I used to spend much more time on the Internet than I do now. In fact, most of the Christians and non-Christians with whom I have face-to-face relationships aren’t active on the Internet at all.
Most of them either aren’t on Facebook or they rarely use their accounts. And most don’t use Twitter.
On the flip side, a good portion of you who read this blog are pretty active on the Web. That includes the blogosphere and various social networks.
Internet tools can overwhelm a mortal. And some of them can become first-class time vampires.
Over the years, I’ve struggled to keep my online presence in balance, managing (and sometimes juggling) the various tools I use to connect with people I’ve never met face-to-face.
There have been days where I’ve been tempted to deactivate all my social accounts – including this blog – and like N.T. Wright, relegate my online presence to personal Email.
While my online activity is a very small piece of my life, I presently use online tools for ministry purposes. They’ve allowed me to share the gospel with those who don’t yet know Jesus as well as to encourage God’s people.
Your mileage may vary of course, but the following is how I’ve simplified my online life to the point where it’s become . . . well, sane.
I’m still experimenting, tweaking, and looking for better ideas. So consider this a progress report.
1) I’ve made my blog the main source for my online interactions, especially for those who read my books and have questions and comments. Comments are open on the posts and there’s a special FAQ page for questions about my work. The decision to redirect most of my online communications to the blog has been one of the wisest decisions I’ve made. I believe it’s one of the reasons why the readership of this blog has exploded since January of this year, causing the blog to rank in the top 10 Christian Blogs on the Web.
2) I use Email primarily for close friends, relatives, and my publisher’s team. I have a volunteer assistant who helps me navigate and manage Emails from others, especially speaking invitations. Some of my friends hire personal assistants for this, usually from countries outside the USA. I have no such plans.
3) I use Twitter to share updates, quotes, and links that I’ve found personally inspiring. I also use it to promote resources from others that I find valuable. I use Buffer to queue up my tweets ahead of time and set them on a schedule. So my Twitter account is mostly on autopilot.
4) I use Facebook to update close friends and regular readers about ministry resources. I used to use Facebook far more than I do now. Due to my time constraints, I no longer follow threads, I don’t pay attention to tags, invites, or notifications, and I don’t engage in discussions (again, I use this blog for that).
5) I have a Google+ account. ‘Nuff said. As one person said, “Everyone’s on Google+, but no one uses it.” On average, only 12% of your Facebook friends see your status updates. From my observation, only 0.5% see your updates on Google+. So I have a Google+ account. And I use it occasionally.
6) I have a volunteer “Blog Manager” who moderates blog comments. I do not do this myself and I’m rather happy about that.
7) I interact with those who comment on my blog as much as I am able. Since January, I’ve been blogging five times a week. And I regularly interact with those who comment, both with those who disagree and agree with my posts.
8) I respond to urgent Emails immediately and leave the rest as “storage” in my inbox. I’m up to 300+ Emails in my inbox right now. Once every month or two, when I have a few spare hours, I’ll go through the Emails and copy and paste the “keepers” in an MS Word document that I’ve titled “Notes.” I will shamelessly admit that I haven’t figured out how to optimize this part of my online life yet. So this is what I’m doing at the present time.
UPDATE: I spent most of my online time these days interacting with my many friends on The Deeper Christian Life Network.
If you’re having trouble keeping up with your online life, perhaps some of these pointers will inspire you with ideas.
What things can you add to this list that have worked for you?