How To Mindfully Use Social Media
Editor’s Note: If you’re in the NYC area on Sept. 17, we’re doing an even with Andrew Mellen, “Get Organized and Stay Organized.” Get the details.
by Andew Mellen, “Ameria’s Most Organized Man”
Summer means longer days, lots of sun and lots of activities. This combination may naturally lead to more social media use because who wouldn’t want to share every new adventure and event with their tribe?
Social media doesn’t have to be a distraction, but for many people it is.
A lack of self-control and/or no plan.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. – Benjamin Franklin
A lack of self-control translates to a lack of intentionality. When you check out, when you are not present in this actual moment, you are wasting valuable time and your likelihood of making mistakes increases by 50%.
Using social media, in itself, is not a waste of time—it’s a powerful tool that connects people beyond geography, language, class, gender and ability. But any activity done mindlessly is an activity that is destined to set you back from your goals—even if the goal is just to share a photo with friends and family. One setback typically leads to another, until you’re so backed up that you start to feel overwhelmed. It’s a surprisingly short journey from enthusiasm to defeat if you are not paying attention.
So, there are two main aspects of mindful social media use: being deliberate and making connections.
When you mindfully use social media, you’re logging on with an idea of who, what, where, when, why and how.
- Who or what are you looking for?
- Why are you looking for them/it?
- Where are you going to start your search?
- When are you going to log on?
- How much time in total are you going to dedicate to social media?
Like setting any goal in life—big or small—you need a plan before you can start. It doesn’t have to be extensive, but it should be detailed enough to keep you focused. Logging onto social media should be just as focused.
If you don’t know why you’re logging on, you’ll end up mindlessly scrolling for hours. And while you may be amused by what you find and even possibly informed, there are many traps and rabbit holes out there that you can easily fall into only to surface hours later—tired, confused and still not holding the info you went out looking for.
You may start out with the vague intention to network or seek out new job opportunities, but thanks to the very structure and intrigue of social media, you may instead end up scrolling through comedic skits and puppy videos.
Using social media as a means of entertainment is expected when you have allotted time to use it as such. If you need to accomplish a specific task, it’s much better to be deliberate and set a timer.
Don’t think it’s excessive or overly controlling to simply put some intention behind your social media use. See it instead as necessary for forward movement.
How To Be Deliberate On Social Media:
- Before logging on ask yourself, who, what, where, when, why and how long.
- Set a timer or use a tracking app to limit your time on particular platforms.
- Stay on target. Remember the who or what you’re looking for, why you’re looking for it and how long you plan to look.
The social in social media is for making connections. The opportunity to network, meet like-minded friends, and stay updated on family and civic matters, are all causes that make social media attractive.
But when you log onto social media to make connections are you actually making connections, or are you overindulging in other people’s lives?
Because social media is a tool that relies on reactions, it’s easy to get sucked into celebrity or provocative accounts that acquire hours of your time, but never lead to a worthwhile connection.
This trap is not only a waste of time, but with the wealth of professional, creative, and growth opportunities available on social media, it’s also a waste of opportunity.
Don’t Miss Construe Observing With Connecting
Looking at beautiful images and reading inspiring posts are genuine ways to engage with online content, but neither are genuine ways to make a connection. You don’t cook a holiday dinner by just looking at Rachel Ray’s cookbook, do you? You can only cook dinner if you open the book, find a recipe, get the ingredients and THEN cook it.
Likewise, you’ll only make meaningful connections online by reaching out to people directly.
How To Make Connections:
- Find accounts, people and online communities that align with your goals and values. Are you looking to network, to learn something new, to join a safe place with like-minded people or are you looking to volunteer and get involved?
- Consider how the accounts or people would be beneficial to you and what would be the best way to start a conversation. Is there a recent post that resonates with you? Do they know someone you know? Do you share common a interest?
- Send them a message. Leave a value added comment under a post you find particularly relevant or informative. Share their post. Any of these should be informed by the connection you feel already from #2 above.
A Few More Thoughts
Overall, social media isn’t what will distract you, it’s your lack of focus and deliberateness that will send you off on a wild goose chase. And like the fable, you too are likely to come home empty handed.
Use social media as a resource, and approach it with a plan and it no longer has to be a dreaded distractor. It could instead be a connection-building resource. The choice is yours.
Adrew Mellen One of the pioneers of professional organizing and productivity, Andrew Mellen is the best-selling author of Unstuff Your Life!. He travels the world speaking, teaching, and coaching individuals and global brands including the New York Mets, Genentech, American Express, Time, Inc. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.