Are You Spending Too Much Time on Facebook?

A couple of years ago I got an unexpected tax return of a thousand dollars. I was completely thrilled. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to spend it on, but I was sure it was going to be something really great. So I banked the cheque into my savings account and starting planning. In the meantime, life went on and I was at the shops looking at some great jewellery thinking, I really wish I could get this...hey! I can! I have one thousand dollars...what’s eighty bucks out of that!?!?  And so I’d buy it. I’d be looking at these so cute little shorts for my kids, thinking, well, they probably don’t really need any new clothes, but hey, I’ve just got one THOUSAND DOLLARS, it’s okay to splurge a bit!  Sold!  And in the mornings I would be rushed and not have time to make my lunch but I would think, that’s okay, I can buy my lunch today – I’ve got a thousand dollars!  As you’ve probably guessed it, before I knew it, I didn’t have one thousand dollars anymore, I had six hundred.  And then three hundred. All the things I had been planning to buy were more expensive than that, so I didn’t know quite what to do – except that I just kept spending the money and very soon it was gone. A few months later, a friend asked me “what did you spend your a thousand dollars on??” and  I had to sadly say – well, nothing much really.  I’ve certainly learnt the hard way that unless you are really clear about, committed to and smart about how you spend any “extra” money, it goes on nothing much at all.

This is also what it is like with time.  Most of us have a few hours a day which are ours to choose how we spend them.  Unless we are clear about how we want to spend our time, and committed to and smart about doing that, chances are it will disappear on things we don’t necessarily care that much about.  I only have one opportunity to choose how I spend my 37th year of life. Once it is gone, I will never get it back.  You only have one chance to spend your 15th (16th, 17th, 21st however old you are) year of life too.   Will you be happy with how you spent it?  Will we be able to look back on this year and say, I’m proud of and happy about how I spent all my time?

Today in particular we are looking at a way of spending time – on Facebook.  Are you spending too much time on it?  This isn’t an easy question to answer.  Some people can say definitely “yes”, others can say definitely “no”,but many of us will probably say, I’m not sure.

Possibly less important than immediately knowing the answer is to at least regularly ask ourselves questions like this.  You might like to ask yourselves these questions right now:

Am I spending too much time on Facebook this week? 

Are there things that are more important to me that I am neglecting because I am on Facebook too much? 

If I hadn’t been on Facebook over the last few days, what else would I have been doing – and am I okay about that?

There are no “right” answers to these questions, but asking ourselves them matter, because it means we are more likely to live a life that we care about and value.  It means we are more likely to look back over the year and say, this is the life I wanted to live.   

My research shows that many senior school students in particular have some misgivings about the time they spend on Facebook.  Approximately 70% of them say they have tried, at some point in the past year, to spend less time on fbook.  Unfortunately fbook can be addictive so many of these students have been unsuccessful in trying to spend less time.  If you are one of these people, here are a couple of ideas which might help.

The two most important principles for using Facebook less

 The two principles of using Facebook less often are pretty simple.  They are also principles that apply to any kind of behaviour which is hard to stop.  They are:

  1. Make decisions about specific goals – exactly what you want to do, when and how you want to do it – and remind yourselves of these before you get into tempting situations.
  2. Put in place external factors which help you stick to your decision, rather than simply relying on internal willpower.

Let’s look at these in turn.

Making decisions about specific goals.  It is worth considering a few questions about our Facebook use.  For example, we might want to decide either:

  • How much time is reasonable to spend on Facebook OR
  • How much time is unreasonable to spend on Facebook OR
  • What other things would tell us that we are using it too much.

For example, for one person, they might have a specific guideline which says if they have been on Facebook everyday – then that is too much.  Another person might have a specific guideline which says they will only spend 15 minutes before they start their homework on Facebook.  Another person might say, if they are putting more than five status updates on a week, then this is too much.

Perhaps stop to think for a moment and answer at least one of these questions below:

  • A reasonable number of times per week for me to log on to Facebook is:
  • A reasonable amount of time for me to have Facebook open each time I log on is:
  • An unreasonable number of times per week for me to log on is:
  • An unreasonable amount of time for me to have Facebook open is:
  • I wont use Facebook when:
  • I will log off Facebook when:

Hopefully answering these questions might provide some specific goals for you.  Now, how to stick to them?

The most important principle here is to make sure we put in place external factors that help us stick to our specific goals.  If we rely on willpower and motivation, then some days we will be able to do it, but a lot of days we won’t be able to.  What are external factors?  There are a few categories of them:

(a) Make Facebook harder to use

What this means is making a slight change in our environment so that Facebook is harder to access or get to in the times we don’t want to use it.  This might mean having the computer physically further away, it might mean having our password as something impossible to remember and keeping it on paper somewhere away from the computer so it is harder to log on, or it might mean only using Facebook just before we have to go out so that we can’t use it for hours.  Even small changes in making Facebook harder to use – e.g just taking it off as our homepage – can be helpful at times.

(b) Make Facebook alternatives easier to do or tougher to say no to.

If we think about what we want to be spending our time on instead of Facebook, it is worth thinking about trying to make those activities more accessible, easier to do or harder to avoid.  For example, this might mean putting homework books etc out on the table as soon as we get home, it might mean organising to have a friend come over at a certain time, it might mean promising to do something with your parents or committing to a gym membership.

(c) Get other people involved in your decision or at least write them down

Another external factor which can help us stick to decisions is to tell other people what our plans are.  Telling your parents how much time you plan to spend on Facebook might sound like a recipe for disaster but it will probably help you stick to your decision.  If you cant bring yourself to do that, you might like to tell a friend, or at the very least write it down on paper.  This gives some level of “accountability” which means it is a bit harder to break your promises to yourself.

Hopefully some of these ideas are helpful.  Feel free to email me with any questions or comments.

Kirrilie Smout Copyright 2010,