Writing Wednesdays: The Social Networking Conundrum
I’m feeling conflicted these days about social networking – the same social networking I’ve lauded and felt endeared to and grateful for over the past couple years. I vacillate between wanting to remain inside this wonderful, vital-feeling loop and thinking that it wouldn’t matter much if I quietly backed away.
It all started with this blog, Peace Garden Mama, an endeavor I initially resisted but eventually came to love – both in terms of what I have been able to share as well as what has been shared back; that wonderful exchange I was not expecting in the beginning but have come to enjoy immensely. Next came Facebook, another component of social networking I entered hesitantly but soon came to appreciate for many of the reasons mentioned above. Lastly, Twitter, a third element which added yet another dimension of online exchange that has, at times, brought stimulating information and fun exchanges into my life, and has introduced me to an even more diverse online community.
I have enjoyed all three in varying degrees, and for the most part, have found a balance with them. But my recent social networking hiatus got me thinking about whether I should stay here long term. I keep hearing the voice of a wise friend, who reminded me early on in this journey that I am a busy mother of five and a professional writer who, perhaps, has better things to do with any trickle of free time than to blog or catch up on Facebook. While I understood his point at the time, I surmised privately that he didn’t really understand the value of blogging and social networking, both on a personal level and a professional one. We’d have to agree to disagree.
Mine wasn’t an illogical mindset. Agents and editors consistently tell authors that we need to build our platforms, our readership. Even when we don’t have a contracted work in the pipeline, we need to be preparing for that possibility. Social networking is the best way to do that, and it’s imperative in today’s publishing world, or so they say. And by and large, I’ve viewed all of this online activity as a pleasurable hobby as well as an important professional endeavor. It has not seemed like a chore, nor a waste of time. And yet, now that I’ve been at it a while, I do wonder on occasion whether it’s taking me away from other pursuits to which I’m being called.
Tonight, at the height of tossing all this around in preparation to write about the writing life, I read a post by Steve Laube, “Do You Facebook?” In it, Laube quotes an article from the UK that notes that Facebook users in Britain average three full days of Facebook use a year. I’d say that might even be on the slight side for some here in the U.S. Laube compares that duration with other activities that could be accomplished in the same time span: “In 72 hours a ‘nose-to-grindstone’ writer could produce 10,000 words on their next work-in-progress (that is about 1/2 page per hour). A motivated person could memorize the Constitution. An avid reader could consume at least six of their favorite books. Or a die-hard fan could watch all 158 episodes of the ‘Dick Van Dyke Show’ or all three seasons of ‘The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan’ and still have time left to walk Fido!”
It’s one thing for me to be pondering my time on social networking and its value, but seeing it spelled out like this by someone else makes me wonder all the more, Is it worth it?
Laube ends his post on an empowering but cautionary note, suggesting writers monitor their time online then ask themselves whether that time has been of benefit “personally, professionally, spiritually, emotionally, or otherwise,” and to use common sense and moderation.
As a writer, thinking up and writing blog posts is not hard; it’s a joy. I don’t think I’m ready to quit that altogether. As one new blogger/writer said to me a while back, “The blogosphere is the writer’s playland.” It’s true. This is the kind of thing we do well, so why not?
In a follow-up comment in his post, Laube said this: “Since social networking is something new it has become something ‘added.’ And if something is added, something is usually subtracted. My question is ‘what has been subtracted?’”
Aha! This, of course, is really the question we must ask ourselves and answer, and every writer will have a different response depending on individual circumstances. Personally, I haven’t settled the issue within myself just yet, and I don’t suspect I’ll come to a conclusive answer anytime soon. I imagine it will be a long process of discernment and could change each year, each month for that matter, depending on my family’s needs and other obligations. I doubt my discernment will result in a total pull-back, but it could mean occasional online breaks such as the one I just came from, just to help keep it all in perspective.
Have you found a balance with social networking? How have you dealt with the conflicting thoughts that come as a result of the question: “What has been subtracted?”
After you’ve left your response [insert subtle nudge], check out Nettie Harsock’s post, “You Might Be a Social Media Junkie If…” http://www.nettiehartsock.com/