Help! I feel like all my social media-ing is cutting into my productivity and life. I'm on all these different sites now, and sometimes I feel like I come to work basically to read Twitter all day. How can I get my social media fix without feeling like an Internet loser and/or getting fired?
Is there a bigger timesuck in the history of ever than the Internet? One minute you're trying to do your taxes, and the next thing you know you're skimming Portuguese newspapers, watching Skins recaps, Googling "hilarious condoms," and learning that tutorials exist for people who want to have sex with dolphins.
Wading through the muck and white noise of the interwebs can certainly be a daunting task. Here are some tips to help you strike a balance between taking a few bites of Internet cake and sticking your whole head in there like a diabetic Ostrich and never coming out again.
I know, self-control: zzzzzzzz. What are you gonna tell me next, to eat more kale, exercise, and wear taupe because it goes with everything? No, asshole, you don't look good in taupe! But the self-control part we can totally work on. Start small. Tell yourself, I will only log-in to Facebook three times a day. Or I will only check my email once an hour. Or Twitter is reserved for lunchtime. If you find you can't adhere to your own rules, then consider enlisting the help of addiction-curbing websites like LeechBlock, which is a Firefox extension that blocks up to six websites during times you specify. Of course, this can be easily sidestepped by using another Internet browser, like Safari or Internet Explorer, since most of us have more than one on our computers, but LeechBlock can at least slow you down and help you realize just how Facebook-crack-addled you really are. Another perk/judgment LeechBlock provides is the ability to track how much time you spend playing Farmville or watching Justin Bieber blowdry his hair on YouTube, thus effectively shaming you into recovering a little bit of your dignity.
The fewer sites you feel compelled to check, the more productive you'll be with your time. Hence, sites like Tweet Deck or Brizzly, for instance, allow you to check your friends' Facebook and Twitter updates in the same feed, killing the proverbial two birds with one fail whale. Digsby is another such tool that can combine social networking, e-mail notifications, and instant messaging platforms all in one place.
Also, Gmail can pretty much do everything except bear your children, and it shouldn't be overlooked as a time management tool. Schedule appointments with Google Calendar, make to-do lists with the Tasks tool, edit and share documents wherever you have an internet connection, IM people, voice chat, video chat, etc. There are even gadgets you can install to incorporate Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, FriendFeed, and Flickr into your Gmail account. Just don't keep them up and running all the time, or you'll implode.
Realize you'll never be able to out-read the Internet
I know it's tempting to want to always be on top of the news, to be the first to coo over your ex-boyfriend's smelly new pet ferret, read what you missed on The Bachelor, and what your favorite pundits are saying about the protests in Wisconsin. But you can't! Let it go. You'll be much more at peace with yourself once you realize that you don't really need to know what's in a "low-fat" Hot Pocket or what the latest live animal posing as Lady Gaga's footwear is.
If you're an absolute news junkie, consider subscribing to a news alert tool to save yourself time from website-hopping. Google, of course, offers this service. So do various other news sites like CNN, BBC, CBS, and The New York Times. But there are others on Twitter too, like @daylife_feed that will tweet alerts to you based on the news you want to digest. @BreakingNews is another good stream that aggregates content from multiple sources: Alternately, if you just want updates about zombies, go here.
If all that fails, then I implore you to listen to this Le Tigre song over and over until the message is internalized, then note the irony that you have to be on the Internet to listen to that song in the first place (and read this column). At least you're not reading about dolphin sex though.