Social Media: Expertise? Not Required. Sanity is Optional.
In the grand scheme of things I am but a babe when it comes to social media. A rookie. A noob, if you will, though to spare my fragile feelings I’d just as soon you didn’t, really. Nope, no expert opinions here folks, just me stumbling along, trying to learn what I can. Like some great person of yore once said, “I’m just a worm crawling through the dirt of life.”(Actually that was me, I used it as a tag line on one of the many social media outlets I’ve tried, and may perhaps still use, I’m not really sure, but feel free to use it for your own purposes if you like.) But this is a good thing actually. In Zen Buddhism there is a concept known as beginner’s mind, and it means, basically, that the mind of someone who is new to something (a beginner), is free of the rigidity and ‘old-hat’ mentality of the expert who has seen and knows much. They are open to new things and new ways, and the ever-changing sea of social media is inherently new. Isn’t it?
The metaphor of the sea is particularly fitting because not only is social media, and with it the Internet, constantly changing and growing, it also implies a flow. A constant flow of information: emails, images, blurbs, and yes… tweets. We often find ourselves buried beneath a relentless tide of information. Will it ever stop, or do we even want it to really? More importantly, how do you handle it all?
If you’re anything like me, the Internet has reduced your attention span to that of a gnat; there’s just so much to look at. Sometimes I feel like a cat in a room full of laser pointers. No, really! Even when I sit down at the keyboard with a plan, fully intent of looking up one thing — just one thing! — if I’m not careful, I end up clicking 57 links, only snapping out of the trance once done digesting the Evolution of Toilets (via lovetoknow.com).
This isn’t a new idea though, is it? The Internet has been driving us mad with choice from day one. But now we have social media thrown into the mix; Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace just some of the names which come to mind. Naming all of them would be another post altogether (actually that would be another venture-funded web project and a lifetime of work—venture capitalists, feel free to email me, we’ll talk). It’s a wonder we get any work done today at all.
It can be done, and trust me, there are greater minds than this one working on it. David Allen, bestselling author of Getting Things Done, advises that one must be judicious in choosing who and what we interact with online, and even he acknowledges that it’s a slippery slope.
The most obvious issue about social media: Is this a useful way to spend your time, or is it a sinkhole of attractive distraction? It could very easily be one of those one minute, and the other the next! It all depends on why you’re doing it, and this must be evaluated moment to moment. It’s an important distinction to make for yourself, because focus is probably your greatest asset that you can control. You must be judicious about where you place it and what you let grab it, thus reducing your effectiveness.
A while back over on Mashable, author, speaker, and Wall Street Journal columnist Alexandra Levit wrote a post on managing your time and your social media fix. It basically echoes Allen’s advice: draw up some boundaries, and mind your commitments. This is, of course, easier said than done.
Simplification and discipline are key here ( listen to me now, as if I know what I’m talking about all of the sudden), especially given the fact that more and more of us are packing smartphones with instant access to emails, tweets, instant messages, and the whole of the Internet. It’s a conundrum, and I’m afraid I don’t have any hard and fast advice; I’m still trying to manage my own habits, while I struggle to maintain some semblance of a regular blog posting schedule—and if you’ve seen my blog, you’ll see what a bang up job I’m doing there—keep up with news, and trends, and friends, and preventing the slow creep of insanity that comes with wanting, and inevitably failing to read every last blip, chirp, snort, buzz, squawk, squeak, and bleep that we can get our hands on.
And that, my friends, is the heart of the matter isn’t it? We can’t read it all, but something about these here interwebs makes us want to—that’s probably another post, we might come back to that. What is it? The interactivity, the instant gratification, the variety? Hell, I don’t know, but as a diminutive Jedi Master once said, ‘Control, control, you must learn control!’
I leave you with a small collection of the better suggestions I’ve found in one place that deal with this very thing. From Mashable again, a few suggestions on how to handle your voracious social media appetite and still get at least a few things accomplished. Now if you don’t mind, I’m really jonesin for some Twitter time…and I forgot to email that one dude, oh and I need to…nevermind, I’m done here!