Email, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, newsletters, private and public online groups, forums. The possibilities are endless. We can keep in touch with people all over the world, and there’s real value in our internet connections.
But it can be overwhelming, and as we chart our course through the last stage of our lives, it’s important to be discriminating.
Whether you’re new to social media and tentatively finding your way around, or an old hand with many online involvements, here are some suggestions that might help.
Which Alice character are you?
Borrowing from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, what sort of online personality do you have?
Are you a White Rabbit, rushing around looking at your watch, anxiously running around the rabbit warren, constantly worrying about running out of time and missing out?
Or are you a Caterpillar, dreamily smoking your hookah on a mushroom and waiting enigmatically for people to approach you?
Go against type
Consider going against your natural inclinations.
If you’re a White Rabbit, you probably need to slow down a bit, to take a more contemplative approach to your online browsing. Trust that what you need to know and the connections you need to make will find you.
If you’re a Caterpillar, there may be times you need to loop off the mushroom and go meet other people, otherwise you’ll be stuck forever waiting to see who comes your way, and you’ll restrict your choices.
White Rabbits: unsubscribe to all but two or three online newsletters. Choose three or four social networks and focus on them. Use them to build solid online friendships. Cut down the number of blogs you read by about a third. Aim for depth, not breadth. Don’t keep your computer switched on all the time. Go out and do other things: stroll in the fresh air; talk to real-life friends; listen to music in the park.
Caterpillars: ask some of your Rabbity friends what the best sites are. Get out of your comfort zone by signing up for an online network; visit forums; contribute and get involved. Think about your interests and Google some terms (e.g. fly fishing forums). There are networks and blogs dedicated to every conceivable interest. You might not hit on the right ones immediately; don’t be afraid to explore.
Whichever Wonderland character you might be, don’t waste your life on the internet. Be selective. Ask yourself these questions:
- What do you most enjoy?
- What are your main reasons for being online?
- What are the best times of the day for you to be online?
- Which online activities do you associate with drudgery? (Emails, perhaps?)
- Are you using online involvements as an avoidance tactic?
Use your answers as clues to carve out an online life that’s right for you, not one that overwhelms you with unfinished ideas. And don’t feel guilty about leaving networks, dropping blogs from your reading list, unsubscribing to newsletters (even mine, although I hope you don’t!). You’ll end up with exactly the right mix tailored just for you.
What about you?
How important is your online life to you, and how do you organise it?