How to make social networks less distracting
Have you ever thought about how much time you spend each day on social networks? And I'm not talking about the time you spend each evening updating your Facebook profile or those witty "quotes of the day" you post each morning on Twitter. Rather, I'm talking about the time you waste reaching for your phone every time another notification comes though, or the hours you spend opening every social networking update that arrives in your Inbox.
The truth is that you probably spend several hours a day reading notifications and clicking on e-mail links that do absolutely nothing but distract you from your real job. It used to be that liquid lunches were the biggest drain on office productivity but who needs alcohol when you have the drug of social media?
Fortunately there are ways to wean yourself off the constant urge to check your social networking updates, and it starts by turning off those constant notifications and e-mails. This way, you decide when to check your Facebook or Twitter account rather than have your smartphone decide for you.
Here are a few ways to cut down on the social media noise:
Free up your Inbox
Let's start with Facebook and your overloaded e-mail Inbox. Open your Facebook account, click on the dropdown arrow in the top right-hand corner, go to Account Settings and then click on Notifications on the left side of the page.
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Unfortunately Facebook starts from the premise that you want to hear about absolutely everything that happens on the social network, no matter how tedious or trivial. To change this, make sure the E-mail Frequency box is unchecked and click on Edit next to the Facebook notification category listed below. If you are really fanatical in your bid to be less distracted, then you can uncheck every box. In reality, most people will still want to receive weekly notifications about friends' birthdays but pretty much every other type of notification can go.
You then have to do the same under Photos, Pages, Groups, Events, etc. until you have eliminated everything but the absolute essentials. (You may still want to be notified if you are tagged in a photo for example, particularly if you have snap-happy prankster friends.) When you are finished updating each category, check the E-mail Frequency box to save your changes. (Wow - your incoming e-mail has just been cut in half!)
Thankfully, eliminating e-mail notifications on Twitter is much easier. Open your Twitter account, click on the dropdown arrow in the top right-hand corner, go to Settings and then click on Notifications on the left-hand side. Here you will see 8 check boxes covering everything from notifications when you get a direct message to updates about Twitter products and services. Again, if you are serious about eliminating social media distractions, uncheck them all!
Again, the less committed might still want to receive notifications if they are looking for a specific Twitter reply or they are sent a direct message. However, a better way to do this might be to open a custom app like TweetDeck or Hootsuite, where you can see updates at a glance. Remember to turn off the audio notifications though!
Silence that smartphone
After bringing your e-mail under control, the next step is to silence your smartphone or tablet. How you do this will depend on what type of device you have.
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For iPhone and iPad owners using iOS 5, the adjustments are very straightforward. Click on Settings, then Notifications. Here you will see a list of all the apps for which you are receiving notifications (In Notification Center) and those for which you are not receiving notifications (Not In Notification Center). The notification setting for each app has to be adjusted separately. There are two ways to do this: you can either change the app notification setting from ON to OFF, or you can change the Alert Style to None.
With Android devices, the approach is a little more complicated because apps are not grouped in a notifications center the way they are in iOS 5. Here you will have to visit each app separately and make the necessary adjustments. For example, open the Facebook for Android mobile app, press Menu and then Settings. You can then turn off all notifications by unchecking theNotifications box, or you can uncheck each notification individually - for example, Wall posts, Messages, Comments, Friend confirmations, etc.
By now a wonderful peace will have descended on your workspace and you will suddenly be more efficient, more focused and more productive. If you can persuade one or two colleagues to follow your lead, you may even be able to strike up a conversation! Remember, you can still access all your Facebook notifications by going to your Facebook home page; only now you read them when you want to, rather than when your e-mail or smartphone tells you to.- By Monica Vila
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Monica Vila is the Chief Technology Mom and co-founder of The Online Mom, the market leader in providing online and off-line tools to make parents of kids K-12 smarter and more comfortable with the technology that touches their family. The Online Mom is a website, an online newsletter, a forum for discussion, a network of certified experts and a 500,000-strong twitter community devoted to promoting a healthy understanding and appreciation for the positive role technology can play in a family's life.
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