Thursday, December 23

The great social media debate

In keeping with Sara's theme of To blog or not to blog (that is the question), I want to take that a step further and ponder the point of social media in general.

Last week, after 2+ years of blogging, I had my web guy take my blog down. Partly because Wordpress has been a NIGHTMARE this year for me (that's a whole other post), but also partly because I started blogging before Facebook became the sensation it is today and before Twitter even existed in a public way. I spend a lot of time on Twitter (probably more than I should, truth be told) and try to update Facebook at least once a week. So the question became, What is the point of my blog?

Much like Sara, I had to stop and think about what I really wanted to accomplish and how much I cared about it. And the truth was, I just didn't feel like it made sense to rehash in a blog post something that I've already tweeted or FB'd about. Sure, a blog gives you unlimited space to share your thoughts. But with unlimited space does not come unlimited time, and so I made the decision to remove blogging from my list of things to do.

But the more I got to thinking about my blog, the more I got to thinking about social media in general. And I realized that, for the most part, it requires a lot more energy than it probably nets in benefits for me.

The benefits of social media (at least to me - your mileage may vary!) is to be able to connect with like-minded people. Whether they're fellow booklovers, people you're friends with in real life but don't get to see very often, or people who share your passion for kittens or underwater basket-weaving, it's nice to be able to make a connection with people at your leisure. No more coordinating schedules or avoiding a phone call because you fear a friend's new baby may be asleep.

But what I've also discovered is that I don't get as much personal connection value out of it anymore. I love being able to cheer someone's good news as it happens (it's usually on Twitter long before they get around to blogging about it or sending a mass email with news). And people make me laugh... a LOT... which can be just the thing I might be needing when I check Twitter at that moment.

That's the upside.

The downside? It can be a HUGE time suck if you let it. I'm one of those people who feels bad if they don't respond to every tweet or FB comment. I'm just wired that way. :-) And yet to respond to all of them would require me to take more time away from my real life (you know, that life you have when you're not attached to your keyboard or your phone?). In many cases, I'm taking time away from my family and my closest friends to respond to people I have never met and probably will never meet.

That realization was a powerful one for me.

What is the purpose of social media for me then? I think the answer is that it's a way to stay active in the book world. I like hearing what's going one, who has good news, and seeing what fabulous new books people are recommending to feed my book habit. But it has to come with balance. Family and friends first, writing second, social media further down the list.

2011 is going to be the year I put my real life first. We'll see how that goes. :-)

What about you? Any plans to change your social media ways in 2011?


Alyson Noel said...

I totally relate, Kay! Ever since Twitter showed up, my blog took a hit--it's just a faster, easier way to communicate with a lot of people at once, where blogging takes a lot of writing energy that I'd rather save for my books. Coming up with new topics is work-which is why I like TFC because the topics are set! As for resolutions, this year I hope to find a better balance between work & fun--- we'll see how it goes! :)

Jeri said...

Great post, Kay! I'm curious as to how you went about the process of stopping blogging, as I'm considering the same thing.

Twitter/FB were sucking up so much attention, I bought a parental time control software that would shut down the program/website after a certain number of hours. :)

I don't think the time is totally wasted. Writing is a solitary business, so it's healthy to get some social interaction. But it's SO easy to overdo, and so easy to let online socializing crowd out the real-life version.

As for blogging, my plan was to close my personal blog at the end of this year. The reason why I started (long before I was published) was to have real-time interaction and discussion on subjects that interested me. Now, Twitter and FB fulfill that need and are (theoretically) less time-consuming.

I admire writers who can blog consistently and well. It's just not my strength anymore. The time and creativity it takes to craft a great essay-like post, I'd rather put into writing a book--or save that post for a guest blog.

But lately I've been thinking about keeping the blog, with a 30-minute time-limit on entry writing. Make it more casual and fun--dare I say, more Twitter/Facebook-like. Then I'd be much more likely to do it on a regular basis. :-)

LM Preston said...

I love having a blog. I did think it would be a time suck but it really isn't that much of one. I limit my post to 2 a week and I also re-tweet old post that were popular and fb it. I found software for free that does this for me so I don't have to do updates to each one. It's been helpful to me in sales of my books and gaining events. I live first, but social media is a 30min slot out of my day. The articles I've been inspired to write for my blog I've published in sever other venues and even now am publishing my blog on kindle. I also love visiting blogs of writers, reviewers and others its been a way to broaden my horizons as well as give people insight into who I am and my work. Not to mention it's helped me with search engines and spreading the word about books I love. I've also been able to be a little angle when it comes to promoting other writers who I admire. If you kill your blog, I will say at least to me - you will be missed. But life is more important. Happy Holiday's!

Amanda Ashby said...

Kay - I've been debating about the blog thing for a year now and still haven't quite decided what to do about it - apart from the obvious solution of leaving it sitting there doing nothing but gather cobwebs!

However, as the Internet and social networking changes, I think that we're all entitled to change too! Btw, the BBC did a really amazing documentary called 'The Virtual Revolution' that's well worth watching if you haven't seen it!

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Kay, I hear you and feel much the same way. I love cheering on good news on twitter and the laughs I get from there are a great relief. But I am like you and feel I have to reply to everything.

I've just been limiting myself and putting writing and real life first and putting in the energy to social media when I have time. This means I may miss some things or take a while to respond but I try not to feel guilty. I also just blog when I feel like blogging and try not to feel guilty about that.

Though it's harder than it sounds. But seriously by 2011 goal is not to be so hard on myself!