Saturday, 7 July 2012

Reclaiming my social media identity

Actually, I'm not! Source
Well, lovely Planetarians, this post has been percolating away in my brain for about 18 months. It's time to write it. After 4 years on Facebook and nearly 2 years of blogging, I've tried out a plethora of social media sites. It's now reached the point where I need, and want, to make some hard choices about which ones I want to continue using. They are too much of a time-suck for me. They are diverting my attention from much more important matters in my life. I want to claim my life back! Hands up if you feel the same. Hmm, that's a lot of hands waving at me! I thought I'd share with you my thoughts on where I'm at and what I plan to do. I haven't worked it all out yet, though - I'm very much a work-in-progress. So, let's go!

First up, I'm defining social media as follows.
It's a phenomenon which has taken this Gen Xer a little by surprise. The rapid and ever-accelerating pace of technological change has surpassed my wildest imagination. Back when I was finishing Law School in 1994, we were using the latest Macintosh Classic. Google didn't even exist then! I know - it's incomprehensible nowadays ☺. Mr PB and I didn't get mobile phones until 2000 and our Nokia 'bricks' weighted a tonne! Ages ago, I posted about my Luddite tendencies - do have a read for a giggle, if nothing else! I'll wait for you right back here.

Okay, so are you chuckling now? Yes, we're still an iNothing family but that's more through our single income situation than by choice. All your posts about the joys of Instagram have me hankering for an iPhone. And our 12 year old PC is nearing the end of its life - a shiny iMac is calling my name. Time to start saving our pennies! But I digress.

Let's start with the reason I started blogging - Facebook.  Back in 2008, I was at home with 2½ year old Joshua and 6 month old India. From Sydney, I was organising my 20 year school reunion in Hobart. A classmate mentioned that 3 classmates were on this Facebook thing. I joined and immediately made contact with many long-lost classmates. Our reunion is still talked about today as one of the most successful in my school's 120 year old history. All thanks to the power of Facebook. Now about ⅔ of our class is on The Book!

Since then, Facebook has enabled to me to reconnect with many old childhood and overseas friends. It has been a blessing. But now it's become a burden. When I first started out, I decided that the only people I would befriend would be people I would like to sit down with and talk to today - people I knew and loved. I wanted to connect with them here and now, not just because we had some age-old connection. That approach was all fine and dandy. It worked a treat. I wasn't in it for the numbers. I was in it for real and soulful connections with people I cherished.

And then I started blogging. The rules changed. I became FB friends with my closest bloggy friends. I enjoyed it. It added a whole new dimension to our relationships. I posted links to my latest blog posts. I stopped adding status updates. I had too many other competing requests for my time such as the pixies. I felt a little guilty, as if people would perceive me as having a 'dump a blog link and run' attitude. But I received great feedback on my posts from non-blogger friends, I was having fun and I still felt in control.

But then other bloggers I didn't know asked to be my FB friends. Raised to be polite, I accepted their requests. I took a punt that it would work out okay. For the most part, it has. But I suddenly felt a little wary. I deleted all my photos of the pixies as I started to feel uncomfortable. But then they wanted me to like their blog fan pages as well as their personal pages. Still polite (and not wanting to create a fuss), I accepted their invitations. That's where things started to spiral out of control. Suddenly, I had 'liked' so many fan pages that my news feed was streaming in oodles of verbiage, status updates and blog posts (which I was already seeing in Google Reader). It was information overload! 

Suddenly, FB was giving me an 'icky' feeling. I felt completely overwhelmed at all the information pouring in from around the world. I worried I'd missed important status updates. With over 300 FB followers of my personal page, I soon lost the enjoyment I'd previously had.

Chastened, I whipped up a draft 'Life on Planet Baby' fan page, thinking that maybe I could convince my bloggy friends to move over there so I could keep my separate personal page (which I've never linked to my blog) just for the people I actually know and have the blog page for my blog friends. 

Whilst fine in theory, reality is something else. So many of my blog friends has become my personal friends so there's such an overlap between the two concepts. There's also the practical reality of having to maintain two FB pages when I find it hard enough to juggle raising the pixies, blogging and one FB page. So, for the moment, the blog fan page is lying in limbo until I decide what to do with it.

For the moment, my interim solution has been to install the 'Social Fixer' extension for Google Chrome. It filters the items which appear in my news feed, significantly reducing the inflow of information. I've also changed the news feed settings for most of my friends to only show the most important status updates. It's helped a lot. That said, I still have to be mindful of how often I flick over to FB to see what's happening. I'm buying an egg timer to help me limit the time I spend on FB.

I also have not connected my mobile phone to my FB account so only interact with it when seated at my PC.

But my other complication is that once my hand has healed fully, I want to open my Etsy store and it probably would make sense to have a fan page for my business. Can you see my conundrum? One, two or three FB pages? 

I find Twitter to be a peculiar and contradictory beast. At its best, it provides ground-breaking, real-time stories - the type which makes you feel connected to events the world over. At its worst, it dishes up mundane, or even uncharitable, thoughts which should probably be sent as private messages instead. Or just not said at all.

I use it sporadically to promote my latest post and publish my 'Life on Planet Baby Daily'. As I don't have a smart phone, I only use it through my desktop PC. And rarely. That way, I'm not jumping onto it whenever my phone beeps. I started following many people in my initial excitement but have since pulled back. The numbers don't interest me. Seriously. The interaction does. I really cherish my interactions with some bloggers. 

But in the main, Twitter leaves me feeling dissatisfied. And empty and sad. My dear friend, Naomi at Seven Cherubs, wrote this brilliant post on how to avoid 'social media depression' a while ago. It resonated with me on so many levels.

Google +
I have yet to grasp its importance. It still has the 'Emperor with no clothes' feeling for me. I publish my blog posts there. I've invited a number of blog friends into my 'circle'. But that's about it. It leaves me cold. I feel like I'm talking to an empty room. 

I know Darren at Problogger is a big fan, finding the 'hangouts' useful and deriving a lot of post ideas from it. 

But it just hasn't caught my imagination. That feeling is amplified when complete strangers add me to their 'circles' and I am compelled to 'block and report' them. Call me hard but I don't need to be invited to the inner sanctum of a complete stranger. And it's only very rarely that one of my blog friends will respond to anything I post there (no criticism intended here in the least - I equally don't comment there on other bloggers' posts). I am tempted to delete my Google + profile altogether. I don't need to whistle in the wind.


I used to stumble my posts. I've stopped that now. The whole experience leaves me feeling incredibly small and insignificant. I have just deleted my account although it will take two weeks to "process" it.

I was attracted by the razzle-dazzle of Klout for a while. It's so easy to be sucked into its tight embrace. It preys on one's social insecurities, I think. Suddenly, I found myself compelled to tweet that I had given someone a K+ for some achievement or topic. Ooh! My skins crawls just thinking about it now. 

When I had dinner with Kerry and Sarah, they convinced me to delete my account. I saw reason. I did it the next day. But about 4 months later, I got sucked into it again. I couldn't resist the strong pull of the need for (I hate to admit this) public social validation.

But tonight I've deleted my account. There will be no further relapse. I know who I am. I don't need an algorithm to tell the world of my value.


There you have it - my first tentative steps in reclaiming my social media identity. I now realise that my blog is my main love. Facebook comes second (I'm still undecided about whether to have a blog fan page) and Twitter (a distant) third. I'm forgetting the others.

So, gorgeous Planetarians, I'm so interested to hear your thoughts on this. Does any of this strike a chord with you? Or are you able to handle the incessant beeping of your smart phone as the latest tweet/FB update/email/reminder/text message or phone message arrives? Do you think I should have a FB fan page for this blog? I'd love to think I'm not alone in feeling the need to retake control of my social media identity. But maybe I'm just a died-in-the-wool Luddite after all! I can't wait to hear your responses.

PS There's still another week for you to join in the Post of the Month Club linky party if you're keen. It'll close on 14 July 2012 as midnight Australian Eastern Time so get your skates on if you still want to be part of it!

PPS Right - time to click 'Publish' and see what comments this evokes ☺.

PPPS Edited at 9.51 am on 8 July 2012 - thanks, Janette, for posting this humorous explanation of social media on Facebook for me!
PS Linking up with the July 2012 edition of the Post of the Month Club.
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