The social media question that startled me


Occasionally a question from the audience can startle me and make me think.

I had the same question asked  twice during a rural women’s conference last week (during separate sessions, of course). That question was: “Do you ever take a break from social media?”

Quick answer: “not really”.

More elaborate answer: “I don’t feel the need for one”.

Even more elaborate answer:

I enjoy using social media. Yes, it’s my work but it’s also my recreation. And I think you’ll find a lot of social media professionals feel the same way.

If I grew tired of social media and felt the need for a break, sure, I’d take one.

But it helps me to relax.

The difference is, I switch off from my ‘work channels’ and ‘work persona’ and use social media for fun. I keep in touch with friends, I participate in Twitter hashtags while watching reality TV shows, I share Instagram photos of the world around me, I listen to music, I try new apps and so on.

I even find blogging recreational. Not everyone does – in fact, I often tell my audiences to treat blogging with caution because for some people, it can become onerous. But I’m that kid who kept a diary, who submitted articles to newspapers and magazines, who sketched comic portraits of her friends and who taught herself to type at age 12. So communication has always been in the ‘fun basket’ rather than the ‘too hard basket’ for me. Social media is like the lolly shop. I’ll take my laptop on holiday so I can sit down and blog (with a glass of wine).

Related reading: Content is king, do you hate it?

Don’t get me wrong. Social media is not my world. I spend a lot of time with my sons. I’ve been doing zumba for a few years, I read novels, I do the dreaded housework, I meet friends, I go to a lot of events, I do some voluntary and board work.  And not all of that is shared on my Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn accounts for followers to see.

Prakky's Zumba shoes
Prakky’s Zumba shoes

It’s an added bonus that, while I’m using social media for fun, I’m learning along the way, keeping up to date with how things work, how online communities tend to behave, new features, and so on. I’m in touch with what motivates users and what vexes them – because I am one.

There is one place I don’t venture. And that’s online gaming. I haven’t played Facebook games or inhabited a virtual world or used gaming apps on my phone. That’s where I’ve drawn my line – and of course, I’d never purport to be a commentator for that world. I’m afraid that’s where the time I spend online could balloon and – as a mother – that’s a personal boundary for me.

Do you ever feel that you’ve spent too much time on social media?

8 Comments Add yours

  1. I definitely take breaks from social media but then I’m not perky, I’m dark and serious and stuff. Sometimes I want to be alone… 😉

    1. Prakky says:

      Good point Derek. And you know I read that as “I vant to be alone”. That’s the correct tone, right?

  2. Are you fine with your sons playing online games? Are you more against it as you feel that you would be “sucked in” and spend too many hours playing without realising? I must admit, I’ve done that on occasion as well! A good game can suck me in as much as a good book! I think there is a lot of interesting angles between social media and gaming and the communities they build, but can definitely understand the aversion.

    1. Prakky says:

      Yes, I’m fine with my sons playing online … (and they’re good about being anonymous etc). I am afraid of jumping in because I know it would drain too many hours that I don’t have. I also know I’d enjoy it. 😉

  3. Anonymous says:

    Maybe the question should be could we cope without social media? How would you react if you couldn’t access it at all for an hour?….a day?….a week??

    1. Prakky says:

      That’s a great question, too. If I was blocked from social media at a time when I wanted to use it, I would probably be quite frustrated. I did go on a cruise in January this year, where there was limited internet access, but I had prepared for that and was happy to go without. But a sudden and unexplained withdrawal .. that would be tough!

  4. I think social media for most users is for “the moments between” – waiting for a bus, sitting in a cab, waiting at the airport, the cafe or the dentists. Ad breaks on telly (very very long ad breaks) and at the end of a meal in a restaurant. Very few people sit at a computer and “use” social media as a soul destroying, energy draining activity (unless they are PR or Marketing communicators :P)
    So I guess when I want a break from social media, I stop doing the work social media and do the fun stuff (clicking on links, chatting with friends, goofing off).
    It’s like the telephone – depends on what’s on the other side and how much fun it is, rather than the tool itself, no? 🙂
    Which brings me to the other point that always confuses me about that question – social media is about connecting me with another person. Does it really matter if it’s the phone, email or in person? As long as we chat and share, it’s all good. Why the insistence that social media is anti-social or sucking time away from people? I think it’s hyper social. Only caveat: you might enjoy your friends on Facebook more than chatting with your S.O. sitting at the end of the couch.
    Finally, perhaps the real question is alone time vs social time. Time to sit and think and stare into space and count the stars or the cracks on the wall, not given over to external communication, the demands and attention of others. I sure can relate to that question! So I do take a weekend occasionally to head to the mountains and write and read (not Facebook) books or papers, digital or hardcopy and go deep within. But it doesn’t last long 😛

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks for your comments, Laurel. I agree – those in between times are often when I’ll hop onto social media, but the ‘no activity, day dream minutes’ are vital too. In fact I’m trying to encourage my kids to have those. It’s okay to be bored. 🙂

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