While I am usually on the bleeding edge of technology, I was late when it came to social networking. My first experience was with Plaxo, which made it easier for me to keep in touch with all the people in my Outlook contacts list. Of course, Plaxo was originally designed for contact management, not for social networking, although this has changed. In many ways, Plaxo helped boost my productivity because it helped to reduce the amount of time I spent maintaining my contacts.
Next, I was invited to LinkedIn. While this duplicated much of the functionality of Plaxo, it allowed me to show off my resume and to extend my network of contacts. While I felt Linkedin offered many benefits in regards to public exposure, it began to take more time to maintain than I preferred.
Facebook was next. At first, I resisted getting involved, but I was getting too many invitations to ignore, so I succumbed, and signed up. Many of my friends wanted me to see their photos and comment on them, nudge me, compare my favorite books or movies, or even send me a hug. The more friends I got, and the more invitations I received, the more I felt obligated to reciprocate, and this was really beginning to get time consuming.
And then Twitter came along. Now, I’m expected to read hundreds of tweets every day, and at the same time, to share what I am doing. I admit, reading about the personal lives of other people can be curiously fascinating, even somewhat addictive. In addition, Twitter offers me some value by letting my friends know where I am at and what I am up to. On the other hand, that has become very time consuming. I tried using two of the desktop Twitter tools, TweetDeck and Twhirl, but this made things worse as every time a new tweet appeared, I saw it on my desktop, and it was quite distracting. I uninstalled both very quickly.
I soon discovered I was spending too much time participating in social networking. It many ways it was satisfying, but it got to the point where I could easily spend several hours a day socializing. In fact, it began to interfere with getting my real work done. Social networking was making me less productive, and I had to do something about it.
So I made a deliberate decision to significantly reduce my participation in social networking. While I have not closed any accounts, I limit my time to participating when I have a few minutes, here and there, with nothing better to do. For example, when I am traveling, I find myself at airports or hotels with dead time, so I often fill it by keeping up with social networking. But when I am at home, and working, I now choose to ignore social networking.
So what about you? Is social networking taking up too much of your time? Are you spending time at work socializing when you should be working? Is the time you invest in social networking worth the cost in lost time and productivity? Would it be better to spend more time with friends in person instead of virtually over the Internet? What do you think?