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Friday, April 10, 2009

Life Less On-Line

Its been two weeks since I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts. There have been a couple of times that I've thought, "I'll write a quick tweet on that" but couldn't. Otherwise its been a good move to make my life less virtual and more temporal. Since social media is all the rage and Twitter is gaining popularity by leaps and bounds why is swimming against the tide working for me? Here's my critical learning at this point.

1. Social Media is best suited for promotional communications. As such, promoting yourself, your products, your services, or some political or social agenda is the sweet spot for this media. Communications that are critical or negative are ill suited for social media audiences; the posts don't read as well, the wording has to be more carefully crafted so as to be diplomatic, and you lose the spontaneity of the tweet or FB update.

2. Related to point #1, social media is best suited for sole proprietors, independent professionals, or heads of organizations. Posts discussing positions, directions, and opinions are more positive by nature coming from these individuals. Those working within organizations, however, are more prone to censor communications giving their point of view from the middle. For example, I know of a staff member who tweeted about a "dumb, boring" meeting and the meeting organizer was one of their followers. The higher up the food chain you are, including being the sole proprietor of your own food chain, the more likely you are to be candid. The further down you are, the more likely that you'll stay with personal interests and news and avoid posting about what's going on at work.

3. Social Media is ill suited for confidential information, and those whose careers deal in confidences. You can imagine the problems it would create if I were to tweet, "About to terminate a 25 year employee and I'm bummed" or, "Counseling an employee in a physically abusive relationship." If your job doesn't communicate outwardly, but instead protects confidential information (HR, Accounting, Law Enforcement, etc...) social media posts are problematic.

4. Social Media updates clog your inbox. I had about 40 FB friends and an equal number of Twitter followers. I averaged 21 email messages a day telling me that I had received a message from one or the other of these accounts.

5. Social Media keeps you in touch with people. Since deleting my accounts I am not as in tune with the 80 individuals with whom I was connected. Restoring that connectedness without the downsides (above) appears improbable.

6. That assumes that you want to stay connected. My job brings me in close and sometimes intense contact with people. I love the people with whom I work, but off-hours I'm not always interested in seeing or hearing from anyone. The Twitter and Facebook communications aren't always welcomed intrusions into my home office.

7. You need a hand-held device. Waiting until you get home to tweet or update misses a lot of the point. I was at a large Catholic wedding in Louisville last weekend, and if you've been to one you know that its an organized drinking event that starts with vows. There were so many funny observations and pictures I could have shared had I had an account and a web-enabled phone. If you're going to network through social media, buy the hardware.

I am toying with the idea of getting back onto Twitter, but just toying. I have flowers to buy and plant, three difficult guitar pieces to master, and there's so much about my work life right now that I can't say to anybody much less to the whole world. I'm getting so much more done in the temporal that I'm not interested in getting much more virtual than I am already. Its an evolving conversation I'm having with myself and there may be more to come as I work through all this.

1 comment:

Gregory said...

Jim,

Agree wholeheartedly with your comments on social media. I enjoy your blog a lot.

Thanks!