. I am trying to set limits and a purpose for each account.

Social media accounts definitely have a purpose in our lives. They increase our ability to communicate and share with friends and family, especially those far away. If you have a business, you can reach a wider audience more quickly and easily. News information spreads faster. I used safe versions of online chat tools to help shy students have a voice in the classroom. Groups band together for a common cause such as improving their lives, or raising awareness. Additionally, you can meet like-minded people that you would probably never have a chance to meet in person.

However, there are some signs that the time you are spending maintaining your second self is not adding value to your life.
  1. You find yourself talking to people while looking at your device.
  2. You check your phone constantly during the day, whether alone or with other people.
  3. Your to-do list isn’t getting done because you are more inclined to read social media feeds.
  4. You find it hard to focus on something else because you keep thinking about Facebook, or Instagram.
  5. You read your device in bed before sleeping, and the minute you wake up.
  6. You spend more time consuming than creating.
  7. You feel you don’t have time to exercise or eat healthy because you have to maintain your online accounts.
  8. You are afraid that you are missing out if you don’t check them all the time.
  9. You would rather be on social media than talking to the people next to you.
  10. You feel you have more friends online than in person. 
We all have the choice to change our habits. If you feel you need to change your social media use, here are a few tips:

Remove some apps from your phone

This has helped me tremendously. I no longer have easy access to my accounts. Even though I work on a computer all day, I rarely have the urge to check them online; my phone was the biggest offender. You can also change the notification settings. I have disabled all the “promotional” ones - you know that ones that try to tease you into checking your account? The ones telling you the popular posts or tweets right now? You can also turn off the notification that tells you when someone likes your post/tweet/picture. Instead, when you do go into that account, you can check to see if anyone wrote to you, or liked your contribution.

 Set aside a designated time of the day for checking your accounts

Try to find times that don’t interfere with your family or work. Lunch time works well for me as I usually eat lunch at my desk, unless I am walking during nice weather :) Right after the dinner dishes are done works well for me at home. Everyone seems to scatter off to do their own thing right after dinner, leaving me some free time. Setting a time limit is another helpful strategy if you can stick to it to matter what. I’m still working on that.

Evaluate your accounts for value and effectiveness

Having 85 blogs in my feedly was way too much, so I went into each one of them, re-read them and decided which ones were valuable to me knowledge-wise, interested me, or provided me opportunities to connect with like-minded people. Even though I get little value out of Twitter right now, I am not deleting it because I have plans for it one day. Since it is no longer on my phone, it is ok if it sits dormant. Ironically, no one has sent me a tweet yet asking me where I have been lol!

In the end, we all have choices to make. On this journey for a more simple life, I want to use social media to make connections, but I also know I must set parameters. For those of you who frequently use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, I would love to know: How do you budget your time to make them all valuable while maintaining both your first and second self?

Comments

  1. I just recently started a Facebook account (I don't use any other social media, except for my own blog, which is somewhat time consuming, but provides a creative outlet). I can see how Facebook and other social media could quickly eat up way too much time, and that is precisely the reason why I have mostly avoided it up until now. I don't spend a lot of time on it, and I am not sure that I will continue on with it, but I will see where it goes for a while. Your post is a good reminder to be aware and stay present in my real life.

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    1. Hi Carina! Thanks for stopping by :) I started with just a blog as well. I was afraid that using social media would take away from the simple life I was trying to lead. It wasn't until last November that I started the accounts when I wanted to join a private writing group. I've since left the group, and am working through all of the above. One thing I have noticed is that our kids (18 & 21) are very adept at using it, setting it aside, talking to us, getting back on it etc. They don't seem to struggle with it the way I do.

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  2. Hi Fran,

    You have a great strategy with social media! Mine is now a lot closer to yours than it was. I have 20 blogs in my blog reader, down from the 85, and I am ready to pare down again. I tried to set a time for reading them, like right after dinner, but that hasn't worked. Still trying to figure that out.

    One thing that has worked really well is listening to podcasts on my way to work. That seems to be a time when my mind appreciates them the most. The one you mentioned, Lively, looks to be a good one also- thank you!

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