Last fall I had dinner with my friend Bob Goff.
During the dinner, I told him I had a bit of a dilemma. It’s not a big problem, but it has the potential to become a big problem.
What is it?
I have a hard time staying off my iPhone when I’m with my family.
I’m doing pretty good at finishing my phone calls before I come home. (See “How to be a better parent in 4 seconds.”) But on the weekends, at night when we’re all hanging out, and when we go on vacation, it’s hard for me to put the iPhone down.
Especially when it comes to Twitter, which is not a surprise if you follow me. I love Twitter. I’ve been writing tweets for decades. Ask my wife. She was constantly finding single sentence ideas scribbled down on random sheets of paper in our house in 2001.
But, as much as I love Twitter, I love my wife and kids a whole lot more. They mean infinitely more to me than social media. But that’s not what I tell them when I hide out on my phone and ignore them. What my actions tell them is, “You’re slightly less interesting than all these other people. You’re important to me. You’re just not ‘put the phone down’ important.”
So I asked Bob for some advice. I’d already heard a bajillion people share theories about hiding your phone or putting it in a drawer or leaving it in your car when you come home. Some of those are good ideas, but I wanted to see if Bob had a fresh approach.
And he did.
Here’s what he said:
“We’re always trying to fix situations like this by painting things as bad. Your phone is bad. Twitter is bad, etc. What if instead, you found a way to make this situation positive? What if every time you wanted to tweet when you were with your kids, you had to pay them? What if you had to buy tweets from your kids? I bet they would think that was kind of fun.”
That sounds like a silly idea, but it worked.
The time doesn’t belong to me when we’re all hanging out. It’s family time. So if I want to use some of that valuable family time to write a tweet, it only makes sense that I would buy that time back from my kids. So every time I tweet on the weekends or on weeknights, I have to give each kid a quarter.
By day 3 of this silly experiment, my kids were coming up to me and saying things like:
“You should write a tweet about dinner.”
“Have you tweeted enough today?”
“How many times have you tweeted?”
We laugh about it as a family, but it’s changed my relationship with Twitter. I always knew there was a time cost. You can’t stop a private moment with your family to document it for strangers and not incur some cost in time. But now, with the simple act of putting a financial cost on it as well, it makes me focus on what I’m really doing.
Will this work for your family? I don’t know.
Will hiding your phone work better for you? I don’t know.
Will your wife say what my wife said? “Where’s my quarter?” Probably. (And she’s right. It’s her time too!)
Time is the most expensive resource there is. Stop stealing it from your family. Pay for tweets!
What’s one thing you’re doing to keep social media in check in your life?