Plan on- and offline activities

DSCN1707tiltshiftTheArtistLomoHow do you manage your online and offline activities? Okay, I am assuming you do manage your online and offline activities. For many people, time management is something that is not practiced–especially as it relates to blogging and social media. If you have an idea or thought, you post it on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or blog it.

True confession: I was one of those who did not manage online and offline activities. When I finally purchased a smartphone, I immediately downloaded all the latest and greatest social media mobile apps to stay connected. Or, at least, that was the reasoning. It was difficult for me to understand why some of my friends (online and in-real-life) were not more engaged in social media. For the most part, I disregarded them off as neo-luddites. Yes, I was a social media snob.

That all changed when I joined the ranks of the mega-commuters.[1] With long commutes to the office, there is limited time to engage in blogging and social media with out planning. Or at least, not a safe way to do it while driving through city traffic and mountains roads. Additionally, with the weight of leadership decisions and somewhere between 50 to 75 tasks per week, I rarely check my personal email or check social networks until the weekend.

So, for the last year or so my blogging and social media posts and updates have been automated. More accurately, most blog posts are scheduled using a WordPress feature and social media posts and updates scheduled using Hootsuite.

Saturday mornings or Sunday nights tend to be the time when I write online posts/updates. However, that doesn’t seem the best time to engage people. A couple articles I read [2] [3] suggest when the best time to post content on blogs and social media. So, I preschedule the posts, tweets, and other social media updates on the weekend. Sometimes I preschedule posts and updates as much as 14 days to a month in advance.

The downside of automating posts and updates as the lack of engagement. Sure, the content gets out there on a regular basis, but there’s little or no conversation taking place. This also means I miss a lot of the activity and conversation that is taking place on blogs and social networks. Some Saturday mornings I will spend a whole hour replying to comments on social media sites from the previous week. The point of social media is sharing and interaction.

In a manner of speaking and due to my present circumstances, I’ve sort of become one of those neo-luddites I used to snarkily snicker at. It’s humbling to realize how much of an idiot I had been regarding social media snobbery. Not everyone has the luxury of being accessible to social media. And, quite honestly, terra will continue her daily rotation speed of 1070 miles per hour regardless of my social media activity (or lack thereof).

NOTES:
[1] Matt Stiles, “Interactive: Compare Your Commute To The Nation’s Longest,” NPR’s The Two-Way, March 5, 2013 accessed April 23, 2013 http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/03/05/173515882/interactive-compare-your-commute-to-nations-longest
[2] Daniel Zeevi, “STUDY: When is the Best Time to Publish a Blog Post?,” Dashburst.com, February 4, 2013 accessed April 23, 2013 http://dashburst.com/report/best-time-to-blog/
[3] Samantha Murphy, “The Best and Worst Times to Share on Facebook, Twitter,” Mashable.com, May 9, 2012 accessed April 23, 2013 http://mashable.com/2012/05/09/best-time-to-post-on-facebook/

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Why share your work in social networks?

One of the book cover designs I promote on the social network Behance.

One of the book cover designs I promote on the social network Behance.

“Why share our work in social networks?” was a question recently asked on a professional forum. My reply: two reasons: 1) promotion and 2) personal brand. It was a Malcolm-Gladwell-Blink response and I clicked the “add comment” button without much thought (which is not my usual practice). My thoughts still linger on that question, “Why…?”

A few months ago I came across a few articles asking the question “Does social media promote or enable narcissism?” [1] [2] The article that impacted me most was from a source I never read. In the post, the author, Dodai Stewart, reflects on piece in The New Yorker and her comments are stinging and self-revelatory.

Just look around: Between Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest, the whole ME ME ME thing has swept the nation. Here are MY thoughts, MY pictures, MY shopping wish lists! We call it sharing, but it’s just egoistic self-indulgence, usually. LET ME TELL YOU WHAT I WANT. But wait: Enough about me… what do you think about me? [3]

Hm, narcissism and self-absorption. Herein rests the lingering thoughts of a week or so ago.

As a professional, promoting my goods, services and whatnot help to grease the gears of capitalism, right? Conventional wisdom (or at least American business wisdom), purports that if consumers are not aware of your product/service, customers will not purchase from ME. So, I am advised by business owners and other professionals to promote MY skills, services, products, etc. And not only that, I need to establish MY personal brand (so that consumers can be more emotionally and psychologically invested in the products/services I provide).

Maybe social networks are not promoting narcissism and self-absorption as much as one might think. There may be a greater systemic issue that only social networks magnify.

NOTE: [1] Tara Parker-Pope, “Does Facebook Turn People Into Narcissists?,” New York Times, May 17, 2012 accessed January 2, 2013 http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/does-facebook-turn-people-into-narcissists/ [2] Steve Tobak, “Social networks and the narcissism epidemic,” CBSNEWS Money Watch, August 29, 2012, accessed January 2, 2013 http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-57502035/social-networks-and-the-narcissism-epidemic/ [3] Dodai Stewart, “Self-Absorbed Is the New Normal,” Jezebel, June 26, 2012, accessed January 2, 2013 http://jezebel.com/5921468/self+absorbed-is-the-new-normal.

Two reasons why I quit Tumblr

What is Tumblr? Besides being a highly addictive micro-blogging platform, [1] it was the place I did most of my blogging during the last few years. That is, until a few weeks ago. Two primary reasons why I deep-sixed my Tumblr accounts: simplistic functionality and superficiality.

Those familiar with Tumblr know the distraction of the endless expanse of images that populate the majority of these micro-blogs. Tumblr subscribes to the lowest common denominator of web log functionality to allow for users to post photos, videos, audio & text. The Tumblr interface allows users with absolutely no HTML experience and no blogging experience to post a menagerie of online content without having to really think about it. Add to the mindless uploading or reblogging of content is the liking system. If you “like” a blog post viewed somewhere in the Tumblr stream of people you are following, then you click the heart icon. The system is reciprocated by other users in a virtual validation and comparison of or by other Tumblr users. What makes this system clumsy and superficial is that there is no real communication between users. In a way, it’s like an individual person in a large airport terminal with all the televisions droning on and on. It’s an extremely lonely experience.

The “follow” feature, like Twitter, allows users to track your posts — and you may follow in return. Curious as I am, I often clicked on Tumblr profiles to find out who is following my Tumblr account. Like Twitter, a lot of my account’s followers were users seeking to promote something or looking for personal validation and/or competition by earning return follows (it is a common practice on Twitter to earn more followers in order to expand audience reach or to just boasting rights to having thousands of tweeple following your tweets). Some people prefer Tumblr because it easily integrates with social media sites [2] making it more of a network tool than a blogging platform. When Tumblr was first launched it was very simple to aggregate your Tumblr content to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. But now most blogging platforms allow that too. Most of the followers to my Tumblr account didn’t connect or even communicate with me. They just “like” something I post and then “follow” my Tumblr account. It’s an empty, hollow interaction if not essentially dehumanizing.

Another issue I had with Tumblr is that the platform really doesn’t work well for long-form blog entries. There are exceptions, [3] but on the whole, most Tumblr users are there for photos or videos or reblogging someone’s photos and videos. As someone who enjoys reading and stimulating conversation, I became very aware of how my thinking was changing as I consumed the endless Tumblr stream of images. One night I speculated that some users must spend all day on Tumblr. There is a schedule feature on Tumblr that allows users to place posts in a queue to be published later, but the time investment to post photos seems vapid. Occasionally, I’d come across an intelligent quote or text-post and “like” it or even “reblog” it. I discovered, to my embarrassment, that not all quotes I reblogged or liked were accurate and stopped the practice.

Increasingly, I was disturbed that the lack of exchange of ideas was altering the way I think as I succumbed to an avalanche of images falling from the blue Tumblr interface screen. One blogger noted that someone said Tumblr is an intellectual version of Twitter, [4] and further noted correctly that most Tumblr users post photos. How is that intellectual? I must confess, when I began to use Tumblr as a blogging platform I posted a lot of text pieces. It was an easy platform to post my writings, art work and photography. I liked the ease that it offered. But I got caught in the cycle of seeking validation of posting content simply to earn “likes” from “followers.” So, like an addict, I’d post more content — images that I didn’t create, but I liked (and sometimes “liked”) or inspired or informed me. But there was little if any engagement with other Tumblr users. Facebook and Twitter offered more discussion and conversation than Tumblr. It felt like a completely self-centered arena that offered nothing but consumption of content with no way to seek the best in others. I was not growing or learning from my Tumblr experience. I wasn’t meeting new people and exchanging ideas.

For me, quitting Tumblr comes down to this. An online community cannot grow and flourish if the lowest common denominator is a micro-blogging platform for web-illiterate users who reblog each others photos with silent alacrity.

NOTES: [1] Not that you need to be introduced to the crack cocaine of blogging — Smashing Magazine provides A Complete Guide To Tumblr [2] Read Compete’s report “Tumblr vs. WordPress vs. Blogger: Fight!” where it states that Tumblr functions more like a social network. . .” and “reduces barriers to publishing content .” [3] Longreads collects long-form online content from various publications [4] Olsen Jay Nelson