We spend a lot of time talking about efficiency and productivity on this blog, but we also devote quite a bit of energy to writing about new social networks and social media. I talk to many people who are concerned about joining new social web sites because they fear that their efficiency and productivity will suffer. One woman recently asked me why she should join Twitter or Facebook when she would rather spend her time outside, or on her hobbies, instead of spending more time in front of a computer. My answer was something like this, “We all need to make choices about how we spend our time, and you should not feel pressured to join a social site just because other people have joined. Think about how you want to spend your time and decide whether or not you want to spend less time on another activity to make more time to participate on Twitter or Facebook. There’s no need for everyone to join.”
I regularly speak on topics related to participation in online communities and social media. This question almost always comes up, and people always seem surprised by my answer. As someone who spends almost all of her time online and joins every new social network, people seem to expect me to encourage other people to do the same. However, I am a pragmatist at heart, and I want people to do what feels right for their situation. My way of life and my choices work well for me, but they aren’t for everyone. It was refreshing to see a similar viewpoint from Alexandra Samuel, CEO of Social Signal, in a post about not keeping up with social technology on the Harvard Business Blog in which she emphasizes this point: “But most crucial of all, the choice to stop keeping up with all the shoulds and must-haves, and to start choosing technologies that support the goals and priorities that matter to you.”
I also see too many people make the same mistake when they do decide to join social networks: They try to do too much at once. If you have not been participating regularly on social web sites, don’t join everything at once. Pick the one network that you think will work best for you, and try it for a while. If you enjoy it and want to spend some extra time on social sites, join another one. If you didn’t enjoy it, consider dropping it and trying a different one before you give up entirely.
It is important to find a balance that works for you, whether that means not joining anything, focusing on one or two social sites or, like me, joining everything you can find.
Where do you draw the line when joining social web sites?