Does social media control you?

This isn’t a post about what Google’s new privacy settings mean for you or how Facebook decided that you’re getting Timeline in the next few weeks, whether you like it or not. It’s not about how execs (or more accurately, IT geeks) from Google or Facebook or Twitter can change our user experience with the click of a few buttons without our consent.

It’s about how you let social media control your life — often without your conscious consent. In a fast-paced, digital-minded field like public relations, it’s difficult not to let it control your life.

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A few weeks ago, I realized how my constant need for connectiveness was disconnecting me from many other, more important things. With TweetDeck flashing updates every two seconds (literally) on my desktop, my iPhone AND iPad alerting me anytime I got a notification Facebook/Twitter/foursquare/LinkedIn/GetGlue/etc., and my email inbox cluttered with updates from LinkedIn, blog subscriptions, and more, I was simply experiencing social media overload. Beyond my personal social media networks, I manage accounts for multiple other organizations, so I had the burden of receiving notifications from all of them as well. It was time to take action.

Here are a few (successful) things I did to help complete my social media cleanse…all while still maintaining a respectable, connected, influential presence on my main social networks!

  1. Opt out. Don’t allow Facebook/other networks to send you emails or mobile alerts every time you receive a notification. You don’t need to receive the same information three different times, so opt out to begin with. I still have mobile notifications for Facebook/Twitter, but I changed my settings so that my phone doesn’t go off each time I get a new notification.
  2. Organize your content. I follow at least 800 Twitter accounts — and that’s a lot of content. I finally learned the value of Twitter lists and made them work to my advantage. To be sure that I’m aware of updates from accounts I’m most interested in, I developed two Twitter lists (one of local PR agencies/professionals to help aid my job search and another with social media/other accounts that tweet content relevant to me). I imported these lists into my TweetDeck account and moved them to the front of my queue.
  3. Schedule social media time. Being connected 24/7 simply makes you distracted 24/7. Instead, resolve to check your social media accounts/email only a few times per day for a set amount of time. I work best in the morning, so I know I’ll spend the majority of my time online then. However, know what works best for you and stick to it.
  4. Use a social media management tool. This is something I’ve always done, but I’m always surprised at the amount of individuals who aren’t familiar with these little lifesavers. Familiarize yourself with Hootsuite or TweetDeck (I use TweetDeck for my personal accounts, Hootsuite for client accounts), and learn to schedule your social media posts. I’ll often spend an hour every three or four days scheduling my tweets and LinkedIn posts to go out for the next few days, so I don’t waste time trying to tweet/post at different times throughout the day.
  5. Know what you want to read and stick to it. The amount of content created in a single hour online is staggering — and you can’t read it all. Therefore, know what your favorite blogs are and import them into a RSS feed like GoogleReader or save them in a folder on your bookmark toolbar. This helps to ensure that your relevant content is all in one place, so you don’t waste time surfing the Internet for it.

Have you experienced social media overload? How do you deal with it? Let me know in the comments below!


About Abby Ecker

PR pro and healthy living blogger in the First State
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