I was going to title this post, “Are Facebook Friends really Friends?”, but I think the social media that is eating up our time, and overwhelming us with too much information includes more than just Facebook. You participate in social media for two reasons, business or pleasure. If you aren’t careful about how you manage these venues, you won’t be doing any business or enjoying any pleasure. Instead, you will be juggling distractions and struggling to keep up with all of your “friends”.
I remember in the early days of the Internet, when chat rooms were scary, instant messaging was hip and if you were on match.com, you were really daring. Today, all of those things seem mainstream, instead of cutting edge. With Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn and others, we are encouraged to literally live a portion of our lives through social media. I think we thought that these sites would makes us more effective in business and keep us connected on a greater level, but like the effects of most high speed technology, our business efforts have become diluted and and our social connections, less genuine.
I think it is great that we can connect with friends and family through Facebook and follow interesting people on twitter, but it is important to remember to do it on purpose. We have to seriously consider how social networking websites affect our lives and act accordingly.
Choose Wisely – Before you “friend” or “follow”, ask yourself if you could call that friend if you needed help with something, or if you would have invited the “friend” into your life otherwise. Before you follow a tweep, decide if what they post will be of value to your life or your business. There is something to be said for a genuine connection and it is unlikely that you will achieve that, following thousands.
Communication – There used to be a time where no one knew what we were doing, every second of the day. There used to be a time where no one cared about that information. No one cares about it today. Share something of value or don’t share at all. You can only absorb and process so much information. Make sure you pay attention to the stuff that matters to you and delete the rest.
Connections – Today, people often assess their value by their number of “friends” or “followers”. Instead, place value on your actions and character. Go through your list of connections and decide which ones aren’t useful to you. Un-friending and Un-following is not personal. Ask yourself if you are connecting with someone via social media for business or pleasure, and make sure your list is in-line with your goals and values.
Time Management – You cannot be everywhere all the time, yet some of these sites leave you feeling like you are missing something, or can’t keep up if you aren’t there 24/7. Instead of doing a little here and there, choose the venue that works best for you. For instance, I check in with my Facebook account once a week or so and canceled my Linkedin account. That gives me more time to thoughtfully engage with twitter.
Reality – Are your connections online interfering with your connections at home, work, or in your neighborhood. The www is an amazing place to meet great people, and to learn and grow, but don’t forget to go for a walk with your family, call an old friend or make a new one. Make sure to incorporate technology vacations into your life. Break away for one day a week if you can. (Plan on an upcoming mini-mission for this!)
Distraction – You knew this was coming. Web surfing has always been a distraction to work, but today, when you can engage in a conversation with a “friend” at any time, instead of staying focused and doing meaningful work, you have to be vigilant about doing one thing at a time. If you are writing a proposal, shut down your other websites. If you are catching up on reading, don’t have TweetDeck chirping at you every .2 seconds with an update. Imagine trying to work, if an alarm went off every time anyone wanted your attention. When you are doing meaningful work, or having a phone or in person conversations, kill your email, alarms, text alerts, and any other distractions. You will be amazed at what you can give and take, when you do it on purpose.
I am reconsidering the time and energy I devote to social media sites. After careful consideration, I canceled my linkedin account, reduced (and continue to reduce) my facebook friends to people that I know, and would like to stay in touch with, and will redirect most of my social networking efforts to twitter, but in moderation. I don’t think there is a special number of friends or followers you should stick with. It all depends on what works best for you. For me, following less than 100 people on twitter, allows me to have quality interactions and not feel overwhelmed with information.
We cannot be available all the time, we cannot be consuming information all the time. We need time to be more and do less and only you can make that time for yourself.