This is a guest post by Stuart Mills.
“Social media is a great way to tell the world what you’re thinking before you’ve had a chance to think about it.” – Chris Pirillo
Have you ever heard of that old saying, “You can take the ‘x’ out of the ‘y’, but you can’t take the ‘y’ out of the ‘x’”?
It implies to social media a lot.
How many people do you know have Facebook? Or Twitter? Or even that old-time favourite, Myspace? Or the more focused ones such as StumbleUpon, Digg, or Delicious? Is it a lot? I bet it is.
Ever since I started my website, I’ve come across so many different ways of connecting, it’s unreal. I could send the same message to you in a hundred different ways. I won’t, but the fact that the potential is there indicates that we are never more connected than we are now. The choice is mind-boggling.
A lot of the ways we can communicate is by social media. I could send you a Tweet, a Like, or a Stumble, and we could get our communication on (if you know what each of those terms mean, then consider yourself connected!). But I must ask now, do we really need all of this? Really?
I’ve recently had a couple of experiences with Facebook that I feel must be mentioned, as I believe they are examples of the ‘Facebook effect’ on people.
First, myself and my girlfriend were involved in a minor argument about a comment that was left on my Facebook page by someone we know. It was all meant in jest, yet the whole thing got a little out of hand. Its settled now, but you can still look and find the post on my Facebook profile here, and the comments following it.
This is the first time I’ve been involved in ‘Facebook fury’, and it wasn’t a very nice thing to sort out.
The second experience is to do with my Facebook page. I decided to delete the Unlock The Door Facebook page because it wasn’t serving me well. In fact, it was becoming more of a distraction, as it wasn’t growing as fast as my Twitter account, and there wasn’t much interaction taking place at all.
So now, all of my Facebook activity will be concentrated onto my Facebook profile. I believe this will make things simpler for me.
So what does this all mean? It means that Facebook has recently gotten out of hand for me, and I’ve now taken steps to reduce my Facebook activity, and focus more on Twitter as my main social media outlet. I like Twitter, it’s fun, informative, and it just seems a lot more professional.
But what it also means is that I needed to minimise my social media exposure.
Less Is More
I prefer to liken social media to a whirlpool. It looks fun but it can suck you in without ever letting you go. Before you know it, you’ve just spent those two hours in the morning, which you were going to spend on your website, checking out other profiles on Facebook, and tweeting the latest Charlie Sheen rant. It’s a waste.
Why do you do it?
Why waste those hours doing something which, at the most, might get a couple of cheap laughs? Social media can do that to you, it can turn you into a mindless, pointless status-uploading, zombie. I know, because some of them are my Facebook friends.
How can you get out of this? Simple, cut it back. Social media can become an addiction just like alcohol, drugs, and smoking. Excessive amounts are bad for you, we all know this, but it doesn’t make it any easier when you’re trying to log off from your profile but you just can’t bring yourself to do it!
Cut back on your addiction. Go cold turkey if you have to. I recall Steve Pavlina going on a 30 day Facebook fast after being an active user for two years. You can read his results here. I’m sure you’ll be as surprised as I was at what he learned.
The same applies for any other social media outlet that you find yourself addicted to, as it’s not just Facebook.
Some people are addicted to endless retweeting, others like to click the ‘stumble’ button just for the hell of it. Cut back on these outlets. Disconnect your internet. Banish your computer if you have to, but however you do it, just take a break. Get your head out of the social media sand and look up to the sky. Look around you. You know what you see?
It’s life! Life is waiting for you if you only get away from your social media and embrace it.
Purposeful Social Media
Of course, I don’t advocate that you dispel social media entirely. Some of it is actually quite useful.
Want to share something new that your business/website/yourself has introduced? Use Twitter to tweet about it. Or advertise it on Digg. You can reach a shed load of people in seconds by using a social media outlet, and this is good. This is very practical, and has many uses, but it has to be purposeful.
Why use social media if not for a good reason? Are you just using social media because everyone else is using it? Rubbish, that means you are a sheep, as you are following everyone else and doing what they say is good for you. I’ve been a sheep before, when MySpace was hip and cool, but never again. If I use social media, it will be for my benefit and purpose, not for anyone elses.
Our man Danny Brown wrote a post not too long ago about the philosophy of social media, and what it can mean beyond the trivial conversations and noise. I implore you to check it out here, and learn that social media can be so much more than boring tweets and likes, and it can be a completely different experience for you.
If you let it.
Why Social Media?
Social media is meant to help you by letting you help others. That’s the ulterior, moralistic motive of social media, yet somehow it’s transformed into a hideous, blabbering, tweeting atrocity of a monster. It’s awful to think about it, so the best thing you can do is not to let yourself get sucked into the monstrous whirlpool.
Use social media for your own uses, and help others in order to help yourself. And if you find yourself getting sucked in? Breathe, turn off the internet, and gain a little perspective. The monster is still ugly behind all that make-up.
About the author: Stuart Mills is an experienced writer who wants to help you improve at life. He thinks you’re awesome. You can often find him here, where he writes constantly to make it a better day for everyone, and you can subscribe here. You can also follow Stuart on Twitter at @theunlockeddoor.