This is a guest post by Stuart Mills.
“You are what you tweet.” – Alex Tew.
I’ve found myself wondering whether social media is all it’s cracked up to be.
Sure it makes it easier to connect with people from all over the world, from Nigeria to Nicaragua and from Pakistan to Poland, but how much satisfaction and contentment are we really getting from this online craze?
Social Media And Value
It’s common these days to see the youth of today heavily engaged in social media, chatting to their friends about any topic under the sun. They’re either on Facebook or Google+, or they’re on Twitter telling the world about the strange homeless man they’ve just walked past.
But despite all of this usage that social media gets, is there a lot of value going on around here? Are there any debates as to how to solve the problems of the world, or even a genuine problem that one of their friends is going through? Better yet, how many conversations in social media do you get where at least one person feels genuinely better having had that conversation?
Social Media And Time
Let’s look at another perspective on this, look at the amount of time we spend active on social media sites. The extremists spend up to 7-8 hours a day on social networks, but I believe the average person of today spends between 1-2 hours a day.
Now, let’s say that someone spends 1 hour a weekday on social media, and 2 hours a day on weekends, chatting away with their friends and viewing the latest photos and tweets. It sounds like a ‘normal’ amount, right? Multiply each weekday by 5, and each weekend day by 2, and you’re left with a weekly social media total of 9 hours a week on social media sites.
Again, this may seem like a normal and ordinary amount for you, but let’s now look at what you’re spending those 9 hours on.
Social Media And Content
Let’s look at some of the things you can do on social media:
- Instant messaging
- Updating statuses
- Sending individual/direct messages
- Promoting yours, or someone else’s content
Looking at these items, we can certainly keep in touch with our friends, and we can keep up regular relations with our clients. This is all well and good, but take this away, and what is left? What else can you do in social media besides these afore-mentioned items?
The truth is, not a lot.
Sure, you can play games and you can ‘poke’ your friends and family, but is this really important? Even referring to what is listed above, how much time do you need to be spending there? Do you really need to spend 9 hours a week on keeping in touch with friends and clients?
Granted, some of the more important relationships in your life will warrant a longer time, but the more important relationships in our lives are also maintained outside social media, and even outside the internet. Our families and our closest friends are traditionally the ‘more important relationships’, and how many of them are based primarily on a social media network?
Take away the ‘core relationships’ of your life and you’re left with those relationships that are standard, such as those with our clients and the rest of our social circle. Do you really need, or want, to be spending 9 hours a week building a relationship with them?
That’s a question that only you can answer for yourself, but I believe a good portion of those 9 hours can be spent otherwise.
Social Media And Society
Let’s consider the big picture – social media is meant to represent, at least in theory, the ‘society of the world’. It’s meant to be the voice which communicates to the world what the ‘common person’ is thinking, and what the common person wants. In other words, social media is meant to be our way of communicating with the world at large.
Do you think it’s doing a good job?
Personally, I don’t think it’s doing a good job at all. There’s too much mindless chatter, too much time wasted on activities that are either trivial or completely meaningless. And the worst part is that this isn’t likely to end any time soon.
If social media wishes to truly provide happiness on a deeper scale, then it needs to provide deep and lasting value. Enabling someone to provide a virtual cake for a friend on their birthday is not deep and lasting value. Having a deep conversation with someone about their countries’ politics, and discussing ways to improve is a much better way to provide deep and lasting value.
In fact, discussing deeper issues and opening up on a level that both parties agree upon and trust, is something that can quite easily come about. How? The trick is to be more aware.
Social media is the same as any other feature in this world – you get out of it what you put into it. If I was to spend an hour on Facebook viewing other people’s profiles and checking for new photos, then I’m not going to get much out of it. But if I have a meaningful conversation about a third-world crisis with someone, then I’m going to feel much more engaged and energised as a result.
So here’s the key – be more aware of what you use social media for. That’s my challenge to you. The next time you log onto your Google+ or your Twitter account, decide there and then what you’re going to do with your time. Then, as you’re using that social network, be aware of your actions and what you’re clicking on. If you find yourself drifting off into auto-pilot, bring yourself back to your pre-set agenda. Simple as that.
By being more aware, you can get more value out of your social media time, and possibly spend less time by doing more. There’s a lot of benefit up for grabs here.
So I’ll see you in the chatroom?