Social Media Magazine

The Day Social Media Took Over My Life

Posted on the 18 May 2012 by Russellvjward @russellvjward

The day started out much like any other.
I woke up, showered, got dressed, walked the dog, wolfed down my breakfast, and jumped into my car for the daily commute to Sydney.
My iPhone sat expectantly by my side on the journey in. I duly obliged it by checking my Twitter account. Then my Facebook page. Then Google+.
Once in the office, I logged on to Hootsuite to check the early morning tweets from my follow lists in Australia and further afield. Simultaneously, I went back into Facebook to update the ISOALLO fan page and opened LinkedIn to respond to an invitation to connect (then updated my profile, searched for new connections, and shared a link to my latest blog post).
A quick check of my Pinterest board and a hunt around for possible friends on Goodreads, before I finally settled down to do some 'paid' work. It was now 10am but I remembered I had to set up a few scheduled tweets for the remainder of the day. I also wanted to read the online newspapers and share a couple of articles with the Twitterverse when...
...damn it, I'd completely forgotten to share all of this on ISOALLO's Google+ page, Digg, Delicious and StumbleUpon, which would take at least another half hour. By now, I'd received an email with a link to the latest social media tool "well worth looking at" and "the next BIG thing". It was suddenly midday and my boss needed a document from me urgently. I was stressed out, overwhelmed, and rapidly losing my day to what?
Overcommitment? Procrastination? Or was social media plainly taking over my life?

The Day Social Media Took Over My Life

Photo credit: Emilie Ogez (Flickr Creative Commons)

I'm not alone
The sad thing was that this day was much like any other. My use of social media had spiralled out of control.
I'm spending half of my day moving between my various social media platforms but I know I'm not alone in this. Whether we're expats, Sydneysiders, travellers or cultural spelunkers (my personal favourite), it's obvious we're spending a LOT of time twittering, friending, stumbling, posturing and plus one-ing.
What's more, with my the majority of my community spread to the four corners of the globe, it's proving to be a challenge to manage with different timezones, varying attitudes, and diverse tastes and preferences to take into account.
Since the arrival of social media and then the birth of my blog, I've become hardwired to follow and to share, to like and to recommend.
My use of social media is borderline obsessive.
Why this is bad
It can be a trap.
For me, the reality about social media is that it sucks the time out of my life. I can be scanning through Facebook updates and checking Twitter lists when, the next thing I know, an hour or two has passed. Social media is engaging, entertaining, informative and entirely seductive by nature - and it is this that swallows up so much of my time. Every single day.
It's not productive.
Without discipline and self-control, social media can be overwhelming and distracting. It's far too easy to switch seamlessly between the different apps without stopping to determine what's actually been achieved.
Did I get that article written? Did I brainstorm future blog post ideas? Did I send out that feature outline?
No, of course I didn't because I'm drifting through a world of information overload with little sense of what is being achieved on this day. Worse still, my mind has been permanently set to 'scan' mode. I can no longer digest information and sweetly savour its message. Now I skim, scan and send out. 
It stops me from doing what I love.
It's impossible to write as often and as much when I'm flicking between Digg and Delicious. Wasting most of my morning on social media stops me from writing for an audience where my voice is actually welcome. Instead, my time is spent time putting words out into an electronic universe that at times can feel like a black hole.
So what to do?
Social media is a necessary evil in the blogging world - and in society at large to some extent.
We need it to connect, to share, to build an audience and to engage. However, it's a largely unreal world. I don't see people face-to-face and conversation is limited to 140 letters. It can be a frustrating, often intimidating environment - and one without obvious reward.
But it's not all bad.
I appreciate and enjoy my time online catching up with old friends and new acquaintances. I've had the privilege of meeting interesting people and the pleasure of discovering fascinating material. Social media plays an important role in its own distinct way. It’s a means of being entertained and educated but, like anything, it should be enjoyed in moderation.
And this goes to the heart of my own social media use.
It's unhealthy for any one thing to take up so much of my time. If it’s all about social media all of the time, it can quickly become a chore, not a pleasure.
Like anything, it's about balance and it's about being clever with my time.

How much time do you spend on social media? Do you think it's too much?
PS. Try this handy on-screen tool, recommended by The Write Practice, as a way to manage the time you spend on social media. Or, indeed, on anything.
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