Think of it this way: Social media is like having real friends. Let’s consider work first. If you spent your entire work day socializing in the break room or chatting on your phone… well, you would get fired. It’s good to be friendly with the people you work with – you should spend 10-20% of your work day networking with people in your company or industry. But, except for brief check-ins for making plans, non-work “friends” should be addressed in your non-work time.
So now, let’s consider your personal time. If you spend all your free time – the 4-5 hours per day you have after sleep and work, plus a little more on the weekends – with your friends, you might be neglecting your family. For the young and single, a good mix is 10-50-40. Spend 10% of your time around family, 30% of your time with friends (face-to-face AND social media) and 30% of your time alone (working out, reading, showering, engaging in some hobby, etc.).
When your life changes, the percentages change. Here are my own examples of some good ratios:
- Single but dating – 10-60-30 (10% family, 60% social, 30% alone time)
- Falling in love – 75-5-25
- Newlywed couple – 60-20-20
- Established couple – 40-30-30
- Have a spouse and little kids – 60-10-30
- Have a spouse and older kids – 40-30-30
- Spouse but kids are grown – 30-30-40
- No spouse and grown kids – 20-40-40
- No spouse, no kids, getting older 10-40-50
The point isn’t just about picking a percentage; it’s about negotiating a percentage that works for you and for the people around you. If you think it’s good to spend 30% of your free time with friends, but your spouse thinks 10% of your time is plenty, you need to have a chat. If you think it’s okay to spend 10% of your time with family, but your parents want to see you five times a week, you need to have a chat.
The best thing about allocating a percentage is that it lets you determine how you really want to allocate your time. Then you have to have the polite-but-clear discussions with your family, significant other, friends and even yourself about what’s realistic.
Time spent on social media is pretty efficient time. It allows us to keep up with friends and colleagues quickly. We can keep relationships fresh and stay informed easily. But don’t sell yourself short with inch-deep interactions. Spending all your time on social media takes away from the other interactions that lead to the full and remarkable life you really deserve.
photo credit: Ed Yourdon, http://www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/3564918558/