When Social Media Becomes a Time-Suck

There are a lot of professionals telling writers—particularly those interested in publication—that they need to use social media. From personal experience, I can attest to the benefit of having a large web presence. (See these posts: Can an Online Presence Make a BestsellerThe Snowball Effect of Social Media.)

But, I can also attest to the huge time-suck that social media can become.

Of course everyone is different, in various life stages, with unique work or family situations. But I’d venture to say that the vast majority of writers, like me, are juggling multiple responsibilities—and a writing career is just one of them.

The bottom line is that we don’t have unlimited time to devote to our writing, much less to social media.

Many of us find ourselves in the dilemma of trying to stay consistent and active within our social media circles, but on our very limited time. And as our web presence grows and our connections increase, it becomes increasingly harder to maintain the relationships we’re forming without taking even more time away from other things.

Four months after the release of my debut book, not only have my writing responsibilities gradually increased, but my social media circles have widened too.

For example, last week (an average week) I had over 400 emails (personal and professional accounts combined, not including spam). Over the course of five days, I had a total of 168 blog comments and 165 retweets of blog posts on twitter. I have two facebook accounts (one personal and one for readers/writers) and I get comments and messages there. And I have over 3500 followers on Twitter and interact there too.

You get my point. Social media plays a huge role in my writing career and thus has the potential to be a huge time-suck.

I hesitate to share statistics like this, because I truly do love hearing from people. When others share how busy they are and how many emails they get and so on, I always feel bad when I need to email them—like I’m bothering them. So, please don’t feel that way. No one is ever a bother to me. I really do love personal emails and messages!

My intention in sharing the statistics is not to discourage people from communicating with me, but rather to give a picture of just how big social media can become. And I know many of you are in the same situation with very similar statistics.

So what do we do? Go crazy?

Seriously. Here are a few ways I’m handling the social media time-suck:

1. Set personal boundaries.

Over the past months, I decided that when I’m in mom or teacher-mode, I won’t let social media encroach on that. So, during my busy days, I try to give my other responsibilities my focused attention. I save responding to emails, tweets, etc. for breaks, or for the time that I specifically set aside for it.

2. Prioritize interactions.

Since I can’t possibly personally respond to every single correspondence without it becoming a full time job, I’ve mentally ranked which communications get my most immediate attention and which get the leftover. I always respond within a day or two to personal emails and messages. I try to answer questions within posts. But I can only jump into blog discussions or respond to comments as I have the time.

3. Realize the world will go on fine without us.

As much as I try to be consistent with my social media efforts (see this post: 5 Ways to Develop Consistency in Writing & Blogging), I also realize that the cyberworld will go on fine without my presence. It’s rather egotistical of me to think that I’m needed or even important. I want to keep a humble attitude about my place in the scope of cyberland.

4. Give ourselves permission NOT to keep up.

This was a hard one for me, especially with visiting and following other blogs. For a while I tried to continue as I always had, but with the growing responsibilities of writing under contract, I finally had to give myself permission to let go of the pressure to keep up with everything.

5. Pick one place to interact more personally.

Instead of trying to be super active in all places at all times, I use Twitter the most. The 140 character limit forces brevity. I can hop in and off in a quick minute. And I can interact personally with a lot of people in a short amount of time.

6. Have a deeper, inner circle of relationships.

Be genuinely friendly with those in our widening spheres, but realize we can’t pull everyone into our inner circle. I’m not an advocate of cliques. And the boundaries of my inner circle are always open. But we do need deeper, like-minded friendships to sustain us, and that just can’t happen with everyone we meet.

Have you ever gotten your feelings hurt because you interacted with someone on a social media site and didn’t get a response back? When many of us are struggling with the social media time suck, how can we keep from unintentionally hurting the feelings of those who take the time and effort to comment or communicate with us? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

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