Social media overload. We all suffer from it. Okay, well most of us do. I go to extremes. Most days I don’t do much social networking at all whereas there are days, as my sister-in-law says, I post in excess. It’s really hard to find the balance between the life in front of you and the presence you have online. It’s often easy to get caught up in the social networking craze. I think about whether or not I should even take part. I suppose I don’t want to be behind the times. However, sometimes taking an extended break can do a great deal of good.
Last year, frustrated by the stress of social networking, I took a week off from it. I called it my Social Networking Abstinence Week. During that week I found myself so much more relaxed. I had free time I’d forgotten I had. I suppose it’s all a matter of opinion but social networking often feels like a second job. You can be either really invested in it or barely have a presence. I constantly struggle with balancing social networking and its invasiveness in my life. Having recently posted a series of links to web articles on the impact of social networking in our lives, I’ve gotten a number of comments on each side. In the responses to the posting of the article, Is Social Media Making Us Less Connected?, I had a few more comments than I normally would. One of my Facebook friends noted that social media is a two-edged sword while another feels that it’s merely a tool and thus up to us in how we use it. I agree with them both.
While social networking has made it easier to keep in touch with friends and family that we may otherwise not have, it can also be draining. According to the aforementioned article, one major issue in engaging in social networking is that we’re able to project ourselves as we want to be seen. We get to edit, we get to delete, and that means we get to retouch. This is certainly not quite as easy to do in person. “A face-to-face conversation takes place in real-time and you can’t control what you’re going to say.”
One can address the issues and imbalances of social media by trying to put things into perspective and in thinking about how much it’s a part of their lives. Has it caused you to be less social in the real world? Do you have a different persona online that is quite different from the real you? In my case I think that people are beginning to learn who I really am. I’m really not sure if I want that.
In another article, My Life Without Facebook: A Social Experiment, the author took a year off from social media. The result was “that I miss[ed] out on a lot of conversations…[however,] somewhat ironically, I’m more focused now than before on my own life and needs.” During the year he “felt like I need Facebook socially, but there is plenty I’m missing out on [in the life around me]. There is certainly a bit of distance created when you’re unable to share and see what’s going on in others lives that they share almost exclusively online.”
The balancing of the place of social media in your life can be difficult. You know there is little time left in being able to avoid. You can feel overloaded. In How to Deal With Social Networking Overload it suggests setting guidelines for yourself. These include asking yourself why you joined each site and what the purpose and value is of having done so. That’s my dilemma. I’m on virtually every major social media site and often result to cross posting and only paying attention to my own posts. This, all due to the enormity of what others post. I’ve had to filter much of it out. However, I’m the type that feels bad about being Facebook friends with someone and hiding or not reading their posts. It’s like having a friend in real life and not paying them attention.
The thing is, how the world connects has been and will continue to change. With the popularity of instant information and communication, as in Facebook and Twitter, how do you remain in the know and not lose yourself in it? At the end of the day, I often just don’t have the time.
This article appeared on page 5A in the 3/14/12 issue of The Union-Recorder.