I have recently been spending more time on Facebook and Twitter, and have been exploring how to consciously engage with these two web phenomena. Here's what I have come up with:
1. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
I know it can seem impolite to unfollow a user on Twitter or unfriend someone on Facebook, but I don't think the goal is not to communicate with as many people as possible, but to have authentic communication with those we do. This, for many of us, means reducing the list of people whose updates we read. Saying "no" to some users is also a way of saying "yes" to others, as more of our attention is available to engage with those with which we do resonate. Too many "yeses" clutters our mind and life.
2. Know Where Your Attention is Most Needed
For most of us, there are times in the day for social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but if we are not aware, these sites can easily consume our entire day. There are times, for example, when our attention needs to be directed to a project for work or to our partner, but we find ourselves continually drawn to the "rush" of new information that Twitter and Facebook offers. Our use of these sites then becomes habitual rather than creative. When this happens, it can help to ask, "Where is my attention most needed at this moment?" and to direct it accordingly.
3. Balance Browsing with Focused Time
We generally do not go on Facebook or Twitter with a particular focus. We instead approach these sites essentially saying, "I wonder what's new since I last visited." Such browsing has its place, yet many projects in life require our full, undivided attention. If we are writing a report or working on a project, and we check for new posts on Facebook or Twitter every ten minutes, we are draining what creative energy we have. We need focused, as well as browsing, time.
4. Know Limit of Information Intake
The information that we have access to on the web, and that Twitter and Facebook help us discover, is awe-inspiring. However, there is only so much time we can spend looking at a computer screen and consuming information before our ability to absorb and retain that information is seriously weakened. Sure, our body may be sitting in front of the computer screen and our eyes staring at it, but often there is little real learning occurring. Essentially, our cup is full. Knowing when we reach this point, be it after an hour or three hours, is essential to helping us retain the information we receive. If not, we can easily spend much of our day trying to fill an already full cup.
5. Make it Enjoyable
People use Facebook and Twitter for various reasons, but more are doing so for business purposes, particularly marketing. There is nothing wrong with this, but the quality of how we use a site -- if we are there because we enjoy it or if is simply a means to some end -- not only impacts the quality of our own life, but also our interactions. There are many ways to network and to promote a business; social networks are one, but they are not everyone's way. If we are going to use Facebook or Twitter, the level of enjoyment with which we do greatly determines the quality and impact of our time there. Life is too short to not enjoy what we do, and people can tell the difference.
Soren Gordhamer is the author of Wisdom 2.0: Ancient Secrets for the Creative and Constantly Connected (HarperOne, 2009). Website: http://www.sorengordhamer.com.