To Network or Not

Two videos came my way this morning, both filled with statistics indicating that “Social Media isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate,” to put it in the words of Erik Qualman.

I have no doubt it is. We writers are bombarded with messages encouraging us to take control of our careers, get out into cyberspace and build a following, market our work via blogs, Facebook, Twitter and some of the other 170+ social networking sites.

But – you knew there’d have to be a ‘but’, didn’t you? – but I’ve noticed so many online comments from people bemoaning their lack of time to balance jobs, homemaking/parenting responsibilities, church/community commitments, writing time and marketing efforts within the constraints of a 24-hour day.

Jody Hedlund has an excellent post today in which she asks, “How essential is an online presence to a writer’s career?

I think it’s very important. What may be more important, however, is knowing when to be doing what online, and how much time to be spending there doing it.

If we’re in front of our computers making new friends to avoid engaging in face-to-face conversations with old ones or networking within our real life community, if we’re nose-to-monitor for hours at a time blog-hopping at the expense of interacting with our families or taking part in necessary activities like bathing, eating and sleeping, if we excuse our online explorations as ‘research’ but we’re visiting sites with no connection to our writing… well, you get the idea.

Last spring, prompted by a report I’d read that was written by a clinical psychologist who referred to our obsession as a syndrome she calls “computer addiction, internet addictive disorder or cyberaddiction  — a problem very similar to pathological gambling or compulsive shopping,” I posted about what I called a “Clicking Addiction.”

Like all addictions, I believe we’re in denial about the hold social media has on us. It’s a wonderful tool, widening our reach into corners of the world where we could never hope to go in person, providing instant information and communication, but if we don’t learn to use this tool with appropriate skill and precautions it could cause us serious problems. When we come upon advice suggesting we spend even more time online, we need to take note of the source. Books and websites created by people who make their living in marketing may provide useful information but they are not unbiased.

How dependent are you and your career on the World Wide Web? Consider where we’d be if it suddenly collapsed and disappeared taking with it our link to cyberspace. After all, it’s not a concrete presence in our lives despite its current availability on most of our computers.

Sobering thought, isn’t it?


P.S. Here are the two videos if you’re interested in viewing them.


16 thoughts on “To Network or Not

  1. joylene says:

    Boy have you hit the nail on the head. I am constantly under pressure to read, respond, blog and keep tabs on everyone on Twitter and Facebook, and then to write. I can’t possibly do it all and yet I feel compelled to try. But, you’re right, Carol. It’s not possible. Something has to give.

    I’d like to know how others manage. Do they actually follow all the friends they have on Twitter and Facebook and still have time to participate in their lives?

    The experts say you have to subscribe and then read all the top rated posts. How? There’s only 24 hours in a day.

    • Finding time to fit everything in seems to be a common problem for everyone. And no, I don’t believe people actually keep track of all their online ‘friends’ and followers. It seems to be a prestige thing to flaunt the numbers but interacting with all of them would be a full time job.

  2. Laura Best says:

    There has to be some balance. I can definitely see a slow down in my writing as compared to the time I spend online. Right now I’m deep into revisions and I just haven’t been able to do it all. I can’t worry about it. First and foremost writing must be my priority.

    • You’re smart to focus on your priorities. I think most of us spend a disproportionate amount of time online, trying to do everything we think we’re supposed to, but which may be more than we really need to.

  3. Great companion piece to Jody’s, Carol! And I agree. It’s a relevant topic right now.

  4. Jody Hedlund says:

    Hi Carol! Glad I sparked some thought for you! Somedays, I wish a black hole would suck it all in and we could go back to the days without the internet. But I realize that’s not going to happen. So as you said, we do need to set boundaries. I’m trying to stay off on Sundays for the most part. It’s actually really refreshing to see that others are doing the same.

    BTW, Qualman’s blog lists all of his sources for his statistics. I’d be curious whether you think he’s got legit resources for the Wikipedia stat you questioned.

    • The intent of my post wasn’t to discredit Qualman’s conclusion as I agree that social media is obviously the direction communication is taking. But I’m always a little skeptical of sweeping statements that are made to support a sensationalized viewpoint.

      I did glance through his sources and picked up on the Dept. of Education report first. Since I’m a teacher such topics always interest me. But I found his source was a link to an article which in turn had taken the sentence out of context for their article and doesn’t actually support the study’s conclusion. (I can give you some of the info from the actual study, but maybe will e-mail it as it’s a little long for this comment.)

      Regarding the Wikipedia/Encyclopedia Britannica statement, I know from Wikipedia’s own documentation on the site that, “Wikipedia is written collaboratively by largely anonymous Internet volunteers who write without pay. Anyone with Internet access can write and make changes to Wikipedia articles (except in certain cases where editing is restricted to prevent disruption and/or vandalism). Users can contribute anonymously, under a pseudonym, or with their real identity, if they choose.”

      On the other hand, according to what I read, “The Encyclopedia Britannica has received criticism, especially as editions become outdated. American physicist Harvey Einbinder detailed its failings in his 1964 book, The Myth of the Britannica, and that provoked the encyclopaedia to produce the 15th edition, which required 10 years of work.”

      The survey Qualman used as a source didn’t indicate who created it but it involved 50 respondents evaluating a Wikipedia article, of whom 76% (or 38 people) strongly agreed the article was accurate. Only 18 actually compared their article with Encyclopedia Britannica, however, and 34% of those 18 (i.e., six people) felt Britannica was substantially more accurate. It doesn’t really say whether the other 12 thought theirs was less accurate or had no opinion.

      The majority of his statements may well be true but anything taken out of context just to support an opinion doesn’t necessarily validate it. (We see that kind of thing happen a lot with scripture references, too. The quoted verse will be accurate but the application may be questionable.)

  5. lydiajo39 says:

    Hi, Carol,
    Thanks for your comment on Wheee!

    This is an interesting post – timely and well-considered (not to mention very well-written).

    I’m delighted to meet you.

    Grace and peace,

  6. christicorbett says:

    Such a relevant post these days!

    I find I must strike a delicate balance between my own “real life”, revising my manuscript, and social networking. And, when things get busy the social part is the first to go.

    Christi Corbett

    PS. I also liked Jody’s post. Yours is a good partner to it.

  7. I’ve limited my social networking activities to blogging, and browsing the blogs of people who visit mine. Even to keep up with this much interaction, I’ve had to give up the time I used to spend on forums. As you mention, it’s impossible to do everything the “experts” say we need to do and still enjoy other aspects of our lives.

  8. dave ebright says:

    As you’ve no doubt noticed – I’ve had to cut way back. Trying to balance everything. Work is crazy – we’re away from our home – trying to edit. Not going to get home say “Hi Deb” & jump on the computer. That wouldn’t be fair. If networking suffers – oh well. Good post.

    • You’re having a crazy year. I’m amazed if you get even a little editing done. I miss your posts but things will change once you’re permanently settled back at home again. In the meantime, spent some guilt-free time with Deb. 🙂

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