are we OVERsocial?

O, Technology! You silly banana.

So my recent (albeit trepidatious) forays into Twitter have led me to wonder about some things. Now, it’s totally obvious that this day and age, a large volume of our connectedness comes via the Internet. It’s been this way for awhile. Everyone has Facebook (preceded by Friendster and Myspace, which in 2009 laid off more than 30% of its workforce), most people have smartphones, everyone who’s cool Tweets, you have WordPress, Tumblr and Blogspot to choose from for blogging, the business minded connect with LinkedIn, social media is a rapidly growing marketing method, the lonely meet on Match.com, the photographers have Flickr…the list goes on. We “check in” when we visit a hip bar or venue (or even at mundane places, too), and we update our status and Tweet from every imaginable place, even the bathroom, often last thing at night and first thing in the morning. There are seemingly countless portals by which one can enter and connect with friends and like-minded people, and to photos, music, video and information. Or at least that’s the idea.

I’m all for the age of communication and instant gratification. I admit that find it gratifying when someone “likes” my Facebook status right away, follows me on Twitter or best of all, comments on my blog. It’s validating, and it feels like you’re really…well, connecting, hopefully in a positive way, sending your message into the world. But something happens on the days I know I spend too much time scanning my Facebook/Twitter feed, or keep my email open all day long (only to receive special offers from my favorite retailers..alas!). I feel a bit antsy. If I don’t get a reply right away, it’s like I’m just waiting for the next incoming thing. Before I know it, hours have passed and I’ve been just idly scanning the doings of other people, rather than focusing on my own. I know I’m not the only one who does this. As an example, who can forget the episode of The IT Crowd (Series 3, Episode, 5, Netflix it asap!) in which the gang gets addicted to the fictionalized “Friendface.” It pretty much sums it up.

Perhaps I just need to learn better time management skills or obtain some self-discipline, but what I’m getting at is this: The more “social networked” I get, the more disconnected I feel. I can’t decide if I should post a picture to Instagram or on Facebook, or text it to a specific person – or should I Tweet at them? Email attachments are so last year. I’m kind of an old-fashioned girl, and I’m comparatively new to the smartphone realm. It is my personal belief and observation that if you’re not careful, the Internet can rot your brain and shorten your attention span. And we all know the perils of multitasking. (Worst case? Nothing gets done. At all. Which is why it’s no surprise that many workplaces ban social networking websites altogether.)

The whole thing kind of got to boggling my brain, the more I thought about it. As someone who is striving for inner balance, how does one achieve this in a technology driven society? How can we stay connected and still feel human? I have observed the effects of my own attention span dwindling as I scan through tweets and posts. This 2009 New York Times article affirms my suspicions. (I second Lady Greenfield.) And that, friends, was in 2009, the year I showed up late to the Facebook party. How things have changed since even then. And this article on bNet confirms that our online interactions do in fact lead to a chemical reaction in our brains that make us addicted to the responses we get.

So what are we to do? In the day and age of almost everyone being online in some presence or another, how do we decide what social networking sites get our time, and how do we best manage that time? What are your thoughts on social networking? What outlets do you use, and why? How do you choose from the cornucopia of choices available? Would you say you are “addicted” to social media? And what impact does social media have on your actual life?

I’m curious! Please share. 🙂

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3 thoughts on “are we OVERsocial?

  1. I definitely have this issue. I’ve found that I’m able to scan through Facebook fairly quickly these days and just focus on my actual friends and interesting highlights. I keep Twitter open, mainly to post random stuff on life and primarily to promote my blog. Blogger is really where I can spend quite a bit of time because I “follow” several blogs, most of which post multiple times a week, so it takes forever to keep up. I can spend my entire morning just checking email, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, before I actually even get started on blogging myself, exercise or whatever. I’ve been trying to break it up some, and it does help. After all, there are other things in life, and you are right, I check several times when I post a blog to see if there are comments and get a low when nothing has been posted yet. It has it’s benefits, but can certainly be a trap as well.

  2. I do this too. On my days off I pretty much have my laptop on and open all day, and I end up hitting refresh a countless amount of times on my facebook, email, and blog stats. I have 2 main message boards I post at and I am constantly searching my username to see if anyone has quoted a post of mine. I also check back on blogs I comment to see if anyone has replied to me. If I am experiencing no new things to read, I frantically start looking for something else I can get involved in, even though I probably have already overloaded myself on internet minglings and social networking. I start feeling like people are purposely ignoring me or like I am missing out on some big online social event. It’s a problem. Sometimes I force myself to step back and do something else. It’s good to know I’m not the only one here.

  3. Hey Victoria,
    I saw your post on Linked-in. Great stuff and great points. To think all that time at eCoast, I had no idea you were really a writer.
    Hope you’re doing well.
    ted

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