There's a lot of buzz around the blogosphere about social media burnout. I blogged about this in April when I first started feeling the fatigue. Heck, if Steve Rubel is starting to see the strain - we know this is for real. I feel like the pressure comes from several places:
1. So many tools, so little time. Let's dissect the time it takes to effectively use just one channel of new media: blogs. To make a blog effective, you need quality content. That means time to: 1) come up with a creative & original topic 2) research it properly and 3) write and edit. And that's just building the content of your blog. Then you compile marketing efforts - such as reading your daily feeds (I have 96 blogs in my reader) commenting on other blogs, tracking stats and reaching out to your readers. Now, add the 18,000 other social networking tools and gizmos we're supposed to use at an equally engaging level and *poof* - burnout.
2. The need to please. Because social networking involves interaction with others, there is a need to meet their expectations. The best bloggers write for their readers, not for themselves - and knowing that people are depending on you to come up with profound and original content on a daily basis can wear you down.
3. The perpetuation (instead of distillation) of swill. Blogs gain popularity through "link love" which ultimately means people are consistently regurgitating other people's original ideas. This regurgitation process tends to create a big fat game of telephone tag through the internet. The result is that then, in my research process, I am forced to backtrack through numerous links to track down the original source. These blogs that simply rely on supplying links without providing a thought provoking stance fall out quickly because readers see right through it. This relates back to reason #2 and importance of original and thought-provoking content.
So how do you battle this social networking fatigue? How do you stay plugged in while still creating original and thought provoking content? Why not allow yourself a daily vacation from all forms of media to allow your ideas to percolate?
Dictionary.com defines "vacation" as:
a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday:
I can say from personal experience that this has been my saving grace. Since April when I began to feel the burnout, I decided to invest at least an hour every day to suspend all forms of communication. This time allows my ideas to mature and the quality of my work has dramatically improved over the past few months.
So what does a communication vacation look like? Silence. That's right - none of the following:
- cell phone - radio - television (I don't own one anyway) - internet - computer - gaming system - e-mail
Instead, I do something like:
- sit in traffic with the radio off (I live in DC - so I do this a lot. Not my favorite activity, but it works) - go for a run outside (without an mp3 player!) - meditate - sit at Founder's Park right by the water and people/duck watch
As a recovering work-a-holic I can attest that as with any addiction, fighting the first urges were overwhelmingly difficult. Similar to when I quit smoking, I found myself having "communication fits" whenever I would try to sit still. But over time, I found that these times are critical to my creative process.
And I'm not alone. A recent article in Inc. Magazine highlighted several entrepreneurs who attribute their innovation to maintaining structured think time. "CEOs who curtail creativity may do so at a cost to their happiness and their businesses" author Allison Stein Wellner states. "Leaders can miss out on innovations as long as they view running a company as the hard stuff and coming up with new ideas as the fun stuff - and sacrifice the fun for the good of the business."
Similarly, individuals can suffer from being too tied in to social media - feeling all that pressure. That can lead to health issues, family problems, and all the other icky stuff that we hate to talk about. So allow yourself a daily communication vacation. Be at peace in the silence. Allow your ideas to mature. And then come back armed with intelligent ammunition to make your work even better. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go for a run. :-)