By Lola Akinmade, a writer and photographer based in Stockholm
Social media has become a part of our daily lives. From quickly asking for restaurant recommendations on Twitter to finding your long lost best friend from kindergarten, this new way of networking, building your online voice, and sharing information has created a society of 24-7 constant interaction with friends, family, and colleagues.
Constant Interaction = Productivity?
But is this constant interaction productive? How does one carve out time to tap into one’s creativity and actually produce solid content when staying off social media for a few days also creates a feeling of disconnect?
Many writers head to secluded retreats where they produce and flow without constant noise and distraction. This need to steal away to find inspiration and create new work has been around for centuries, yet in today’s constantly plugged in world, retreating can also be challenging because social media often acts as a source of inspiration too.
Does sharing unnecessary gratuitous details about your scrumptious breakfast on Twitter or posting questionable blackmail-worthy photographs on Facebook enhance your professional brand?
Where does one draw the line between work and play when using social media tools? Personally, I use Facebook for connecting with family and friends, and sharing interesting articles I think they might enjoy. I use Twitter for sourcing out information quickly which I need for my work as a freelancer.
If you do plan on using social media for both work and play, it’s advisable to dedicate a particular tool to one aspect of your life, and try to minimize overlap.
As beneficial as social media is to daily business, its strength also remains its weakness; the fact that it plays on people’s social networking skills, creating a high school-like atmosphere of trying to belong and be noticed. Superlative lists like “top tweeters to follow” and “best blogs to read or else…” create an incessant need to constantly remain relevant, pulling attention from more important offline responsibilities.
The more we rely on technological outlets for answers and solutions, the more we lose our basic human interaction skills. I recently edited an excellent article written by Spencer Spellman (www.carolinanomad.com) called “Technology and the Way We Interact While Traveling”. In the article, he discusses how constantly staying plugged in with social media affects the way we interact when exploring new places.
“As travel is meant to connect us with the people of the culture we visit, technology often disconnects us, because we’re instead choosing to connect with home, rather than connecting with locals and their culture.”
As journalists, how are we listening for new stories? Are we still putting our noses to the ground, sniffing out untold stories? Are we excluding the face-to-face human element all together?
The point of this article really isn’t to outline steps on how to balance your usage of social media tools, but rather, raise questions we should be thinking about when integrating social media into our lives. Everyone’s needs are quite different. For some, facilitating social interaction is their day job, for others, it’s a way to wile away time. So deciding how much you let social media influence your life is ultimately a personal decision.
But a good rule of thumb would be this: if you’re constantly seeking validation online much more than you actually produce work wise, you might want to reassess your relationship with social media.
Lola Akinmade is a widely published travel writer and photographer based in Stockholm. Her work has appeared in many major travel publications such as National Geographic Traveler, BBC, Vogue, – http://www.lolaakinmade.com/articles – and has received numerous awards and accolades – http://www.lolaakinmade.com/notables. She’s also an editor with the Matador Network – www.matadornetwork.com, and loves working with charity and nonprofit organizations as a photojournalist. She’s got a penchant for jumping in whichever country she travels to, and is currently attempting to learn Swedish.