What? You wake up in the morning with a feeling of exhaustion and are all Twitter-ed out? Are you flaking on Flickr? Just about now, even as you read this, there are people wringing their hands in frustration, unable to keep up with their friends on Facebook or watch the videos on YouTube their network has recommended. With the amount of time required to keep pace with your community on Orkut, manage contacts on LinkedIn and check out why you should be using Tumblr, you will soon be headed for “social media burnout” (SMB).
SMB—a condition resulting from having to manage a virtual social life that needs an insane amount of logins and 24x7 attention—begins with small things that are difficult to identify and results in a deep desire to drop off the virtual horizon. You become edgy, suffer from nervousness, depression, low energy, loneliness, loss of appetite and going to office just doesn’t interest you any more (okay, we are kidding—if all this happens to you, see a qualified medical practitioner). But SMB can be almost as serious. It’s as if you don’t “digg” it anymore. And the thought of bookmarking no longer feels “del.icio.us”.
In that split-second of realization, that you are a victim of SMB, you may actually experience liberation and euphoria. Most times the social network chatter is so inane that getting rid of it can be the modern equivalent of deliverance from hell. But in most cases, the elation is short-lived. Very soon, you’ll want to go back and update yourself with all the action you are missing. That’s because all of us are becoming social media junkies.
What you really need are filters. You need breaks. You need a real life. Or, believe us, you’ll need sedatives. Becoming a Twitterholic and feeling totally on the ledge isn’t what you want. You want a life that is in your control, even as you keep pace with the world and its thoughts.
To enjoy social media you need to keep some unfancy rules in mind.
Take a break
Try to switch off your computer, laptop, phone and other devices on Friday evening and keep them that way right until Monday morning. Resist the urge to turn your weekend Kodak moment with the family into Twitter moments with the world. Enjoy the company of friends and be real careful not to tweet from a movie hall or dinner at a friend’s place. Your weekends are successful if you’ve met more real friends than interacted with online friends.
Use better time management
Use fixed hours in the day to check out your social media network: It’s an ocean of comments, pictures, videos, links, information and insights out there. No one can drink an ocean. Take small sips. Enjoy.
There’s plenty of social media-related stuff out there to make life easier. Use aggregation tools to make sense of your online social life. Take a look at Flipboard (www.flipboard.com) if you are an iPad user. You can try Friendfeed (www.friendfeed.com) to collate content from YouTube, Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Digg, etc., to one interface allowing you to post to all of them; see if Ping.fm (www.ping.fm) works for you. Ping can post anywhere at one shot—from the regular social media suspects to the more exotic ones such as Jaiku, Xanga, Bebo, ShoutEm, Yammer, Koornk and around 40 others. Use HootSuite to manage multiple Twitter accounts. Fundamentally, look for a tool that helps keep your social media life in control.
Limit your social media network to a few sites. Pick them carefully. There’s no point trying to post your opinions on a dozen different sites. Remember, others are getting bored reading the same stuff you post everywhere.
Routinely review the networks you are a part of. Kill the ones you don’t use often or that don’t produce the results you are looking for. You should, at any given moment, not have more than two or three active social network sites to check in a given day. Even in the networks you do use, routinely “unfollow” those who don’t add to your life. There’s no point listening to someone who is only a digital disturbance.
Arun Katiyar is a content and communication consultant with a focus on technology companies. He is a published author with HarperCollins and has extensive media experience spanning music, print, radio, Internet and mobiles.
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