I have a love-hate relationship with technology and especially social media. I spend most of my work time on the computer. Some of that time is spent writing and creating (aka work), and a lot of that time is spent online getting distracted. Whether you work in an office or work from home or don’t even work on the computer, I imagine you might relate to being overwhelmed by tech use.

The truth is that while I waste hours using social media in ways I know I shouldn’t (hello, comparisons and mindless scrolling), I can’t let that discredit the tremendous blessings it’s opened for me. My biz besties I met in a Facebook group for an ecourse I took, and 3 years later we still “meet” over Google Hangouts biweekly to encourage and challenge each other. Hey, thanks internet.

I attended a local gathering that I found out about from an online community. I didn’t know a single person there, but that one meeting has led to a life-giving local monthly bloggers group and my getting to take part in our local Listen to Your Mother show. Who knew, internet, you do have great things to offer.

Those are just a couple of the bigger examples where the internet has had tremendous ripple effects in my life. So while I spend a lot of time moaning and complaining all the ways I am tempted to misuse technology and let it control me, there are actually many worthwhile benefits.

Technology doesn’t have to be the time-suck (and life-suck) that many of us allow it to be. Here are some practical ways to simplify online, keep the addiction in check, and find the blessings in technology.

Set limits.

Choose a tech “curfew” of sorts, which comes in handy for kids, too. Have a house rule that you don’t use tech (tv, tablets, phones, etc.) before a certain time in the morning, then shut them down and plug them in by a certain time in the evening. Also consider the consistency or recurrence of times you check-in. Maybe instead of incessantly checking email or social media throughout the day, have 1-3 checkpoints that you intentionally log in, then log out. And look at your duration, too. If you’ve been on Facebook for more than 30 minutes, it’s likely you’ve crossed over into mindless scrolling.

Check motivations.

Knowing why you’re on the device or social media, why you’re posting, and why you’re commenting can go a long way in making sure your intentions are good. If you don’t know why or it’s fueled by something negative, then it’s probably a good idea to step away because that time is not likely to end in the blessings of technology.

Find other outlets.

While social media is a great way to easily reach out to people, mix-up the ways you connect with people. Use your journal to work out your feelings rather than an obscure Facebook rant. Send a handwritten thank you note or birthday card to people you care about. Text or call to keep your interactions with family and friends a little more personal than public posts and comments.

Make it useful.

There are good things that come out of the internet and being online, so spend some time investing in those and be one that adds to the good. Give compliments. Write positive or at least productive reviews. Share the inspiring or funny posts rather than the emotionally charged political rants. Be kind and graceful and ask questions to use the internet to “listen” to others. Ask how you could “serve” people in this abstract world that so many of us spend so much of our time. Reach out and make connections, invite people to things, or accept invitations to things. Put ebooks on your phone so that you can do something a little more productive with your device when you find yourself with an extra few minutes to kill.

Join a support group.

No, seriously, join a real life group. It doesn’t have to be a specific “Online Anonymous” type group for addicts (which, lets face it, we all are). Start or join a mastermind group with like-minded people. Start a small group in your home or in your church. Organize a local gathering from an online community. The point is to have a place to talk face-to-face with real people that get the real challenges of using technology while staying present in real life.

Make online the echo, not the life.

Simply live, then post. This point becomes very obvious to me as a writer. My husband has pointed out my desire to do things just so I have a story to tell and something to write about. That is 99% true. I would have nothing to write about if I spent all day on my computer (like I often do). But that’s true for non-writers, too. We just simply aren’t living our lives if all we do is go to work or put our faces into devices. Life is living, breathing people doing things that require living and breathing. So get out there and live. Then, if you really must post, make that an echo of your life well-lived.

Technology is a tool. Let’s keep it that way and not give it the power to make a tool out of us. (See what I did there?) As with most things in life, anything that gets this much of our time and attention deserves a pass through the simplifying process. How could you simplify your time online? Let’s talk challenges or what works for you in the comments below. ↓

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For more about simplifying and overcoming challenges to simplicity like technology, checkout my ebook Simplifying Home. Then, signup for my free 8-part email series to simplify your home (and thus your life) in 2016.