10/31/2014 11:47 am ET Updated Dec 31, 2014

Tools to Bring Social Media Under Control

Blend Images - Colin Anderson via Getty Images

We all live fast-paced lives and, sometimes, that leads us to a frantic existence, running from one task to another without giving ourselves time to think. We may take care of agenda items that float to the top of our "must do" lists, but are the tasks occupying that spot on the list really the most important? Have you ever taken the time to evaluate the real importance of where you're spending your time? And how well they're being done?

It seems that scheduled items receive the most attention: carpools, appointments, classes, school or work. Another area that seems to overtake us is associated with social media. Like any habit, we turn to the Facebooks, Twitters and Instagrams of the world, almost without thinking. Actually, it's not almost without thinking; often it is without giving it any thought at all. Catching up with social media is just another of the many habits we've created for ourselves.

According to eMarketer, in 2014 Americans spend about four and a half hours on some type of technology every day. While some interactions may be the result of necessity, there is no doubt that much of the time spent this way is discretionary. And research also says that most teenagers exceed that estimated amount.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a clinical report that spoke of the benefits of social media, such as enhanced communication between family and friends, increased opportunity for community engagement, collaboration and exchange of ideas, and access to health information. However, they also highlighted risks involved with social media. Cyberbullying, harassment, access to sexually explicit messages, photographs, or images and depression were all mentioned. Are there areas of your life that could be suffering as a result of this excessive time spent with technology? Take a realistic look at your habits and see where you might be able to decrease the time you spend with technology, or at least better monitor your personal usage.
  • Schedule yourself. Decide when you will check emails and respond to all communications at one time. This could be done twice a day, and would still leave plenty of time to respond to any messages.
  • Take care of your essentials, tied to school or profession, before you take time out for social media. Never overlap the two. Do what you need to do before you do what you want to do.
  • Remember that social media can give the impression that you're being sociable, but that's really not the case. Make an extra effort to see people face-to-face, engaging in a more personal way. It may be easy to write a quick, abbreviated response to something posted, but that type of activity is a poor substitute for using real social skills.
  • Remember that multitasking, where your attention switches back and forth from one activity or thought to another, increases stress and has a negative impact on performance. Rather than taking twice as long to accomplish a task half as well, tackle one job at a time. Spend half the time, and do it twice as well by devoting all of your brainpower to the item at hand.
  • Practice mindfulness every day. Mindfulness, a secular type of meditation, has proven to increase focus, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve empathy, compassion, and emotional regulation, all important skills in socializing and working with others.

Will it be an adjustment at first? Yes, but you will be pleased once you see the results of breaking that habit of being a slave to technology and, in its place, becoming more mindful, productive, and tuned in to the world around you.

Dr. Wolbe can be reached via her website at