It’s impossible to get away from social media these days. As I look at the prevalence of sites such as Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn and Twitter, I’m blown away by how quickly things have changed. During my freshman year in college in 2004, Facebook was just starting to gain popularity. At that point, many of my college friends were skeptical about social networking and thought it was just a waste of time.
Sure enough, about a year later, most of my friends were joining Facebook. Now when we hear that a friend is not on Facebook, the reaction is: “What?!” Social media has become a way of life – a way of staying connected with close friends, family members and distant acquaintances. Without a doubt, there are numerous benefits to being on key social networking sites, like the big three: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Too Much Time Wasted
At studentbranding.com, our mission is to help students from high school all the way through graduate school navigate their way through the personal branding process. A big part of that is providing insight and advice on how to use social media to not only positively shape your brand, but also to build a stronger network.
This post, however, is about one of the key detriments of social networking: the amount of time you spend doing it. Have you ever found yourself on Facebook when you should have been studying for an exam or writing a paper? As you go through the events of your day, have you ever thought to yourself, “I need to update my feed or Twitter about this”? And, I’d put money on it that at some point, you’ve spent way too much time Facebook stalking a crush or an old friend that you haven’t seen in a long time.
There’s nothing wrong with being curious about people’s lives – especially since others are putting that information up about themselves for you to see. But, social networking can become problematic if we do not learn how to create limits for ourselves. One of the biggest downfalls of spending too much time on these sites is that they become substitutes for forming true relationships and impressions of others (a.k.a. looking through someone’s profile and coming to your own conclusions based on rather limited information as opposed to getting to know him or her in person).
How do I manage my social media time?
If you feel like you are spending far too much time on social networking sites (and I think we’ve all felt this way at one point or another), here are a few reminders to help you manage the time you spend online:
1.) What value am I adding to my personal brand?
Having active profiles on various social media sites is a great way to develop and share your best self to your network. Whenever you start to feel like you might be wasting time, ask yourself if you are adding any value to your brand by being online.
If you are spending some time making sure your privacy settings are just right, then you are working towards something that is adding long-term value to you and your brand. If you are posting a link to an interesting article you read, then you are developing your brand as a great person to get quality information from. The key, of course, is to post intelligent, thought-provoking articles – not Perez Hilton’s latest gossip.
2.) What value am I adding to my relationships?
If you are browsing your friends’ photo albums or Twitter feeds, think about what the value is to your relationships. Maybe you are sending messages every now and again to friends you haven’t talked to in a while; that can be a great use of time. Reaching out to others shows that you are thoughtful, and helps you build a bigger and stronger personal network in the long run.
But, if you are on picture #738 on your crush’s profile page, you are probably going overboard – both in terms of the time you are wasting and the relationships you are not allowing to develop naturally because with each click, you form a limited- and not always accurate- impression of someone else.
Particularly when it comes to the development of your relationships, send a thoughtful e-mail to a friend instead of posting a generic comment on his or her wall. It’s great to use social networking sites to connect with new friends and reconnect with old ones. But, whenever you can, use them for planning to connect on a more personal or effective level- such as a phone call or an in-person meeting over lunch or coffee.
3.) What could I be doing instead?
I hear so many people say, “But I don’t have enough time to do X, Y, and Z.” Well…you might find the time to do X, Y and Z if you spent less of it online! When you start to get sucked into the social media realm, really think about all of the goals you could be accomplishing in that time instead.
Before you begin each day, make a list of the top 3-5 things you want to accomplish in the next 24 hours. If you get sidetracked by newsfeed updates, pull out that list and ask yourself what’s more important: using your limited time to work towards those goals, or spending your time scouring the latest Youtube videos. The list will help you focus on putting your energy towards whatever adds the most value to your life.
4.) It’s a treat!
At the end of the day, social networking is about sharing information, connecting with others and expressing yourself. Above all, it should be fun! You can- and should- make time for looking at your friend’s photos from her recent trip to Paris, or checking out your newly friended classmate’s interests (hey, you both love soccer and politics!).
The key is to remember that the time you spend doing these things is a treat. If you have other obligations that need to be addressed first, know that the pictures and wall posts will still be there in a few hours or days. The world isn’t going to end if you don’t update your Twitter page for a little while!
Put it all into perspective, and carve out intentional time for you social networking updates and activities. Use the sites to build your best personal brand and connect with others. If you are strategic about the time you spend on social networking sites, you can have the best of both worlds – accomplishing your important goals and connecting with those who matter the most to you.
Melissa is the Editor-in-Chief of studentbranding.com. She is also an Assistant Brand Manager at Time Inc. Home Entertainment, where she manages brand extension projects for numerous publications including: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, People, and Entertainment Weekly. Melissa majored in Psychology at Hamilton College and currently resides in New York City. To find out more, read her blog, follow her on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.