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Blog-alogue Final Question: Time for Social Media?


Alas, it’s time to bring our blog-alogue about social media to a close.  I think it’s been entertaining and thoroughly informative, and many followers of this blog feel the same way, judging by the many comments we’ve had to these posts.  We’re not finished with the subject by any means; you’ll be posting about social media here in the future.  But I’m going to end the blog-alogue part of it with one final question.

First, a summary.  In the past couple of months, we’ve talked about a vision for social media, its Ignatian character, giving it up for Lent, social media tools, and models.  My last question is one that’s been lurking in my mind all along, and I’ll bet it’s occurred to many readers as well: where do I find the time to do all this?

Time is precious.  I can’t keep up with the blogs I want to follow.  I don’t look at my Facebook page very often. I neglect Twitter.  So — how can I fit social media into my life?




Is there a sentient person alive today who doesn’t wish for more time? Given how calibrated time is a human fabrication, you’d think our forebears would have granted us more than 24 hours in a day.  Alas, they did not.  And what, pray tell, would we do with that “extra” time? Me? I’d probably get more sleep or deep clean my bathroom, thus raising the issue of priorities.

Once again, I’m going to say discernment is at the core of deciding how and when to fit social media into daily life.  Social media certainly seem to require an overwhelming amount of time. In addition to the growing number of tools, technology has changed the way we deal with time.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how “real time” isn’t even real time as I’ve experienced it in the past. I’ve been pondering how asynchronous communication, such as that which (allegedly) occurs in the digital world, can actually feel synchronous.

Digital technology has also re-shaped expectations about response rate.

Post something on Twitter or Facebook and anyone paying attention in that moment  may respond immediately.  As a result, communication feels faster than fast.  More present. More real.  Real presence? But post a blog comment or send e-mail, and you might get a response hours or a day later. Behold a new source of social anxiety: What? You didn’t respond instantly to my post or e-mail?  What does that mean? Are you ignoring me?

What to do?  You can reduce anxiety by knowing why you want to use social media and then choosing platforms (i.e., tools) accordingly.

If, for example, you decide to use Twitter or Facebook lists as news feeds, then scan what’s there as frequently as you might read a daily print newspaper.

If, for example, you want to have conversations with like-hearted folks, then you’ll need to cultivate a consistent presence. Remember: whatever happens in “real” community will happen in a virtual community.  You cannot wander in and mostly out of a community and expect to be viewed as a member — not in the physical world and not online, although online community tends to be more forgiving of wanderers.

In either event, whether you want to use social media to retrieve content or engage in conversation, you can reduce time pressure by integrating it into the way you routinely engage with the world.  You’ve already done this with the telephone and with e-mail, so you know how to do this.  Don’t make social media into something different, separate, or special.

And here are some practical solutions to social media time management:

  • Use Tweetdeck or HootSuite to manage content from and post content to all your social media accounts.  My Tweetdeck is configured into 14 columns, one of which is exclusively devoted to accounts delivering secular and religion news.  It’s also set up so I can post from four different Twitter accounts and LinkedIn.
  • Use Google Reader to feed blogs you want to read into a desktop reader rather than cluttering your e-mail box. Periodically review and unsubscribe to blogs you never read.
  • Sort Facebook friends into groups and reconfigure your news feed so you see only what you want to read. My news feed is configured so I get news/posts from organizations and publications only.  Posts from people about their puppies, gardens, and Jesus show up in groups.
  • Either delete or don’t stress about accounts you never or rarely look at.  No one is taking attendance!
  • Set up and stick to a schedule for reading and commenting on blogs, Facebook posts, or tweets. You don’t even have to do this every day. I’m only on social media all day and much of the night because church communications is my ministry and I love it. What blesses me beyond measure may seem  like your worst nightmare.
  • Build social media Sabbaths and sabbaticals into your use, but if you’ve developed a presence, don’t disappear. Just as you’d record an “on vacation” message on voice mail, let people know when you’re taking a break.

These are some practical ways to fit social media into your life, but only if you want it to be there at all. Unless you’re a digital strategist, a community manager,  or love using social media to connect, you do not have do any of this.

That’s right — you don’t have to use social media. Go ahead and delete your Twitter and Facebook accounts.  No one’s salvation is jeopardized by opting out of social media, except possibly mine?!?


Jim Manney
Jim Manneyhttps://www.jimmanneybooks.com/
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. You have to ask yourself whether time spent on social media is time taken away from something more important, such as a face-to-face encounter, or other prayerful activity. Is a member of your family neglected because you spend too much time on social media? Is your own life muddled because you can’t stop to put order into it, because you’re too busy on social media?
    I recently had to setup social media accounts because of a study of – yes, you’ve guessed it – social media and its impact on society. The time taken to engage in interaction through these channels was precious time that caused other things in life to be temporarily neglected. Yes, it was worth it in the end – my view? – use it if you have to but don’t get sucked in. Remember it is a tool, an aid, and no doubt in 50 years it will be relegated to the playground, replaced by a more sophisticated challenge. And maybe then too, the children will become experts on the latest craze in no time, while their parents struggle to get to grips with the problems which inevitably will arise.

  2. While the social media is a tool for maintaining contact, it is also a source for real or unintended criticism of people, places or events. I have closed my Facebook and have never opened a Twitter account, because while it can be a source of value, like contacting a good friend I haven’t heard from in 35 years, it is also a source of gossip, political fractionalism, unfriendly comments, friendly comments that have no particular purpose other than to say hi. A phone call or written letter is much more meaningful. It is a shame that the internet is causing us to avoid personal contact and causing us to be so busy that we won’t take time to be with the Lord and pray. If you look at your time use, as I did recently, you may realize that you spend a very small percentage of your time being quiet before the Lord and listening to Him and then personally stepping forth and actually encountering people in person in the form of friendship, help or work. Just a thought. God bless all of you for your efforts to reach out to people, but we do need to keep this kind of activity in perspective. As an example, the other day we had a social “meet and greet” event after a Eucharistic celebration and our pastor was present. Everyone was enjoying the time together and in the middle of the time when conversation drifted off to casual events, our pastor pulled out his I-Phone and proceeded to check e-mails or whatever he was doing and ignoring the time where face to face social contact was really important…at least in my view. My employment (I am now retired) was in the information technology field and person to person contact while very important was often ignored, so in my projects, I tried to add that aspect in the effective use of technology. Facebook and Twitter and the other similar technology really does none of this and uses up our valuable face-to-face time with each other and the Lord!

  3. Hi, Linda G. Indeed, Facebook is a city now. I love it all the more, because it keeps me connected with networks of people. Plus, there’s a *little bit* more privacy!
    Yes, I had to wait for my surgery. You know, they have to locate a surgeon… the surgeon has to look at the test results… they have to get an anesthesiologist. I did a lot of posting before they knocked me out with benzos! (=:

  4. Ah, another one who shares my anti-TVism. Writers read. I can’t believe you did FB in hospital, Sara, that’s hilarious but then it beats the dry boredom of such a place. I followed my writing mentor on her site for a while and the other day I peeked at it through her link and it has sure changed since I tossed my account a year ago. FB was a village and now it’s a city.

  5. So nice to be starting to get to know you wonderful people. Thanks so much for the suggestions, Meredith. I find on-line community to be so accessible when I work so many hours, don’t watch TV and live in the boonies. The many options for networking are just amazing. I do find I have to focus on getting to know just a few friends at a time… and I have my “pages”… like Fr. James Martin’s FB Page. If you see me absent from Fr. Jim’s webpage for more than 24 hours, please call “911” and ask my Catholic friends to pray for me, because I’m either dead or seriously disabled. (=; See you round the websites!

    • Like your point about focusing on getting to know a few friends at a time. In my experience, those friends prove to be durable over time because of the many options to make and continue contact.
      What I want to zoom in on is your throw-away line about dialing 911 if you’re absent. In 2009, a much-loved member of a faith-based Twitter community went missing for a couple of days and within 24 of that, people were asking where he was and started making efforts to track him down. Alas, he had died (http://bit.ly/HyuAdP) but that search for him and virtual memorial service highlighted for me the power of community on social media.

      • Oh yes a girl who went paralyzed late while doing homework in a school for hours managed to use one finger to type help onto her keyboard and the boy with whom she chatted almost did not tell his perant. He took the chance and they sent officials and the girl survived becasue of that sterling boy. It can serve a purpose all right.

  6. Since I retired less than one year ago, I have learned so much and made so many connections online. The online community is, indeed, a community of people who care about each other and who have taught me a great deal. We need to be selective of the sites we visit and the people with whom we communicate and the way in which we share and communicate but the social media provide us with great opportunities and tools. Just think about the webinars provided to catechists to use one example. My spiritual life has been enhanced by the connections I have made through social media.
    Meredith, I have a good friend who is in his twenties and suffers from cerebral palsy who would say that social media provide a lifeline for him.
    So, I thank everyone who is involved in social media for the gift that you give to others.

  7. For those who are still adamant about the necessity of always having a face-to-face/physical context for relationship, may I not-so-gently point out that social media tools have opened the world and communities within it to the homebound and people with disabilities. I speak/write from experience here.

  8. I have all kinds of friends online and physically. I learned that being absolutely online was lonely, even with my friends. I perfered to have both than more of one or the other. I try to treat my online friends the same as my physical friends or friends whom I would normally write to or call. I found this attitude help me and improved my friendship with those who have never met me. I have found that social online brought out in me and overlapped into my physical life , a more spiritual and prayful life. I notice that I know think and speak more about religion , pray more out loud, Go more to God for my problems. When I think about the Phrase ” I ran out of time” now. I reflect ” did I run out of time or did I choose one thing over another?”, ” Could I have found the time?”, My answer always comes out to yes . I have many choices , I just have to choose which one I want, wether it is reading online, picking up the bible, reading a religious book or praying. As long as I am making connections , I am doing fine.

    • The questions you ask are exactly what I mean by entering into a process of discernment. We make choices and decisions (i.e., killing off options) every day. I agree that it’s important to make those while considering what enhances (or might detract from) our relationship with God…and the people of God. Amen!

  9. Thanks for this Meredith – and Jim for asking this crucial question! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who gets angsty about response rate! I also love the discussion in the comments section about building community. It’s hard to justify social media engagement unless there is something really obvious you are trying to promote, but for many of us we just like the community that it builds and the many people with whom it puts us in contact.

    • Take it from someone who is also in the “business” of social media for marketing communications, those who use social media for endless self-promotion end up getting blocked and reported for SPAM. Note: I make a distinction between curating and sharing useful content and splattering self and Self all over cyberspace.

  10. Reflecting upon this issue of community, I see that I now have three of them. Most of my closest friends in my physical, geographic community (“irl” makes no sense anymore, does it?) are tech-skittish. Most of my church congregation are tech-illiterate. So there are two essential groups in my life with whom communication is increasingly arduous. I really have to make an effort where multiple phone calls and/or snail mail are required, and I find myself increasingly frustrated by how difficult it is to share the world with friends who avoid or ignore the internet. And then there is my online community, which has many components, all of which overlap to varying degrees — and tends to be the place where I am most engaged in conversation at all levels. I have one online community of women friends who have been together for about 15 years. I still haven’t met all of them in person, but I consider them to be some of my closest friends in the world — while I am less and less engaged with my physically closest friends.

    • It’s not that we ignore or avoid the Internet in order to avoid community. Some of us already have jobs which require daily desk sitting and as any phlebologist will tell you that is extremely bad for the tiny capillaries that line your legs. Blood simply cannot get back up there once it gets down to your ankles unless you move around. A lot. The human being was meant to take exemplification from our equestrian brethren and move around (just don’t sleep standing up or eat like one of them).
      Not to mention that most of us have along with those jobs family, friends, duties and responsibilities, and other hobbies and vocations. The Internet is addictive. It’s the first thing I do every morning even before coffee (which probably is a mortal sin or something) and could, like the Pope warned, take right over.
      Yes I know. Heard it all. Gotta get my walking boots on now….

      • Robin said: ” … but I consider them to be some of my closest friends in the world — while I am less and less engaged with my physically closest friends.” I just saw this. That is exactly what the Pope was talking about and why some of us are so skittish.
        Your post gives me pause though — I thought I was all alone in my paradigm. Thank you, Robin!

  11. What helped me most was your comment that everything that goes on in a “real” community goes on in a virtual community too. I know how much work it takes to be part of a community. “Making time” for community means deciding whether you want to be part of that community or not. If you want it, you’ll find time for it. That’s one of those truths about life that everybody knows, but it finally sank in this time. So I’ll make the time.

    • Tears upon reading this comment, Jim. Yes, that’s the key: understanding community. This is something I’ve been proclaiming (and presenting about) for easily two years.
      Only now are people grasping the truth of this sociological observation. I think that’s because the next generation of social media users (i.e., using it for 12-18 months) are entering into a social media environment with more experienced users/sherpas.
      In any event, I can tell you that at this point in my life nearly all of my most dear, trusted, delightful friends have come into my life via social media. And God, of course!

  12. There are no words – your gifts to us through this blog-a-logue have been considerable. Thank you Jim, Loyola Press and Meredith. I call Meredith the Apostle of the Internet because she is tireless and filled with passion, no one knows or does this better. Thank you for that and for being my friend, mentor and so much more.

    • And your constant, consistent encouragement — along with your sense of humor and authentic use of Yiddish — is life-enhancing and sustaining for me, Fran. Whoever is reading this should know that we never actually met IRL, but have be friends for . . . lifetimes.


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