Social Media and A Personal Life: Striking the Balance

Humans are, by their nature, social animals.  Like other primates, female elephants, dolphins, dogs, some birds, and most fish.  We like to hang out together and check in with each other.  That is why social media is so powerful, and why it has become the marketing choice of advertisers.  It plays on a basic human proclivity.

I guess one pitfall of social media, however, is that it can be habit forming to the point where it is detrimental.  Some people are calling it “addictive,” referring to Blackberry as “Crackberry.”  This form of social interaction is free, fun, easy, and quick to use.  Twitter, Facebook, and cell phone texting provide instantaneous rewards.  Plus, you can “be” someone you aren’t really.  Or a version of yourself.  Which is probably really appealing to teens.  The result?  It can cause minor problems (like my weight gain!), serious problems, such as impaired relationships, or even serious accidents.

I’m not suggesting that we abandon social media!  But we may need to take a more balanced approach, and I think we may need to put more effort in arranging to meet people face to face.  Or maybe we should bring back the phone call.   I think it’s this over-adoption of social media that turns some people off.  For example, here’s just a few examples that have come over my radar screen this week:

  • Evidently, business people are having a hard time productively managing the amount of time they spend on social media.  Jennifer Conner published an article in the Washington Business Journal today featuring tips for managing one’s time spent on social media for business purposes.  All the subjects interviewed recommended moderation and suggested approaches such as weekly check-in’s instead of daily (or several times daily) posts.
  • I talked to several recruiting firms at Interact 08 who bemoaned the overall lack of interpersonal and interviewing skills in text-reliant Millenials.  Evidently, they connect well online but their offline social skills are suffering.
  • Geoff Livingston reported in his blog yesterday that 20% of teens are suffering sleep deprivation because they text so much at night.
  • A speaker and CEO from Interact injured herself last week by walking into a pole while texting.  And this is such a common phenomenon that in the UK, they are experimenting with padding street poles to help prevent this kind of injury.  There are is now a safety awareness campaign about it in DC and even proposed legislation in some states to address texting while driving, biking, and walking. You cannot make this stuff up.
  • Tragically, it was revealed yesterday that the train operator involved in the Los Angeles train wreck that killed 25 people was texting 22 seconds before the train crashed. I cannot begin to express my grief over that.

It’s a beautiful October morning and I suggest everybody get outside and take a walk.  Without your cell phone!  Invite a friend!  I will also try to find balance between my online and offline lives.

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About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on February 16, 2009, in Facebook Tips. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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