Imagine it’s the year 1999 (for some of you, that’s hard to do, I know). But just imagine. There is no social media, we only use the internet for a few things here and there, but we do have a wonder of modern technology: the cell phone. You love your cell phone. This wonder of modern technology keeps you connected to friends and family. No more pay phones for you. No matter where you are, all they need to do is call.
Now imagine that your friends and family – ALL of your friends and family – began to call and text you with updates every 15-30 minutes. Not important updates. Not things that were valuable or really useful to you. Updates like what they had for breakfast; what their 4-year old is wearing to school; that they just got their electric bill in the mail; things like that.
How long would it take you to ask them to stop calling and texting you with this random, useless information? Probably about a day. It would be annoying, distracting, tiring, and ultimately pointless.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where this is now the reality. It’s called facebook.
Last week I introduced a continuing series on margin. Simply put, margin = power – load. This week, I want to highlight what I believe is one of the biggest load requirements in our modern lives: facebook. We did not have this “thief of margin” in our lives 10 years ago. And yet, now it occupies a large portion of our time. If you are reading this, chances are this website eats into your personal, professional, and spiritual life everyday.
Facebook estimates that the average user spends 17 minutes a day on the site. Personally, I think that figure is probably much higher for the average active user. In fact, a lot of active users probably spend 17 minutes in one log in on Facebook. Regardless of the actual number, no one can argue that this new form of social interaction takes up a lot of our time.
Not only does it take up a lot of our time, but it fills that time with largely pointless information. If you think about the cell phone illustration above, you understand my premise. So facebook is really a double margin killer. It fills our day with more and more information, but as if that wasn’t bad enough, it is largely useless information.
Think of this in terms of facebook taking away time from other important things in your life: your spouse, your children, your ministry, your personal time with God.
I used this online estimate tool from Time magazine to determine how much time I have personally spent on facebook since I opened my account. Over 21 days! That’s 21 full days of time on earth away from my wife, my kids, my calling, my God. At the end of my life, I have a feeling I’ll want to ask Facebook for all of it back.
I am not saying that you need to delete your Facebook account. I’m not deleting mine. I’m not saying that everything about facebook is bad; it’s not. But as Christians, we must be discerning in how we use media and other tools. That’s what facebook should be for the believer – a tool to help you follow God’s will for your life. If all the time you spend on facebook helps you follow God closer, love your family more, and become more like Christ, then kudos. But chances are, not ALL the time you spend on the site does these things. Your job is to limit the time you spend in the virtual world, regain some margin in your life, and spend it on things more important.
So what can you do? Here’s a few ideas to help you regain margin (and relationships) that facebook has stolen:
1 – Estimate your Facebook usage.
You can use this tool to do so. Or you can estimate it the old fashioned way. Time yourself every time you use Facebook one day this week and calculate the total.
2 – Set a time limit for yourself
Is that 5 minutes a day? 1 hour a day? It’s your decision. What will help you regain some margin in your life? Personally, I try to check facebook one time a day – at the end of the day, for less than 15 minutes. Don’t worry, I’m still breathing.
3 – Fill the time with other things
Once you eliminate some time from facebook, you will have more time (margin) for other things. I would recommend filling it with one thing: relationships. Build your relationship with God and with your family using the time you have redeemed from facebook.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you struggle with this? Have you considered it before? Leave a comment on this page.