There was a day not long ago when we used to write letters, drive in our cars or use our home phones to stay connected with friends and family. While that all seems rather inconvenient by today’s standards there is something to be said about the “intentional” way that we used to stay in touch with people.

Now we live in an “on-demand” world where even waiting 5 seconds for a website to load can cause frustration.

And the way that we communicate has become on-demand as well. With the overwhelming presence of social media it seems that nowadays we’re doing most of our communication through tweets, likes and shares rather than real conversations.

I often refer to social media platforms as “Time Vampires” because before you know it you’ve had hours sucked from your life. And the unfortunate part is that, unlike money or even your health, you can never get your time back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

But there are benefits to engaging in social media if managed properly.

If you’re a business owner social media platforms can help increase your brand awareness, keep you connected with other influencers in your industry and provide you with up-to-the-second data on what’s trending (or not) in your industry.

And, of course, there are benefits of “healthy” social media use if you’re not a business owner. You can reconnect with friends, stay in touch with family anywhere in the world and create a digital timeline for you, your friends and your family.

So what’s wrong with logging into Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn?

  1. Time lost. According the Social Media Today, the average person spends almost 2 hours per DAY on social media. Teens spend nearly 7 hours per day on social media. This is time that could be spent working, socializing, exercising or just unplugging. Time we can never get back

  2. Increased depression. People tend to post their “wins” on social media; rarely sharing a true account of their day-to-day. So what we see is how well everyone else seems to be doing rather than what’s really happening. This, in addition to gaffes, unwanted contacts, or cyberbullying, according to Psychiatry Online, can have a significant increase in depression, particularly in teens.

  3. Damaging relationships. The British Psychology Society found that the mere presence of a cell phone can harm face to face conversations. Even if you seem to be paying attention to what others are saying, it was found that people who were distracted by the presence of their mobile phone were not able to recall information as accurately as those who did not have their cell phone handy.

But can you have your cake and eat it too? Here are 5 ways that you can have more time, feel better AND still engage on your favorite social media platform(s).

  1. Take account. Start tracking how much time you’re spending on social media each day. Be honest. Then make a list of activities, projects and people that you’re missing out on by spending too much time with your Tweets or Likes. Start prioritizing the things that you’ve been missing out on.

  2. Check in no more than twice per day. This can be a challenge at first so you might try limiting your check-ins to 3-4 per day and get it down to no more than twice a day within 1-2 weeks.

  3. Time yourself. If you’re on social media then you have access to a timer. Every computer or smartphone has one. Keep it handy and set a reasonable amount of time and stick to it.

  4. Be intentional. Don’t just log in for no reason. Have a purpose and don’t get caught up in all of the distractions. Those cat videos can be entertaining, but they aren’t going anywhere.

  5. Set boundaries. Create rules like “no phones at the table” to limit social media use and temptation. If you’re checking out your social media accounts while having lunch with a friend then you’re simply ignoring them. Take time to interact with the people in front of you.

While it’s certainly asking too much to turn off social media entirely, living in a world with more hugs and handshakes sounds pretty good.