Do You Spend “Too Much” Time On Social Media?

by Greg on March 15, 2011

One of the common refrains when folks talk about social media is that you shouldn’t spend “too much” time there.

The problem with this statement, though, is that it works in two directions: your reality and others’ perception of the time you spend.

The Reality

With planning, it’s not hard to appear very active online even if you don’t spend that much time on it. You can schedule tweets. You can write a weeks’ worth of blog posts in a few hours time and schedule them to run. You can link your blog to update Facebook and Twitter and Twitter to update Facebook and vice versa.

You can take a 15 minute chunk of time when you wouldn’t be able to do much working and appear wherever you want to.¬† You can schedule an hour of time at night to be in a Twitter chat or to comment on a dozen blogs or or or.

In other words, you truly can appear exceedingly active while not eating away from your work time.

The Perception

You can also hang out online all the time, update multiple times during the day and clearly be present while doing so, spend too many hours reading and commenting on blogs, and do everything you can and ending up with no time to work on anything else.

It could look the same, in fact, as the “reality” scenario above – you’ve been sucked into the black hole of social media and you can’t be getting any work done.

Judge Not!

In the writing world, I often hear or read editors and agents worrying that writers spend too much time online and, therefore, not enough time writing. At the same time, I hear writers concerned that agents have “so much free time” that they can blog and tweet so much. I bet many agents think some editors are online too much and vice versa, too.

This worry is a waste of a lot of bandwidth, both of the mental and data-carrying types.

The truth is, none of us know if another person is spending “too much” time online unless we are explicitly involved in business with them and have seen a direct cause and effect. BUT…

We Know

Each of us knows if WE are spending too much time on social media. There are potential tell tale signs whether writer, editor, agent, or anyone in any business:

You’re missing deadlines. You’re not taking care of specific tasks important in your job. You’re showing a marked drop in the quality of your work.

If you’re suffering from any of the above, you’ve got a problem. And then it could be that you are spending that elusive “too much” time online.

The good news and bad news is this will become apparent over time: you’ll get fired from a job because you’ll fail to deliver the goods or, as a writer, you’ll not be producing enough material to make a living (or even finish a book, perhaps!).

However, another truth is that we all have different goals and different ways we plan to reach them. This makes for a big gray area where time spent is just right for one person but too much for another. Because…

What Works For You…

I know that when I’m in the throes of a meaty writing/rewriting time, I have to limit my access to social media. I’ve cut down on blog posts, taken weeks off Facebook, limited Twitter, and done whatever it takes to make sure I’m being productive.

Other times, however, I’m able to find a balance that works for me without making changes. It might not work for you. And, in fact, that might¬† be because we have different ideas or goals or strategies just as much as it might be about time management.

Some writers focus early on on building a platform. Some wait til nearer a book’s arrival. Some editors and agents see no gain in blogging for themselves. Other editors and agents feel being visible online pays lots of dividends in terms of relationships, reputation, and even in increasing the quality of the queries they receive.

Again, what works for one of us doesn’t work for all. Which brings us back to…

It’s Good Advice

Don’t spend too much time on social media. It really is good advice. I’d simply add… don’t let others tell you what “too much” means.

Judge yourself for yourself. Be honest with yourself. Be clear about your goals. And then do what works for you. And if that means you need to cut back on social media, then you do it. If you know you’re okay… then go on doing what works for you.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon Mayhew March 16, 2011 at 12:12 am

I had no idea you could schedule Tweets.

For the most part I stay offline during the day time hours. I check my email a couple times a day, but I use social networks during the evening when we (the family) are watching TV. I won’t say I’m perfect at keeping a writing schedule, because I’m not. However my networking time doesn’t get in the way of writing, it has lead to some wonderful connections in the publishing industry and some great friendships.

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Greg Pincus March 16, 2011 at 8:29 am

You can schedule tweets… though I like to be around when I’m tweeting since I’m hoping for conversation. Still, my point remains :-) And yes, I agree about the upsides, though we all are searching for different things, too.

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elizabeth March 16, 2011 at 5:28 am

I hear ya! Even though I have my feeds automated, I was still spending too much time on the ‘platform’ side of things. In fact, I’ve just gone through a catharsis. I have unsubscribed from almost all of my trade mags, boards, and rss feeds – except for a few faves like yours – and I’m even backing off on blog posts (I wonder if anybody will notice). I am concentrating on writing. Ironically, it’s only been a few days and I’m already seeing a difference. I’m so much more productive.

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Greg Pincus March 16, 2011 at 8:32 am

I’ll notice!

I tend to find this all very “wavy” – sometimes it makes sense to post daily, sometimes weekly, sometimes an announced break, sometimes something else. There are even times that blogging helps me be more productive in my writing – either a deadline for a new poem or by making me take a break and think of something else for a little bit. One just never knows!

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Susan Taylor Brown March 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Elizabeth I’m doing the same. Unsubbing all over the place except for a few that I know will aggregate for me. I’m sure the guilt will change to relief over time. I hope. Maybe. :)

Great post, Greg. I especially like that really, we all know when we are leaning too far in the wrong direction.

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Deb Marshall March 16, 2011 at 5:52 am

Wow, great article-and, I didn’t know you could do some of the things you mentioned. Much, much to learn. I like learning :)

We are talking social media at our next social get together in Calgary-I’m looking forward to it, I must say. At the early stages of carving out the niche, so the streamlining not there for me yet, need the foundation, then spread it out (or build it up). Right now, it’s a couple of hours in the morning for me. Big writing times are full days on the weekends, evenings and afternoons when I am not at the library or reading to keep up with the book club kiddos. Yeah. I don’t sleep :P

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Greg Pincus March 16, 2011 at 8:34 am

I think the idea of not sleeping can really help add a lot of extra time to the writing and social media day. However, I just don’t recommend it. It’s not sustainable :-)

But your schedule makes sense for you. For me, I almost never have time on the weekend for writing or social media. It’s all so personal… much like the “too much” time issue itself!

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Deb Marshall March 17, 2011 at 6:57 am

Yes, yes on the too much time! I joke about no sleep, but the reality is I do have the time-so I have to schedule myself especially when it comes to doing this (I could easily make it three hours). A couple of hours a day is working right now, but listening to the discussion here and re-reading your article will help me bring that time down to an hour–a quality hour where I’m learning, connecting and contributing, then I move on to bookclub, library and writing business.

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Carol Grannick March 16, 2011 at 8:49 am

As always, what you say resonates with something I’m going through. I completely agree with the importance of not judging ourselves against others. It’s as true for this as for anything else, but it’s as if we need constant reminders. I’ve been through a multi-month revision that took me away from social media (even in my minimal way), more because of the emotional/psychological/intellectual “place” this revision created than the physical time.

But even in a different writing place, I still need to remind myself that I may be “differently social” than others, may not have as many or as frequent conversations, may not feel the pull to take the risk of being heard or ignored. I’d be interested in how many introverts find themselves behaving differently on social media, or find it to be a mirror of how we navigate the rest of our lives.

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Cynthia Leitich Smith March 16, 2011 at 10:00 am

Great post! What I do is pre-format posts for my blog, often months in advance. So, on a busy morning or week or even few weeks, I just have to hit “publish.”

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holly cupala March 16, 2011 at 10:09 am

Nice post, Greg. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what works – like herding cats when the “cats” are all of the different internet tangents your (my) brain loves to follow! Always a balance.

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Deb Marshall March 17, 2011 at 7:00 am

Yes, Holly! I have the herding cats brain you mention. I have to create the balance and focus–and then as I head out to “social media” I keep having to get the cats back in line because they’ll be all over the place <kind of like this comment :)

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Adventures in Children's Publishing March 16, 2011 at 10:31 am

Really excellent point. There is technology available to help us automate our online tasks, and scheduling time during the day is a great way to keep ourselves both “social” and productive. I just wish kidlitchat and yalitchat etc were on at different times. :D

Martina

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Rahma Krambo March 16, 2011 at 10:52 am

I found your blog through @4KidLit on Twitter, so that’s a good thing. I try to keep my social media time under control and just ‘go there’ when I take a break from writing or work.

I have yet do anything like schedule Tweets or blog posts, but I get a lot out reading the ‘pros’. I’m a little more addicted to Twitter than FB these days because of all the writing and publishing tweets. Still not sure how to have a Twitter conversation though.

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Susan Berger March 16, 2011 at 4:03 pm

so do you have a post on linking blog posts to facebook and twitter? I’d like to do that. It would save a lot of time.

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Greg Pincus March 16, 2011 at 10:17 pm

I don’t have a post on it. I should do that, shouldn’t I? Hmmm. In the meanwhile, though, there are different ways you can set it up. On wordpress, there are plugins and WordPress’s own Publicize function, I believe. For blogger, the most common way is using twitterfeed. You should be thinking about timing, how the links look, and other stuff, too, rather than just doing it, of course. But if you’re into it, the automation isn’t hard to set up.

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Julie Musil March 16, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Greg, it’s true that we have to do what works for us. I take care of my writing tasks first. Once I’ve met my daily goals, then I play on Twitter and blogs. Otherwise I’d get nothing done!

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Greg Pincus March 16, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Thanks for all the comments and thoughts. And Cynthia and Martina are two whose blogs make you think “huh. how do they EVER get work done”… and yet they do. Or maybe, I guess, Cynthia’s New York Times bestsellers aren’t real.

And Martina… if the chats were at different times, you know what would happen: something else fabulous would appear and we’d be in the same boat anyway!

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Jill Kemerer March 17, 2011 at 6:48 am

Hi Greg, I just found your blog from one of Julie Musil’s retweets. You wrote exactly how I feel. Everyone is different. We all have different commitments and view social media in our own way. I consider it part of my job description, so I devote a percentage of my working hours to it.

Right now, I’m in a busy phase with my writing, so I had to drop reading blogs, but I’m able to keep up with Twitter and Facebook because I can hop on and off quickly. Next month, I’ll be able to read blogs again. I’m constantly adjusting.
Thanks for this!

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Deb Marshall March 17, 2011 at 7:09 am

Back again. Great discussion! I think one of the things I am realizing as I read this is right now I have still have too many hats on–I am a librarian who is passionate about books for kids and teens and want to be part of that community, an aspiring writer who loves being a part of that community and spreading the word, sharing the learning, help promote others blogs-I’ve stumbled on this journey before because of that. Tried to be too many things because I am many things in my professional life and personal passions. Like Holly said, it is a balance-and I am realizing that the balancing act for social media, for me will eventually become narrowing down some, choosing that one audience.

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Anne Speirs March 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Great post, Greg! Today, I’m spending time on social media to get a break from revising my novel, and your blog is always one of my favorites because it has loads of up-to-date info on writing/publishing I can use. Many thanks!

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Doraine Bennett March 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm

This is a great discussion, Greg. I have figured out how to schedule blog posts and how to link Twitter to Facebook, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. My biggest problem is that much of day job work, even though I set my own schedule, requires me to be accessible to my mail whenever I’m working. So then the discipline becomes whether I can maintain that presence without getting pulled into the dark hole of the Internet. It’s a delicate balance that I don’t always find.

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Ashley Graham March 19, 2011 at 12:57 pm

I agree…with everything. But, seriously, you can schedule tweets? I need to figure out how to do this.

I find I’m most active when I’m in-between stages of writing or have just finished writing something. When I’m in the throes of reaching a personal deadline, though, I have to force myself to stay away from Twitter/Facebook/blogs until I’m done for the day.

In all honesty, I don’t think you CAN use social media enough. As long as you’re writing and doing what you need to there, spending a lot of time on social media can do you nothing but good. Also, what I’m seeing more of here lately as far as editors and agents go, they’re urging you to build your author platform by using every social media tool you can get your hands on (or learn to use effectively). They shy away from writers who don’t appear to be active online, because otherwise, how will that writer be a good advocate for his/her book if she/he does get published?

You already said it. It’s all about perception, how you manage your time, and, ultimately, what’s best for YOU. Great post!

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