Alas, it’s time to bring our blog-alogue about social media to a close. I think it’s been entertaining and thoroughly informative, and many followers of this blog feel the same way, judging by the many comments we’ve had to these posts. We’re not finished with the subject by any means; you’ll be posting about social media here in the future. But I’m going to end the blog-alogue part of it with one final question.
First, a summary. In the past couple of months, we’ve talked about a vision for social media, its Ignatian character, giving it up for Lent, social media tools, and models. My last question is one that’s been lurking in my mind all along, and I’ll bet it’s occurred to many readers as well: where do I find the time to do all this?
Time is precious. I can’t keep up with the blogs I want to follow. I don’t look at my Facebook page very often. I neglect Twitter. So — how can I fit social media into my life?
Is there a sentient person alive today who doesn’t wish for more time? Given how calibrated time is a human fabrication, you’d think our forebears would have granted us more than 24 hours in a day. Alas, they did not. And what, pray tell, would we do with that “extra” time? Me? I’d probably get more sleep or deep clean my bathroom, thus raising the issue of priorities.
Once again, I’m going to say discernment is at the core of deciding how and when to fit social media into daily life. Social media certainly seem to require an overwhelming amount of time. In addition to the growing number of tools, technology has changed the way we deal with time.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how “real time” isn’t even real time as I’ve experienced it in the past. I’ve been pondering how asynchronous communication, such as that which (allegedly) occurs in the digital world, can actually feel synchronous.
Digital technology has also re-shaped expectations about response rate.
Post something on Twitter or Facebook and anyone paying attention in that moment may respond immediately. As a result, communication feels faster than fast. More present. More real. Real presence? But post a blog comment or send e-mail, and you might get a response hours or a day later. Behold a new source of social anxiety: What? You didn’t respond instantly to my post or e-mail? What does that mean? Are you ignoring me?
What to do? You can reduce anxiety by knowing why you want to use social media and then choosing platforms (i.e., tools) accordingly.
If, for example, you decide to use Twitter or Facebook lists as news feeds, then scan what’s there as frequently as you might read a daily print newspaper.
If, for example, you want to have conversations with like-hearted folks, then you’ll need to cultivate a consistent presence. Remember: whatever happens in “real” community will happen in a virtual community. You cannot wander in and mostly out of a community and expect to be viewed as a member — not in the physical world and not online, although online community tends to be more forgiving of wanderers.
In either event, whether you want to use social media to retrieve content or engage in conversation, you can reduce time pressure by integrating it into the way you routinely engage with the world. You’ve already done this with the telephone and with e-mail, so you know how to do this. Don’t make social media into something different, separate, or special.
And here are some practical solutions to social media time management:
- Use Tweetdeck or HootSuite to manage content from and post content to all your social media accounts. My Tweetdeck is configured into 14 columns, one of which is exclusively devoted to accounts delivering secular and religion news. It’s also set up so I can post from four different Twitter accounts and LinkedIn.
- Use Google Reader to feed blogs you want to read into a desktop reader rather than cluttering your e-mail box. Periodically review and unsubscribe to blogs you never read.
- Sort Facebook friends into groups and reconfigure your news feed so you see only what you want to read. My news feed is configured so I get news/posts from organizations and publications only. Posts from people about their puppies, gardens, and Jesus show up in groups.
- Either delete or don’t stress about accounts you never or rarely look at. No one is taking attendance!
- Set up and stick to a schedule for reading and commenting on blogs, Facebook posts, or tweets. You don’t even have to do this every day. I’m only on social media all day and much of the night because church communications is my ministry and I love it. What blesses me beyond measure may seem like your worst nightmare.
- Build social media Sabbaths and sabbaticals into your use, but if you’ve developed a presence, don’t disappear. Just as you’d record an “on vacation” message on voice mail, let people know when you’re taking a break.
These are some practical ways to fit social media into your life, but only if you want it to be there at all. Unless you’re a digital strategist, a community manager, or love using social media to connect, you do not have do any of this.
That’s right — you don’t have to use social media. Go ahead and delete your Twitter and Facebook accounts. No one’s salvation is jeopardized by opting out of social media, except possibly mine?!?