Q: How can I guard against the danger of online social networking taking up too much of my time and negatively impacting my marriage? When my wife and I first started using sites like Facebook we thought they were a great way to keep in touch with family and friends. Now they’re beginning to dominate our lives. Any advice?
A: There’s a fairly simple common-sense solution to your dilemma: you need to take control. One way to do this is to draw up a household “mission statement” to govern your use of social media. We suggest you begin by asking yourself some basic questions: “Why do I want to be involved with social media? What am I hoping to accomplish by way of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram?” Sit down and hash these questions out with your spouse. Write down your answers in the plainest possible terms. For example: “My goal is to use Facebook to stay in touch with Mum and Dad, my sister Jan, cousin Frank, and Bob and Jean.” Then post those guidelines on your refrigerator and make up your minds to stick with them. If you get “friend” requests from people outside this circle, feel free to ignore them.
Another way to limit the amount of time you’re spending with social media is to cut down the number of devices you’re using to access your account. You can also give yourself permission to leave behind your hand-held devices while you’re out doing more important things — for example, enjoying a dinner date with your spouse. Some families have even found it helpful to have a “No Mobile During Dinner Box” where phones and iPads can be laid aside voluntarily as a way of “disconnecting” for a while. You can probably come up with additional strategies of your own. Remember, you are in the driver’s seat.
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