Sometimes you want to keep track of friends who live abroad, or perhaps you have plans that need to be made between a group of friends. With a user-base that likely includes almost everyone you know, Facebook is the most central place to stay apprised of and easily communicate with pretty much your entire rolodex.
Important to consider, though, is how much time is spent simply browsing without any real intent, just scrolling in much the same way we might click aimlessly through TV stations. This is where the distraction of social media becomes a bit of a nuisance, keeping us away from things we ought to get done in the real world. To stay on track, and to help you get the best out of social media without the distractions, here are a few tips to consider the next time you catch yourself just scrolling down the page.
Limit your time
If you're finding yourself spending too much time browsing social media sites, or even just spending a lot of time browsing kitten videos on YouTube, you likely need to find a way to limit your usage smartly.
If you use Google Chrome, you can install StayFocusd, a simple browser extension which lets you set time limits on how long you spend on certain sites. A small icon in the top right of your browser lets you activate a timer, which will block you from visiting a site after a certain amount of time has passed. Like anything, moderation is key, so limit your time online, and get out there and enjoy some real social time.
Manage who you follow. If you can't "unfriend", unsubscribe
When we all started using services like Facebook, it seemed like a great idea to 'friend' or 'follow' every person who sent you an invite, but a certain point you begin to forget who all those people on your list are.
Old high-school acquaintances, old flings, or ex-co-workers — it's a touchy subject; is there a polite way to 'unfriend' someone? I like to keep my list lean; in fact, over the past couple of years I've reduced my Facebook friends from over 500 to well below 150.
Since you might not be as eager as me to just go about deleting all those people, consider using some of Facebook's built in feed settings to control how much you see. At the top right of every post in your feed, you'll find a small downward arrow. Click this and a series of options appear to let you control what kind, and how much content shows up from a given individual in your list. If you feel bad un-friending someone, just unsubscribe; that way you can avoid constant updates from someone you don't really engage with, without the social backlash.
Engage: comment, message, chat, and post
If your actually looking for distraction, don't just sit there reading your feed. Pick someone who's online with you for a quick chat, or leave a comment or share a link to something you've read during the day. Though these activities have a tendency to draw you in deeper, at least your temporary distraction is interactive, keeping you engaged with something and hopefully someone. Remember, social media is meant to be social, so when you catch yourself just consuming, consider joining the conversation.
Consolidate your feed for social media at a glance
There are many great apps and tools to consider that can help you bring social media streams from disparate sources together into a easy-to-browse digest.
Popular magazine style social reader Flipboard (Android, iOS) lets you consolidate a digest of social media sources, prioritizing what it sees as big stories (based on your social graph). Bringing together content from Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and even Google+, Flipboard is a great way to get a quick dose of stories from all the social sites you frequent without hopping all over the web.
Other popular reader apps like Pulse (Android, iOS) offer similar functionality, bringing in social content alongside other meda, while social media management tools like Tweetdeck (Chrome, Mac, Android, iOS) give you one place to check your Twitter and Facebook feeds, plus notifications in one place.
(Image: Sean Rioux)