It is a sign of our times, that as well as discussing the merits of lemon and sugar versus Nutella and banana, social media feeds are full of people deciding whether to give up Facebook or Chocolate for Lent. This suggests that we see social media in the same way that we see Chocolate, a treat, something we love, no, something that we need. Ok, we are actually a bit addicted to it, and in the grand scheme of things we don’t really, really need it, do we?
If we actually sit down and work out how long we spend on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on, most of us would be shocked to see how many hours of our life are wasted. There is a degree to which it is beneficial for us, keeping in touch with family and friends, developing a professional online persona, but how many of us really stick to what is necessary to stay connected? It tends to be the first thing we check in the morning and the last thing we check at night. Is this really healthy and necessary for our careers?
The Twitter co-founder, Biz Stone, told a business audience that too much time spent on Twitter is unhealthy. This might be surprising as you would think he’d be encouraging people to use it more given that he has such an invested interest, but it is becoming increasingly accepted that too much ‘screen time’, as we might say to the kids, is bad for the adults too.
It has increased our ability to communicate but it has also increased our feelings of guilt. What if we miss a tweet or don’t respond to a post? Gone are the days where we would take time to reply to a letter. It was even acceptable to take a few days to reply to an email. Everything is immediate now, and therefore we feel we have to give an immediate response. We can be contacted 24/7 and this constant availability can lead to anxiety. We are always on a state of high alert, a beep, a tweet, a ring, a ping, a buzz, and a constant ‘wake up’. We need to switch off sometimes.
Studies have shown that anxiety levels are rising not just because of this state of high alert, but because of anxiety about being away from social media. We worry that we may miss something vital. People report it affecting their sleep patterns and we have all read articles about the phenomena of spending so long cultivating online relationships that we forget how to conduct real ones. The more time that you ‘waste’ online, the less time you spend doing your job well. You need to be networking effectively, managing your time well to maximise productivity in the working week. PR, communication and jobs are all enhanced and pushed forward by social media but only if used in a considered, constructive way. Minimise the time wasted and maximise the time spent well. This is advice we could all use.
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