A friend of mine asked me recently why I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. For me it’s simple: I’m an extrovert in an introvert’s job. I work at home and I need that social interaction so that I don’t go crazy.
I love social media. It connects people and it levels the playing field of connection, as was the case when my wife and I were both thrilled to get a mention from @NASCAR:
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 8, 2013
That totally made our day.
In spite of how much I love social media, it’s not without its problems. And here are five of those problems:
As indicated by the tweet above, I love NASCAR. However, I can’t always watch a race the moment it airs. So I PVR it. But there’s a period of time between when the race starts and when I can actually sit down and watch the race that I have to stay off of social media (mostly Twitter) because I don’t want to know what’s happening.
The same goes with Breaking Bad. I watch Breaking Bad the night it airs but I avoid Twitter and Facebook in the hours leading up to my watching just in case someone posts a spoiler. And although I don’t watch football, I have several friends who do and I’m able to stay up to date on the games and the season over-all from what people post during the game.
Of course, this same social media problem might actually save television because it will encourage people to watch TV when everyone else does so that they can engage with others while watching TV.
2. NO FILTER
Real time communication has its advantages. But it has its disadvantages too. Namely: Real time strips away the filter of research and due diligence. Balloon Boy. Enough said.
Social media is about connection. For businesses, social media is about engaging people, building credibility, and adding value. For personal use, it’s about conversations and interaction. But it can be so tempting to let social media become something else — a desire to demonstrate social approval.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve clicked on someone’s Twitter profile and thought “How can they have 10 times the number of followers that I have when their tweets are so crappy?”. I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s too often. I have to remind myself that I’m not using Twitter to have a certain follower count and I can’t let follower counts determine the value I perceive my Twitter account to have.
Twitter isn’t the only one, of course. Someone asked me recently how many Facebook friends I have and I couldn’t remember but gave them a rough number, and then they bragged at having a higher number. I hope they didn’t see my eyes roll. This isn’t third grade and if you are using social media as a way to prove your popularity, you’re doing it wrong.
Facebook likes (and Twitter Favorites and retweets) become a sort of measure by which we rate whether or not our content is “good”. (See my blog post: The currency and comfort of the Facebook ‘Like’). And it can become tempting to start writing content in order to jack up our likes or favorites. I’m guilty of this.
5. TIME SUCK
The most notorious of them all! Social media is a time suck (at least for me). I usually keep Twitter open throughout the day, and I usually check Facebook between projects. But if I’m not careful, I can discover that a lot of time has vanished while I’ve been retweeting tweets and liking pictures of my friends’ vacations.
I love social media and I think it still has massive untapped potential. But it comes with a dark side that you need to fight against.