How to Intentionally Use Social Media

Each of us have our favorite ways to connect on social media and create connection. There is a lot of good that can come from it. But let’s be honest for a second here…have you ever felt your own social media use can become all consuming? I know I have.

Maybe you’re going on Facebook at all times of the day or late at night before bed. Maybe you just mindlessly scroll through Instagram so as not to miss out anything in the lives of your friends. Or maybe, like me, sometimes you just post something without really thinking about the reason why you’re doing it.

I have done all of these and more.

About two years ago, I started seeing my own consumption of social media was getting to be a bit much. I felt scattered, distracted, and like it was running me instead of me choosing when to use it or step away.

Something Was Not Working

When 2017 rolled around, I decided to make some intentional changes. I started tracking some of my daily social media use in my Blessed is She Planner (or the mini if that’s more your jam!) and in my Powersheets. The thing about good goals is they do not happen overnight. They take time to grow, slow and intentionally. Over that year, I saw my relationship with social media and my online presence drastically change (and for the better!).

I do not claim to a guru expert on how to have a better relationship with your phone or social media. I just know that year-long experiment had a lot to teach me. And my life has changed for the better.

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How to (More) Intentionally Use Social Media

Here are the biggest steps and lessons I learned, the insights that have continued to help me more purposefully use social media in a way that is not mindless scrolling or adding to the “online noise.”

1. Deleting the Facebook app from my phone.

For years, I have heard people talk about deleting apps you waste too much time on as a way to see how often you use them. I always hemmed and hawed at that idea. But when I was on Facebook in a long line waiting for food or at the bank, I had to acknowledge I was wasting too much time on an app that really wasn’t the most important thing I needed to focus on in my life.

2. Setting a timer each day for how long I go on Facebook.

Yes, you read that right! And yes, it is possible. I go on Facebook one time a day for 30 minutes. No, I am not perfect at this. But I stick to it about 75% of the time. And believe it or not, there are days in a row where I don’t even go on Facebook.

Going on Facebook first thing in the morning as I sit down in my office is the best time for me. I check Facebook, go through my emails, and assemble my to-do list for that day at work. I find I am much more productive at life and work when I give myself a set time to be on Facebook, because then I don’t feel deprived, but I still have a healthy relationship with how I use it.

3. Don’t go on your phone past a certain time.

There are lots of scientific studies out there that show the lights from our iPhones and computer screens are not good for our bodies late at night. They make it harder for our body to relax and get ready to fall asleep. Not using the phone past a certain time will make it easier to relax before bed and will likely help your sleep cycle.

What time to do you typically go to bed? Got that number in your head? Now work backwards. I would say 2-3 hours before you want to be in bed, actively falling asleep, have your phone down for the night. Charge it in another room or turn it off. Just don’t use your phone until the minute you climb into bed.

4. Only go on favorite social media accounts one time a day.

For me, this one has been the hardest but most rewarding goal to grow and develop. This is the area of growth I am most proud of for myself. Now, I’m in the habit of only going on my favorite social media apps one time a day. I try to plan it so I have time to go through pictures, comment on posts, and watch Insta stories. I’m not perfect at this, but honestly this trick is where I have seen the most growth.

The biggest insight I have had with this trick is that I can still be engaged and connected without feeling like I am deprived. This has also helped me acknowledge when I go on Instagram for the wrong reasons, like when I am feeling lonely or insecure, or I just want to be validated by something pretty I post. Now, I can catch myself and take that as a cue I need to journal or name the real feelings of what is going on deeper inside of me.

5. Only post when you have something life-giving to say.

I noticed a trend in my social media posting habits. Sometimes I would post for the likes or affirmations. To the best of my ability, I now really only try to post when I have something life-giving or valuable to say. I do not want to be contributing to more “noise” on the internet.

Another way to help me understand my motives when posting is by asking these types of questions: Is this good, beautiful, or true? Am I adding to a conversation with my own unique perspective? Am I posting because I feel lonely (insert other feeling here) and want to be affirmed right now?

Reflecting on my motives before I hit “post” has helped me keep in check why and when I post things on social media.

The Upside of Social Media

Being active on social media is a good thing that has many positive benefits.

But sometimes you can feel burnout, overwhelmed, jealous, or compare yourself to other people you follow. If you struggle with these things from time to time, maybe use 2019 as a year to re-evaluate why and how you use your online presence.

Does your social media use run you or do you choose how to incorporate into your life? Are there certain tips or tricks you use to better intentionally use your own social media accounts?

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Patty Breen is a regular contributor to the BIS blog and a devotion writer. She is a full-time lay minister who finds joy in running, strong cups of coffee, and all things Ignatian spirituality. A Midwestern gal from the mitten state, she is constantly learning to find grace in all things. She is passionate about ministry to divorced Catholics and women whose relationships have been impacted by sexual addiction. You can find out more about her here.

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  • Reply
    Paola @ Swallow the World
    February 6, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Very good post!! I not only love social media, but also need to use it for my business. Which is not the best combination, because I can easily trick myself into thinking I’m doing business when in fact I finished my “tasks” long ago and I’m just mindlessly scrolling. Thanks for these tips 🙂

  • Reply
    February 7, 2019 at 10:34 am

    Thank you, Patty, for a great post. I really like how you wrote that you only post when you have something life-giving to share. This is such a good plan! One thing that I fall into doing that is not productive is multi-tasking. I may be downloading something in one tab on my computer and have Facebook open in another, going back and forth between them. When I do this, I do not keep track of how much time I spend on social media, since I am telling myself I am only using it while I am getting something else done. In the long run, I am not really focused on either thing I am doing and waste time. Planning how long I will spend on social media before I use it and sticking with my time limit are key strategies I can implement to help me be focused and not waste time.

  • Reply
    Megan Bermond
    February 9, 2019 at 10:11 am

    I really want to say how much I love this article! One of my goals for 2019 was to limit my social media use, so I can focus on other things in my life. I have to say, this has been very good for me, especially since I have been able to have those special moments. Thank you, Patty, for this post. I hope it sends inspiration to those that are wanting to slow down from social media.

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