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How to Organize Your Online Life Without Losing Your Mind


Are you on Facebook? Do you use Instagram and Snapchat as well? Are you active on

  • Twitter
  • Tumblr
  • Pinterest

on top of that? Oh my God! How do you keep your sanity?

I’m a big social media aficionado but the sheer number of social sites literally makes me crazy.

Who has the time to update all of them? Hint: nobody. That’s why you need a “hub” to organize your virtual existence.

I admit it. I spend way too much time glued to the screen. I earn money from fixing websites and writing for blogs.

I even get paid for managing social media accounts by now but most of the time social media activity is an unpaid part of daily work for me.


Be there and get left behind

You have to be there and share links regularly to maintain an audience and keep it satisfied.

Yet even despite of that you can minimize the negative impact of Internet usage in general and social media engagement in particular. Why should you do that?

Studies have proven that there is a clear connection between depression and social media activity.

In short: the longer you watch other people’s happy baby and travel photos the more depressed you become. It’s not coincidental.

Woman walking barefoot in the evening on a pictuersque beach

The seemingly perfect lives of others make us compare our miserable lives to them and feel left behind. After all they are

  • sunbathing at the beach
  • skiing in the mountains
  • or partying at the club

while we do tedious paperwork for our boss or wash the dishes or are stuck in the rush hour traffic.


Managing your time and social media sites

The streamlined lives of our online friends can take a toll on us even if we know that they are largely staged or at least depict only the happy moments.

Of course this is an oversimplification. I also exaggerate a bit to make a point but it’s inherently true. Social media doesn’t have to depress you though.

It’s all about a healthy management of your time.

That’s why I schedule time for social media for instance and never feel guilty about spending work hours on

  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest

– my current three favorites. I always sucked at congratulating complete strangers or people I haven’t met in 20 years on their birthdays or trying to compliment them on their newborns. Thus…

I use Facebook very sparingly. I almost gave Facebook up completely once. I think at the end of 2011 I abandoned my Facebook account but some people – like my mother – want to connect with me using it so that I have to return from time to time.

Do you need some fancy online tools to manage your time? You already see that all you need to do is actually decide when and how to use social media to keep both time and social media site activity manageable.

Don’t get me wrong – there are tools I’d recommend but first of let us talk about priorities.

There are just two tools I’d like to recommend for time management.

  1. TeuxDeux is a very simple and affordable (12$ a year) todo list tool.
  2. Toggl is a very simple timer to remind you how long you take per actual task. It’s free for starters.

Screen shot of TeuxDeux productivity tool showing todos for an example Monday including 1h social media, 1h paid work, 15min strecthing etc.

Using just these two tools you can effectively schedule your social media time (I’d suggest like 1h a day) and then find out how much you actually already used to be able to stop before you spend the rest of the day on them.


What is social media – other people’s websites!

Let’s take a step back and consider what social media actually is about. Sites like Facebook or Instagram (which is also owned by Facebook) feel so self-evident.

We do not even question their existence as if they always have been there. Yet

social media is still a new phenomenon.

Facebook and YouTube exist for a mere decade now. Before that there were barely any social media sites in the current sense.

There was Delicious for sharing bookmarks and StumbleUpon for discovering new content but there was no real socializing yet. On SU it was budding but on Delicious it never really worked.

The only still somehow important first wave social media outlet is Reddit.

OK, enough of all that name-dropping. Let it be said: social media is not the Internet.

Facebook is not the Internet. It’s not even the Web.

The Web consists of websites connected with links. It’s openly and publicly available to all of us.

Facebook is basically just a website owned by someone else, a very young billionaire called Mark Zuckerberg. He’s number five on the list of the richest people of the world currently.

This guy made his fortune by convincing other people to create content for his website for free. People work for free for Mr. Zuckerberg every day, even on Sundays!

Fun fact: did you know that Zuckerberg is German and literally means mountain of sugar?

You are like one of the numerous sugar particles making it a sweet mountain.

While Facebook and its closed setup where only members and “friends” can see most of the content is the most obvious case – all social media sites are basically websites owned by other people – who convinced us to create content and links for them for free.

The more free workers a website has the richer the owner is.

It’s not really work you may argue because you enjoy chatting with your friends on Facebook and sharing your images on Instagram. Yet at the same time you could work for yourself and create content for your own site.

When you share and connect on Facebook you don’t actually enjoy life sunbathing, skiing or partying.

You are glued to the screen and perform the same tasks you’d for actual work. You move your mouse, type into the keyboard and stare at the light of the computer screen. That’s tiresome. You don’t even

  • do paperwork
  • wash the dishes
  • wait in traffic

Unless you can do multitasking – but studies have shown that most people can’t actually multitask they only fool themselves to do so while jumping between tasks all the time – you are hurting your productivity.


Why use and get used by social media at all?

Why would you work on other people’s websites every day without pay? There are multiple reasons but many of them are not truly empowering. Some of these might sound familiar:

  • You are bored with your actual work you are meant to do
  • You seek companionship but are unable to find it offline
  • You are afraid to express opinions face to face in real life

I could go on forever like that. There are indeed also empowering ways to use social media. That’s why I still use them and advocate responsible usage thereof. Consider these examples:

You can spread the word about pressing issues like

  • climate change
  • feminism
  • inequality

Greenpeace has been able to force dirty corporations to clean up their mess solely by spreading the word on Facebook and other social media sites.

Of course Greenpeace is a real life organization with activists sometimes risking their lives when trying to protect the environment when and where it matters most.

Greenpeace has also a website, even many of them for each locality or rather nation. The purpose of Greenpeace’s presence on Facebook is not to work for free for Mark Zuckerberg.

They let people know that a particular campaign is going on. Then they send them back to the Greenpeace site.

It needs to be a give and take. When Facebook enables you to reach a wider or more relevant audience that’s great but only as long as you don’t give up on yourself. When you lead your friends back to your own place or site instead of paying for a third party venue you do it right.


Who are you talking to? Find out before speaking.

You need a website of course and then everything else becomes easy. All you need to do is find out where the relevant audience may be at and use those sites that actually manage to have such an audience.

  1. You are into travel, fashion and DIY? Welcome on Instagram and Pinterest!
  2. You are rather geeky into science and technology? Google+ and Reddit are for you.
  3. You follow and share the latest news? Facebook and Twitter can help you.

You see what I mean. Using two or three social media sites can be perfectly enough. Even in case you are not a stereotypical fashionista, geek or news junkie you can limit the number of sites you spend your time on.

I serve different audiences on different websites.

Sure – I save my bookmarks on Delicious and say hi to my mother on Facebook or watch parkour videos on YouTube – but I don’t consider these sites to be my main venues and I don’t obsessively waste my time there.

  • I use a bookmarklet to save my bookmarks for later when I will need them for my articles.
  • I only use Facebook when replying to messages (think mail, Twitter DMs) in general.
  • I watch videos only before or after work – just for fun and no more than like 15 minutes a day.

The most important aspect is my website or blog though. I only join relevant sites in the first place.

  • Why did I join Pinterest you might ask? Some images from my German cycling blog that would be otherwise completely ignored on international social media have been shared widely there. Dozens of repins of rara fixie bikes made me curious.
  • Why am I still using Google+ or why did I start using it in the first place? Wasn’t it dead on arrival? Again, I joined Google+ because I wasn’t fond of Facebook and instead of socializing with my high-school friends who bullied or ignored me as a teen I wanted to network with like-minded individuals who shared my passions for blogging, social media and search.
  • When I joined Twitter in 2008 it was also clear that there is already an active audience of my peers on that site.

I didn’t have to study demographics data or search the sites first. I knew already that the people who read my blog or otherwise matter to me or using it.

When you have a website social media activity revolves around that “hub”.

It’s like a bike wheel. The spokes are social media sites but the hub is your site and or blog. You don’t have to be everywhere and everything to everyone. You just focus on the people who matter for you, your specific audience and peers who write and share content about the same topics.

You don’t even have to show off your private life posing on images from the beach.

Most people are not interested in you particularly, they care for the things you cover. The more the shares are relevant to humanity the larger your following will be.

It’s not necessarily about being mainstream. It’s just the planet may be more important than your latest sunglasses you show off.


Author: tad

Tadeusz Szewczyk (Tad Chef) helps people with blogs, social media and search. He also popularizes ideas, people and things both in German and English. He currently works for helping people create websites and blogs for free.

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