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