August 2009 was when I joined FaceBook – kicking and screaming. I was never on MySpace believing social media was just for the kids. Most of my staff back then was on it. Although they used it to promote our organization, I didn’t see how my presence was needed. I was invited by a former business colleague to LinkedIn in ’07 and saw the tremendous benefit in expanding my network there. Some social media, I figured, was purposeful and could be good for business.
March 2009, I started a new job as the head of fundraising and communications for a large social service agency in New York City. Our CEO tasked me with increasing our social media presence. I immediately delegated to staff. That month I also attended a class reunion. Since everyone had already connected on FaceBook, I felt like I came into the reunion in the middle of the conversation. I was beginning to think that maybe FaceBook had a purpose, and yet I resisted.
Finally, that summer things came to a head. My boss was pressuring me to know more about what the communications staff was doing on social media. To understand their strategy, I really needed to understand how this stuff worked. At that same time, the father of one of my closest friends died and I was one of the last to know because people now felt it was acceptable to make such announcements on social media and I missed it.
I succumbed and joined FaceBook (followed not too long after by Twitter and Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and eventually even SnapChat). I figured I would just use it to keep in touch with my elementary school friends. I would be friends only with real friends and keep my business persona on LinkedIn. FaceBook had other plans. The lines between personal and business connections began to blur. I justified time on social media promoting my employers and eventually my own business. Even now I wonder how I could live without social media – FaceBook in particular – when I have a business page and business groups and it figures so prominently in my business development strategy.
Social media has also allowed me to stay more consistently and fully connected to my relatives in Ireland and the UK. It has grown my network of people with whom I can share my experiences, get advice and ask questions – as a runner, as a near-empty nesting mom, and as a citizen. Social media has connected me to causes that I care about which has translated to actual activism and new real-time friendships with like-minded individuals. FaceBook is where my friendship first blossomed with the wonderful man that is now my boyfriend. Yes, there is no doubt that there are many positive attributes to social media. There’s the dark side too.
I have a problem. I often find myself scrolling mindlessly through post after post from friends, and people I don’t even know who are members of groups I don’t really need to belong to (Aussiedoodle owners group? Really?). I read articles from the New York Times and Washington Post, only to be sucked in to the comments sections, ultimately arguing with people I don’t know. Some of this, I’ve learned, is not my fault.
FaceBook (and other social media), like junk food, is created to be addicting. If you didn’t watch the TED Talk by Tristan Harris I shared in last week’s blog post, please invest the 20 minutes now. Between a desire to stop wasting precious time and anger in realizing how we’ve been manipulated and our data compromised, there is a need to break free. But How?
I don’t know exactly except to replace the bad habit with a good one. I’ve written about that before. And of course, we must be mindful of the quality of our time spent (watch this other Tristan Harris TED talk). Someone could make a lot of money in developing a 12-step program for social media addiction. Or perhaps creating more responsible social networks.
Harris concludes, “We have to demand this new kind of technology. And we can do that. And doing that would amount to shifting from a world that’s driven and run entirely in time spent, to a world that is driven by time well spent.”
While we are waiting for this new technology, we need to create that consciousness within ourselves. We need to be the change we want to see in the world. Who’s with me?
This week in Marathon Training