I attend and speak at many marketing conferences. I spend time on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram. I consume content. I create content. I share content.
One thing I’m noticing more lately is our need, an almost uncontrollable urge, to be constantly sharing online. A few recent, real-life examples include:
- Sitting next to someone while they tweet – about me.
- Hearing a friend say, “Oh. Wait. I need to check-in on foursquare so everyone knows I’m here.”
- Seeing a colleague check their Facebook stream while I’m in the middle of a conversation with them.
- Watching a sporting event while tweeting about it (ok, that one was me).
To be clear, I’m not judging the amount of time folks are spending sharing, posting, updating, checking-in, etc. It would be hypocritical of me to do as I’m often in the heavy-sharer crowd. Due to what Waldow Social (my company) specializes in, much of my online behavior is work-related; however, a lot of it is also for personal reasons. I tend to blend work & personal all day, every day (but that’s an other blog post entirely)
More than anything, I’m making an observation – one that has me pondering a bit. Why do we spend so much time sharing? Why do we feel the need to “update our followers” on Twitter or post a bit of news (often about ourselves) on Facebook? Why do we stop in mid-sentence to take a picture and post it to Instagram or take a video to share on YouTube?
Is it just our need to be connected? Is it for marketing or sales purposes? Is it “build our brand?” Are we so narrisictic to think others care about what we are doing or thinking?
But what really has me thinking – and worried – is this: Is all of this sharing preventing us from living in the moment? Is it taking time away from enjoying what’s in front of us, what’s happening around us?
I say yes.
And I don’t think it’s healthy.
Trust me, I understand and believe in the power and the good of social media. After all, it helped me land a job a few years back. It’s helped grow Waldow Social to what it is today. Without social media, I would not have connected with many interesting, unique individuals. I appreciate that social media has played a positive role in political uprisings across the world and allowed us to connect with companies to resolve issues. However, I also believe strongly that our need to share – everything, all the time – is negatively impacting our relationships.
The next time you are out to dinner or at a conference or at the bus-stop, keep your phone in your pocket and look around. Observe the people around you. As Mitch Joel said in this incredible blog post, people “flirt and caress” their smartphones. It’s fascinating to see the number of people who, instead of looking others in the eye, instead of taking in the world around them, instead of having face to face conversations, are buried in our devices.
I worry that all the time we are spending “updating” and “sharing” we are missing the world around us. We are not living in the now. It’s almost as if we are waiting for that next moment to tell “our followers” what we are doing or sharing that next tidbit of news.
I have not come to any conclusions about this yet as there have been a lot of thoughts floating around in my head. I’ve thought (a lot) lately about deleting my Facebook account, abandoning my Twitter account, removing my profiles from Google+ and Instagram and Pinterest. Several months ago, I deleted email from my iPhone. After a few months, I added it back. Based on the work I do at Waldow Social, it would be silly for me to break away this permanently; however, the thought has crossed my mind more than once.
I look at my wife who is not on Twitter, hasn’t logged into Facebook in nearly a year, has never set up an account on Google+ or Pinterest or Instagram. And you know what? She does not feel as though she’s missing out on anything. She’s successful in her career. She’s happy. She’s well-liked and respected by her colleagues and co-workers. She’s one trimester away from making us a family of 4. And she’s not participating in social media.
This post is far from complete. I don’t have all of the answers. I don’t have it all figured out. What I’d really like more than anything is to hear from you. What are your thoughts on this topic? Am I alone in my thinking? Have you noticed the same thing? Please share in the comments below.
And yes, I appreciate the irony that I’ll be many of you (including me) will be sharing this post on social networks.