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.