Is Social Media Right for Me Right Now?

I’ve been feeling weird about social media lately.

I know it’s a great way to “connect” with people (in as much as sending people text or video over the internet can be called connecting), but I can’t shake the feeling that my time would be better invested in creating (writing, podcasts, music, screencasts, video).

I blame Cal Newport for putting this idea in my head. In his phenomonal book Deep Work, he shared how author Neal Stephenson shuns social media and email correspondence. Neal explain why on his website in two different essays, Why I Am a Bad Correspondent and Why I Am a Sociomediapath (both great reads).

This section from Why I Am a Bad Correspondent resonated with me:

Writing novels is hard, and requires vast, unbroken slabs of time. Four quiet hours is a resource that I can put to good use. Two slabs of time, each two hours long, might add up to the same four hours, but are not nearly as productive as an unbroken four. If I know that I am going to be interrupted, I can’t concentrate, and if I suspect that I might be interrupted, I can’t do anything at all. Likewise, several consecutive days with four-hour time-slabs in them give me a stretch of time in which I can write a decent book chapter, but the same number of hours spread out across a few weeks, with interruptions in between them, are nearly useless.
The productivity equation is a non-linear one, in other words. This accounts for why I am a bad correspondent and why I very rarely accept speaking engagements. If I organize my life in such a way that I get lots of long, consecutive, uninterrupted time-chunks, I can write novels. But as those chunks get separated and fragmented, my productivity as a novelist drops spectacularly. What replaces it? Instead of a novel that will be around for a long time, and that will, with luck, be read by many people, there is a bunch of e-mail messages that I have sent out to individual persons, and a few speeches given at various conferences.

I’m not a novelist, but this idea applies to my life as a content creator. Focused time = output. Distracted time = jack shit.

Could I schedule time blocks to dedicate to social media? Maybe, but I’m admittedly bad at sticking to those kinds of commitment. (Despite what you might think you know about me, I struggle with self-discipline. Always have.)

So back to my original question: Is social media right for me right now? I don’t know the answer yet. There are benefits, just as there are downsides. All I can say right now is that I’m thinking hard about both.

Update: Tim McGrath weighed in with an excellent response that I want to exerpt here:

I’ve fundamentally changed my view on social media over the years. I used to think it was dramatic and it polarized the way I viewed the people around me. Then seanwes taught me to curate my feed.
So, I cut out 80% of the people that I follow on websites like Facebook. I started to ask questions like:
How would following this person help me stretch my life goals?
How is this person helping me get to my life goals?
How can I help this person move their life goals forward?
Now when I go on social media it doesn’t take energy away. It gives me energy and knowing that there’s other people out there who are working even harder than I am, it pushes me daily.

If I was good at the internet I’d include a tutorial on how to click that heart button below so that more people will see this post and I’ll get to feel good about how smart I am. Whatever. Do what you want.

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