Hello, I'm the Social Media Monster! I've come to adjust your clocks. I'll cause a warp in the space-time continuum so your "only five more minutes" of reading email turns into "an hour has passed already?"
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Today, S.K. Anthony and I will be performing the not-ironic-at-all task of using social media (a.k.a. my blog) to discuss how misuse of social media can suck our lives away.
Not this blog, of course. This blog will add years to your life, if only you visit it on a regular basis and tell all your friends to visit, too. Kind of like a bloggy sort of chain letter: "Tell ten friends to visit my blog and something wonderful will happen to you in the next thirty minutes. I can't tell you what it is, but you'll know it when it happens." I can only tell you that if you don't, nothing bad will happen, your dreams won't be crushed, and God will not be disappointed in you. I won't be upset with you, either, but you will definitely miss a good time. Speaking of a good time, here comes my coffee buddy.
ER: Hey, S.K.! Fancy seeing you here again over the top of my coffee cup.
SKA: What's crackalackin', Lyn-Lyn?
ER: I'll bet our readers don't realize we have matching coffee cups. In fact, I'll bet our readers don't care that we have matching coffee cups. The picture above is mine, and it is not photoshopped. I repeat, NOT photoshopped. I didn't even use a green screen to capture that image. I figured people might think it's 'shopped because it looks so natural, but no. I just plunked my cup down in front of my coffeemaker and snapped. Snapped a picture, that is. I might have snapped for real, had the coffee not finished dripping right then. But luck was on my side and coffee was on my front. Thankfully, I had another shirt.
What was I saying?
SKA: To answer your question, I think you were saying hi to me. I'm not sure anymore. I got confused and defensive and proud all in one paragraph.
Let's start with: Why wouldn't they care? Of course they care! We have the same coffee mugs—how else would this be a real and official "Coffee Chat"? And I'm so very proud of you for managing to take a picture that not only looks real, but IS real.
Oh, and for all those cynics out there, here I am with MY non-photoshopped coffee cup. By the way, the sunglasses are because Mildred Loudermilk doesn't want to be recognized in public. Not because I'd just woken up or anything . . .
[SKA disappears for a short while. ER drinks coffee to kill time. 'Cause drinking coffee is what we do here when we're not talking over each other.]
SKA: Sorry, sorry for me abandoning our chat for a minute; I had to go tweet something. In five minutes, I have to go do some "shares" on Google+. Ten minutes after that, I have to go like some posts on Facebook, and then I'll spend a couple hours commenting on my friends' blogs. After that I have to figure out my own blog posts, and think about canceling Instagram and creating a LinkedIn account. So excuse me while I disappear from our chats here and there.
What are you up to?
ER: Uh . . . not much, compared to your busy schedule. I'm just kind of sitting here, waiting for you to come back. I don't even have an Instagram account. And I'm afraid to be LinkedIn with someone I don't like. Can I unlink them if we're not compatible? And how do you find the time to visit all these places?
SKA: LIKE! . . . err . . . sorry, I think this was the wrong place.
Umm, LinkedIn . . . I haven't opened the account yet, so I don't know. I'm not even sure I want to link up with people I like, so your guess is as good as mine. If someone out there knows, they should tell us. How do I find time? I—
[Disappears again, this time long enough for ER to root around the kitchen, looking for something that goes well with coffee. What's left in those Christmas stockings, anyway?]
SKA: —Okay, I'm back. I had to log in my workout on MyFitnessPal and cheer on some friends. Right . . . so I decide in the morning what kind of day it will be. Tweeting, Facebooking, etc., etc. And blogging/commenting I deal with twice a week for sure; otherwise, I will have no time for our chats. The rest of the SM channels are lucky I remember they exist when I don't have a ton of emails to answer.
Which are your favorite social media channels? And which do you think are more beneficial to authors?
ER: Huh? Did you say something? I was on SparkPeople, logging in the mini Twix bars I found in the toe of my stocking. My Christmas stocking. I don't usually store candy in the toe of my regular socks. I don't want to say "never," but it's not typical behavior, anyway.
Beneficial to authors . . . oh, that reminds me, I haven't checked the Goodreads forums today. There have been some pretty interesting threads there lately!
brb . . . that means "be right back" to those of us who are online-savvy. Or just too lazy to type all those extra letters.
[This time it's ER's turn to run off, back to SparkPeople this time, just in case more candy turns up in anyone else's stockings. Not that she would ever look in anyone else's Christmas stockings. And why are they still hanging on January 9?]
All right, now. I think I'm back for good this time (translate: all out of candy and social media sites).
I won't deny it. I do have a handful of social media sites I check with regularity. Facebook and Goodreads are probably my top two. My blogs, Twitter, other people's blogs come next. I'm finally getting back on track with SparkPeople. I may sign up with reddit, although my kids say I don't need it. I have a Pinterest account, but much like shopping, I need to know exactly what I'm looking for, or I'll waste all kinds of time and find nothing useful. Actually, I find that I'm capable of wasting time on any one of those above-mentioned things, even when they're helpful to me.
Let's face it: social media is time-consuming. There's no way around it. The real question is whether you control it or it controls you.
SKA: SparkPeople! I have an account there as well. I had to give it up after I found MyFitnessPal. I like the blue background; my favorite color is blue. Now that I think about it, that might be exactly what attracts me to my "top" sites: Facebook, Twitter, my blog. I'm very scientific when I choose, apparently.
ER: I like the sites that make things easy for me to find. And I absolutely hate when I go to someone's website or blog and can't move around it without the pop-ups getting in the way, saying "SUBSCRIBE!" I won't go to those ones more than that first time. It's so irritating to have to keep clicking things closed just to read an article. If I want to subscribe or follow, I'll do it on my own. If you push, you can guarantee I won't follow you. I only have so much time to waste . . . I mean, spend . . . and I can't use ten more seconds of it trying to avoid pop-ups.
So what are your biggest online time-wasters? Other than chatting with me on Facebook, which can probably be considered official working time, if you stop to think about it.
SKA: Hmm . . . time wasters? I'm not sure. Twitter can be, I guess, but I don't go on too often. I retweet my friends and share a quote here and there. The rest of my tweets that I need readers to pay attention to, I use hashtags. Thank goodness for them.
ER: Twitter, for me, is almost a waste of time, because I get the feeling it's a bunch of people shouting on street corners, but not really listening to the other people who are also shouting. I use it, but I don't expect any big returns from it.
SKA: As you said, they disappear so quickly and who knows who's reading them? I use the hashtags that anyone who might be interested in my particular subject can find. If not, no harm done. I'm never on for too long there.
ER: Pinterest, as I said before, is a black hole. A black hole of fun garden ideas, make-your-own laundry soap, and fancy cupcakes; I can't allow myself to go there more than once a month. I have posted my blog links there, but I don't know that anyone goes to Pinterest to look for blog posts.
SKA: My time is limited with the twins and writing so I really don't do much internet time-wasting. Our chats are—obviously—work, so that is clarified. I guess if I must choose one, I would go with Pinterest as well. I don't go on too often . . . maybe once a month? But when I do, I stay there for quite some time. The good thing is, even if I get nothing done, I sign out feeling like I'm the biggest DIY-er out there. The plans in my head are endless . . . I still have yet to do one project I thought of or try one recipe I liked from there.
ER: I'm right with you on that one. I've made one cool project and have made laundry soap. Loved them both but now I'm burnt out.
So what social media sites do you think are most valuable to your goals, personally and professionally?
SKA: I think Goodreads for sure, though I haven't been too active in the forums and such. Facebook and blogging suck most of my online time, but I think they're both also beneficial to my goals. I don't know, I like them, so I'm sticking to them for now.
ER: What do you think about people who are really disciplined about their social media time? Are they doing well, or are they missing out on things that may be time-sensitive? I think it would take twice as long to go through Facebook posts, tweets, or any online threads, if I only logged in once or twice per week. I mean, I know the world would keep spinning even if I didn't check in on Goodreads each day, but sometimes there is so much activity on the threads that it would be impossible to catch up if I missed more than one day.
SKA: I think I'm exhausted for them.
ER: Clearly, these people are abnormal and overly disciplined, don't you think?
ER: It pretty much all boils down to using the sites you need, visiting the sites that are beneficial to you, and minimizing the use of those which yield no fruit. Last words on how to tame that monster?
SKA: Social media is a beast, but once you tame it you ARE the beast!
ER: Genius. Sheer genius. [Wipes away a tear.]
Next time, we'll be focusing on blogs. Our blogs, your blogs, everyone's blogs: what makes us visit them, and what makes us keep coming back. Well . . . I guess you'll have to come back to find out.
You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is www.skanthony.com, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing.
You can find me here. I'm always here.