Social Media: Friend or Foe?

August 4, 2011 | Posted in Comments | By

Social media ~ we can’t escape it. Even if you’ve been living under a rock you likely have an Internet-enabled Smartphone and a Twitter account ~ maybe something clever like: @rockdweller or @stonesthrowaway…I mean, the birds in the oak tree next door are Tweeting, right? Ok, maybe they are actually tweeting, but it stands to reason that you should be too. No one wants to be left back.

I admit I was one of the reluctant ones. I had my reasons. I finally moved past those reasons and embraced social networks. I am so glad I did.

I have had the opportunity to connect (all too briefly, unfortunately) with a long-lost aunt before she passed on to another dimension.  I am infinitely grateful for that. I have always had a strong belief in family and our own personal history ~ I have used Facebook to have a relationship with family members and friends that I otherwise may have never spoken to again as a result of the transient nature of life as we know it.

I have met new friends that I couldn’t have met without these tools. I have discovered, and shared with others, great books and their authors. I have made friends with said authors. I have found opportunities for personal and professional growth. The fulfillment of my lifelong dream of being a writer has come to this point, and will go further, because of it.

The point is, there is no going back; so, how do we move forward and get the benefits of social networking WITHOUT letting it take over our entire lives?

The answer to that is probably a little different for each of us, dependent on whom we are and why we are using these sites. The best reasons are:

  • So we can connect with new friends/family from around the world and old ones we have lost touch with,
  • So we can build a strong network to expand our chosen career, and
  • So we can share our knowledge or expertise in order to help others.

I don’t think I need to list all the WRONG reasons…

Some people are intimidated by these sites. Others are quite savvy. Still others are careless or clueless and do not follow simple protocols to keep their information safe. However, I am not going to address those issues here. The purpose of this blog is to examine how to use social networks without becoming obsessed.

We all know, or have heard of, at least one person who is completely governed by Facebook or Twitter. They post anything and EVERYTHING. A constant stream of TMI (for the uninitiated: Too Much Info) ~ no one is so important that we care if you are stopped at a really long red light or going to the bathroom. Seriously, I promise.

Even though my career as a writer ensures that I am plugged in for a good portion of the day, most of us do have Internet-enabled phones and potential access 24/7. How do we not let a potentially great tool become an addiction? Internet addiction is going to be added as a clinical diagnosis; it is that prevalent. In fact, just Google it ~ (another term that was unknown just a few years ago). At time of writing, there were 18,600,000 hits.

It’s okay to go a little overboard when you first start using a site. It is expected. You are learning the ropes and connecting with friends. Great! If it starts to overtake your life though, you need to dial it back. It really just comes down to what used to be referred to as common sense ~ I say ‘used to’ because, as my one son pointed out when he was around six years old, if not everyone has it, it’s not that common is it. So now, I shall just refer to it as good sense.

We need to have this in order to balance our lives. Just because some of our friends are e-friends, in that we have not and may never actually sit down at a Starbucks and drink a latte together, doesn’t mean they are not real friends. Having said that, we cannot—should not—ignore the people that are IRL (again, for those of you who don’t know: In Real Life).

Personally, I have decided to schedule my social networking time along with my writing, editing, household maintenance and family/friends/me time. It’s not like I can just turn off my Internet connection and write; quite often I need to spontaneously research a term or look up a long-forgotten grammar rule. So, I need the good old standby: self-discipline.

It is no different than if we are trying to stick to a healthy eating plan or get to the gym. Discipline. If you log out for awhile and come back to 937 missed Tweets, so what? Odds are there is nothing you missed that is more important than the thing or person you logged out for.

So, feel free to connect, network with like-minded people, gratuitously self-promote or post a link to that ROTFL (Rolling On The Floor Laughing) YouTube video.

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