Tips for Balancing Social Media and Your Relationships

I recently read True Story: I Went Two Weeks Without Social Media, by Ashe (@Oh_Ashe) and it really got me thinking.

In the past I’ve done mini social media detoxes, but mostly because I’ve gotten my knickers in a twist over some controversial subject and I needed to take a break. Those breaks never lasted more than four, maybe eight hours. Then I’m back to checking my sites, even if I’m not participating in them. Uh, doesn’t a detox usually at last at least a few days?

Social Media: Weapons of Mass Distraction

Having just returned from a fantastic anniversary trip to Charleston, South Carolina, Ashe’s post was especially timely for me; I photographed, Instagrammed, and Facebooked virtually every hour of the trip, much to my husband’s dismay. I swear I wasn’t trying to get on his nerves, though I most definitely did. Actually, I’m surprised he didn’t crack sooner, but then he IS married to me and why would the incessant cataloging of everything change just because we were on holiday?

I was just! so! excited! about being in one of my favorite cities on a gorgeous weekend, eating amazing food with my lovely hubby. I was physically unable to not photograph every meal we had out, or geo-tag my ’grams, since I only geo-tag when I travel.

I couldn’t. Put. My. Damn. Phone. Down. It became obvious even to me. Oy vey.

weapons of mass distration
Weapons of Mass Distraction print by Hunter Langston Designs.

After reading Ashe’s post, it occurred to me that a two-week detox, while admirable (go, Ashe!), is not what the doctor would order for me. After two weeks I’d just jump back in like a crazed addict, reveling in the likes and tweets and real-time news. I’d be right back at the dinner table with my iPhone in hand.

I realized that I need a social media intervention, plus a plan for being a consumer of social media, and not let it consume me. Since it’s a new year, I want to make the dinner table a sacred place. Get back to the basics that make us feel so good: food, family, conversation; lingering over dinner; laughter and love.

These tips are really for me, but I suspect I’m not the only one who could probably use them. 🙂

Tips for Balancing Social Media and Your Life

Be with the friends that are here!
via Pinterest

1. No tech at the table.
No phones, tablets, computers, TVs, or MP3 players allowed, under any circumstances, in the dining room or wherever you eat your meals. I wish more parents would do this in restaurants. It breaks my heart when I see kids with their iPads at the table, completely zoned out and unable to sit in a restaurant for A WHOLE HOUR without a distraction.

From age two, I was exposed to dining out and never once in my childhood did I throw a tantrum that interrupted a meal in a restaurant. My parents taught me about table manners and the importance of family meals from birth, and I knew that acting up would equal a spanking, so I just didn’t do it. And look at the foodie I turned out to be! Maybe that’s my next career.

2. Leave your phone in the car on date night.
I’m seriously committed to doing this. My obsessive Instagramming of meals (OK, the downside of being a foodie) has perturbed my very patient husband more than once. When he calls me on it, I get defensive, but he’s right. It’s rude to your companion and really, let’s face it, looks bad in a classy restaurant. We’ll ALL live without one more shot of a meal or a martini. Unless it’s a special occasion, there is no need to take photos while you’re in a restaurant.

As American Hipster and The Key of Awesome said last year, Eat It Don’t Tweet It!

(Must watch ↓. Hysterical.)

3. Ban social media one day a week. Social Media-Free Sunday, anyone?
I think Sunday—which even God took off—is a good day to prohibit social media use if you’re having a problem balancing it and your life. No blogging, commenting, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or the like for 24 hours. Why not spend Sundays focused on your loved ones, reading a good old-fashioned book, trying a new recipe, taking a long walk, or all of the above?

4. Put your phone face down in meetings at work, or when going to bed.
One thing I love about my iPhone is that I don’t have to make space for an ugly alarm clock on my nightstand anymore. I also quit wearing a watch since I always have my phone. But when my phone is face-up and I see an alert pop up on the screen, some weird thing happens where I am compelled to check it and clear it as soon as possible! I can’t take seeing those little red circles with numbers in them on my apps; they make me feel like my to-do list is never checked off.

So turn the phone over. That way your boss won’t give you the stink eye in meetings, and when it’s on your nightstand, the light from an alert doesn’t wake you up.

5. Dining with social media-savvy friends or blogging buds? Try this:

Stack phones face down at the dinner table. First person to check their phone pays the bill.
via Pinterest

6. Don’t “out” your non-blog, non-Facebook, non-Instagram using family member.
And yes, that person exists—I’m married to him. And he gets very testy when a photo, video, or quip about him is shared without his prior approval, even if it’s only with my very small group of Facebook friends. I don’t blame him. He’s chosen not to participate in social media for a reason, and I have to respect that. So I just ask for permission and sometimes he gives it, and when he doesn’t, I don’t force it or take it personally.

Do you need a social media intervention? Or do you have tips for balancing life and social media?


  1. I think the Sunday option would be good for me. Very good. On the relationship front, my family have got used to waiting to eat or drink! I also go on jobs now where Instagramming is part of the deal so my husband is aware of that from the get go – on the last travel job he even joined in with the # !!

    1. When blogging is your full-time gig, it definitely lends a different perspective. Sometimes, when Hubby is irritated with me, I have to remind him that a lot of my freelance work procured through the blog has been a benefit to him as well. But I do try to balance it.

  2. Vahni! Wow! This really hit a nerve with me….up until last year I was utterly and completely hooked on Facebook. It was the first thing I checked in the morning and the last thing I checked at night, and that’s not even counting the 20 times during the day that I checked it. I LOVED to see responses and “likes” to my posts… the point of obsessive. I’d find myself in the middle of a hike with my husband and kids taking multiple pictures along the way (truly just for the purpose of a post), and it REALLY got on their nerves. I decided to give up Facebook for Lent and for the first two days, I was antsy! BIG TIME! After that, it was amazing how much TIME I had and how much less stressed I felt! Come Easter Sunday, I was itching to get back on…..only to find tha it was the same old junk. I really had lost my appetite for it and was surprised at all the stressful and opinionated feelings started coming back. I just don’t any to be like that. So I cancelled completely my account and have never reopened it.

    Twitter has never really drawn me in that much, frankly the “I’ll follow you just so you’ll follow me and then I’ll UNfollow you”, just turns me off. So I’m on it, but no where new hooked. INSTAGRAM, on the other hand……CRAP! It’s like Facebook all over again! Obsessive. It makes me ask myself, “can I really enjoy an experience if I don’t broadcast it?” Do I need to collect “likes” and comments to validate what I just instagrammed? And would I enjoy that visit to the art museum or Titanic exhibit if I couldn’t “share” it with people who aren’t invested in my life any more than a double tap?

    It’s like we’ve become our reality shows with ourselves in the starring role……documenting and fabricating the minutiae of our lives. I love your tips! And this year, I think I want to get back in touch with Serene, the woman, and cut back on Serene, the self invented Internet personae.

    Anyway. I went on far too long, sorry about that!

    1. Don’t ever apologize for a long comment, lady! It is such an honor when people take the time to share their thoughts in such a meaningful way.

      I quit Facebook for a year once—it has caused a LOT of issues for my personally, unrelated to simple use of it. I didn’t miss it either. I only reopened my personal account because I wanted to have a page for G&G…and later realized I should never have connected the two. Oh well. Still, I only share on FB selections of Instagram shots, but not all my life. I shut down access to old albums of vacation photos and travel, and I don’t have any info about me on it except that I am married. I think FB is just TMI.

      Anyway, you made lots of good points. I find it a little tough balancing my “public” persona with my “private” one, because I do generate some revenue from the blog, and I love it, and I like interacting with others. But I do hold a LOT back. I guess that’s the key. There still has to be some mystery, for safety reasons, if nothing else.

      Thanks for sharing, lovely!

  3. I read that post, too, and was amazed. Bravo for Ashe! I, personally, would find it tough, especially with family being overseas, I like to be able to know what they’re up to. But, trying to keep my husband from texting or checking Facebook when we’re out to dinner is hard, though I’m determined to break him of the habit. Definitely not cool.

    Social media-free Sundays sounds like a good idea to me. Don’t we all have other interesting things to do?

  4. Haha – great post!
    As for tips? That’s easy – have such a busy life that you are forced to detox by the sheer inability to connect to anything because there simply is no time!
    Actually my line of work makes that easy – I can’t connect to any social media at work because it is all banned and I have chosen not to get a smart phone to avoid the temptation to facebook, tweet, blog etc… when I should be focusing on my job. Then I’m usually busy with dance classes in the evening so social media time gets squeezed into a very narrow window. So I do find that if need to switch off to focus on something else I still can.
    But I hear you about no tech at the dining table – I need to do that big time – and paying a bit more attention to my man than to my laptop in the evenings!
    Kind of caving in to the idea of a Galaxy phone and instragram account though – I fear that way madness lies….

    1. Not to encourage you to join the dark side…but I’d love to see a slice of your life and dancing via Instagram. It allows you to share more real-time shots that aren’t necessarily worthy of a blog post, or if you just don’t have time for posting. And stay as anonymous as you’d like!

      Kind of want to say DO IT. For selfish reasons, of course. 😉

  5. All too apropo, V, as always! And so very well written (as always)! In the past few months I’ve been inadvertently weaning myself off of a lot of social media. The excuse is that I’ve been working on some pretty busy rotations lately, but I did find that not much changed. Sure, my Klout went down, but really who the heck cares?

    I follow some of your rules intrinsically: phone face down in meetings, conferences, or lectures. I don’t share the hubby (photograph or personal things) without explicit permission first. He’s like your hubby.

    The things I’m going to adopt? No tech at the table (period.). Also, leaving the phone in the car at date night. Even on silent I’ll see the phone light up in my purse and compulsively check it. It really bothers HB because he feels having your bright phone screen on during a movie is just as rude as texting or receiving a call. (I’m guilty, but I agree.)

    1. Compulsively checking…that’s me!

      I also don’t have push alerts or notifications for Twitter or Instagram, or I’d be checking even more than I do. I find that helps a lot.

      And yeah, the Klout score—at the end of the day, who cares! It really doesn’t mean that much, now that we’re a couple years into having it, we know it’s just another measure (like page views or uniques) that does NOT define who we are or how much WE get out of our social media interactions. Cause there’s that too. If no one is interacting—just broadcasting—what’s the point?

  6. I made the decision during my pregnancy that I couldn’t do it all. And be “it all” I was really referring to social media. Yes, I work in social media as my career. And yes, I have NoH. But being online can’t be my singular identity. So, now I post less on NoH (typically about 3x a week) and I don’t take my phone everywhere always. And you know what?? I am okay with it! In fact, I think it makes me a happier & more well-rounded individual.

    1. I agree, Alexis, I think we ALL need to pull back a bit and be more present in our daily lives. Of course, I’m sure your little lady keeps you very present now! Hope you are both well!

  7. I still feel like a newbie when it comes to social media. I’m trying very hard to get a grip on twitter and infuse my Facebook fan page with some fun. I love Pinterest but haven’t gotten that into Instagram. Blame it on my aged phone. My problem is spending too much of the time I should be working on social media. When I’m out and about I usually forget all about it. I’m not sure I need an intervention yet, but it looks like I’m working on being obsessive with it! I think to be successful on social media you have to be very active, and that can get in the way of life.

    1. You’re right, Heather. To be successful in social media, you do have to be very active. But I think that activity also has to be meaningful and interesting. It’s definitely a fine line, and I have found that it’s best to have times of less frequent activity when you’re not doing or saying anything really compelling.

  8. These are great tips V! I was forced into a social media detox when the baby first came home. I was just too plain tired to look or do anything! LOL. Now what I do is leave my phone out of my bedroom. That way when I get up a million times during the night, I’m not tempted to stay up and play with it.

    1. Your priorities definitely change when a baby enters your world! Good for you for leaving the phone in the other room at night. Sleep is precious anyway, especially when a baby is in the house, so better to not have that stimulation (tech, which they’ve proven makes sleeping difficult), under any circumstances.

  9. True words, V! I’m guilty of a lot of the things you mentioned in your posts though I never check my phone during meals with others as I find this to be extremely rude to the other person(s).

    I once instagrammed my meal at a restaurant, but felt totally embarassed the instant I hovered my phone over the plate and never really wanted to do it again. Now the only food I instagram comes from home where nobody sees me trying to get a good shot of it. 😉

    I do get caught up in social media a lot though with me it’s more of a problem being online & working a lot of the time on the computer. That’s why I’ve been trying to detox by having an offline day once per week. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Your post definitely makes me want to improve on that statistic!

    I recently read this tweet by Will Ferrell and had to laugh so hard because I found this to be so true (for me):

    “If a girl eats a meal, and no one is around to Instagram it, did it even happen?”


    Good luck with your social media detox, Vahni!

    – Irina

  10. Another gem, V! I nearly instagrammed my take out sushi yesterday. Then I stopped myself…I mean seriously, why? Just enjoy dinner…Great post!!

  11. I know we have had this discussion before on Twitter about getting grief from partners about always being on the phone. I know that I have to stop myself, especially at certain times on a weekend. During the week I’m often too busy to even think about it. I will occasionally check my Twitter feed but that’s about it.

    But come the weekend I do dive right in and sometimes I know it annoys my partner as she’s not really into social media like I am. I don’t have my phone at the table and I’ve learnt to put it to one side when I’m spending quality time with my partner. It is easy to get immersed in it as it is constant your feed never stops and sometimes you feel like you’ll miss something…but the only thing you’re really missing is your own life.

  12. Thank you all for your comments and sharing your perspectives! I’m thanking you on a Sunday, so my “Social Media-Free Sunday” concept isn’t in effect here, but I am definitely doing no tech at the table!

  13. Hello Vahni!

    Always like to read your posts.
    Fortunately, I have cell phone which has no android software, so I don’t have instagram. Few months a go I almost bought one android cell phone, but I changed my mind in last second – I knew that I will create instagram account and that I will be totally addict,( because even with this ordinary cell phone I shoot everything I find interesting. And I simply don’t know my limits, or know them too good because when I first created facebook, I was hanging on it for 14 hours!)

    When I started blogging I found all this very fun, have created many accounts on many smaller social media communities and I was always wondering how some of the most successful blogger have very great lifestyle, always traveling, sharing the pictures of every single details which very big audience heart (click heart on it), all these fashion shows and all that jazz… Until one day I saw Rumi Neely’s video for some headphones. I was very very surprised when she said that she loves to travel because then she can enjoy walking, going to interesting places, doing things normally because when she’s back home she is always on the computer. And then I browsed some of the most popular blogs in the world and came to conclusion – Oh my, this people are 24/7/365 online! Like in some invisible virtual labor camp!!! Okay, people really love them but it is a high price to pay for their fame!

    But can’t describe to you how great I felt when I found out – I have a life – college, family (reunions), boyfriend, real life friends who I met in my childhood not via internet and this blog is just “exhaust velve” and good hobby! And finally felt satisfaction because I know that I have very healthy social media segment of life. Which is not my whole life, just a segment!
    But however – Love this idea about one day a week free of social media!!!

    Cheers, enjoy and lots of fun!
    Wink 😉

    1. Hi Anika, thanks for you comment…you had me laughing with “virtual labor camp”! It does seem like that sometimes!

      I have to admit, I LOVE social media, but like you, you only see a segment of my life, not the whole thing. That’s definitely by design. Sounds like you have a balanced approach…and yeah, beware of Instagram! It is sooooooooo addictive! I could live without Twitter and FB, but I don’t think I could part with Instagram. It’s just the perfect blend of visuals, words, and interaction. Truly a great micro-blogging application.

  14. This is great, V. Another awesome post full of tips! 🙂 Now that I have internet on my phone (finally) I’m pretty much on it 24/7 and I’m not sure how I lived without it before. I never wanted to be one of those people that’s always on their phone, but I am! However, I definitely keep my phone out of sight while at a function with friends — well, when I’m done taking a photo of my meal. Then it’s back in the purse! It’s just rude to be on it around other people. If someone calls, I can still hear it from my bag!

    1. Oh, girl, you are on a slippery slope! I am that girl too, which is why I wrote this post. But it’s good that you keep the phone out of sight when with friends. As they say, out of sight, out of mind. I’m working on it.

  15. LOVE, LOVE this one. I work from home so I’ve made it a habit to shut down my personal internet on Fridays at the end of the working day and not turn it back on until work begins Monday morning. I’ve made the choice not to have a smart phone. While I love to see instant tidbits as much as the next person, it gets severely depressing at gatherings when everyone has their noses in the smart phone and no one wants to talk face to face. Like keys in the bowl, so go the phones, to handed back when the party’s over.

    1. Hi Nina, thanks for chiming in on this post. I do occasionally look around public places and notice a frightening amount of people completely absorbed in their phones. I know on occasion I am one of those people, but I’m trying hard to change that. It actually looks quite juvenile, really. I don’t want to look totally clueless, you know?

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