Is Social Media a Waste of Time?

by francine Hardaway on July 15, 2009

No way. Social media has given me a platform on which to share my knowledge of things I care deeply about. Health care and the environment are two of those, and still another is the current economic crisis and how it is affecting me and my world. Without social media, I’d be in a far smaller community around these very troubling issues, and I could easily be very depressed.

Most people also think I care deeply about new technology, because I write so much about it. They’re wrong. I only care about technology to the extent that it enables a person like me, well-informed about things I care about, to offer some information to people who don’t have the time to acquire it first-hand, and to gain strength from others who have found ways to deal with problems I also have.

I start with Google Reader, through which I subscribe to a dozen trade journals and blogs each about health care, environmental issues, and economics. I also subscribe to tech journals and blogs, and to major news sources like the New York TImes, Wall Street Journal, and my local papers in Arizona and on the Coastside in northern California. I read about 1000 items a day, often just scanning to weed out repetition. I try to read several sides of controversial issues, so I know how the doctors, the insurance companies, the patients, and the IT people feel about health care. When something’s really good, I “share” it with other friends of mine who are on Google Reader.

But it doesn’t stop there. I want to discuss what I read with people who can either help me understand it, or tell people what I’ve found out. So I also maintain profiles on Facebook and Twitter. On the latter, I maintain several accounts. One’s for general posts; another is @azentrepreneurs, and is specific to Arizona’s entrepreneurship community. Still a third is @ushealthcrisis, which a colleague and I use for our volunteer web site with health care reform information.

When, in the course of my day, I come across something that might help or interest one of these “constituencies,” I post a link or a mention to one of those accounts. Less important for general sharing, but very important for learning more, is Friendfeed, which aggregates the combined knowledge of many educated and intelligent friends and acquaintances of mine, often in extended conversations. Every so often, to spread news of professional opportunities and networking events, I’ll even use a status update on LinkedIn.

And oh yes, in addition to all this, I blog. That’s mainly a place to display my own thoughts and syntheses.

Do I tell people on Twitter what I had for breakfast? Never. Do I write about my personal problems? Only if they can be a metaphor or an example for other people’s experiences (like my effort to modify my mortgage loan). People who are not using social media always worry about lack of privacy. My theory? If you don’t want people on these platforms to know something, don’t tell them.

Now let me answer the questions I get asked all the time when I tell people what I’ve just written about.

"Wasting TIme on Social Media"How much time does this take every day? As much as I want it to take. If I’m very busy working, very little. On other days, or perhaps in the evening when there’s “nothing” on the 200 channels of digital TV in my home, several hours. It’s not a compulsion; it’s a pleasure. It makes me feel like 19th century people used to feel in a salon. Participation is a choice.

And what does it do for me?
It has introduced me to an entire new community of engaged, educated people who discuss the world. These people are located anywhere — Brazil, China, New York, India. It finds me friends, investments, and cousins I haven’t heard from in years. It increases the time I spend talking with my brother.

And last, but not least, it makes me money. It exposes me to the world and people can hire me to advise, to write, to teach. In other words, sometimes when you are useful, there’s a payoff:-) And no, I do not call myself a “social media guru.” I leave that for others.

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Web Media Daily – July 15, 2009
July 15, 2009 at 2:47 pm

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

jjtoothman July 15, 2009 at 12:27 pm

“It’s not a compulsion; it’s a pleasure.”

That’s damn right.

Pat Elliott July 15, 2009 at 1:53 pm

It’s not a compulsion, it’s not a waste of time. It’s a way of life, one that’s empowering on many levels.
Well said, Francine!

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