Social media: Loudspeaker or buzzing hive?

talkingI’ve been thinking for a long time about social media and its effects on us. Tools like Facebook and Twitter are meant to connect us with people — in the case of Twitter especially, people all over the world. Everyone has a voice, and anyone can communicate.

But are our voices coming through a loudspeaker or drowning in the noise of too much conversation?

Facebook and Twitter can be amazing resources for promotion or social networking. They’re also a great place to broadcast our thoughts. But who is listening? These aren’t cure-alls for the anonymity of the Internet. It doesn’t guarantee success or instant popularity. In fact, social media has been shown to trigger feelings of depression and anxiety.

Why? Well, these sites play host to drama, for one. A lot of people spread negative energy on Facebook or Twitter. But we also resort to comparing ourselves to others: how many friends or followers we have, “likes” or “retweets” we get, and so on. Worst of all, among so many voices, we can feel like ours is rarely heard.

The solution is to step away, which is exactly what you shouldn’t do if you want to maintain or build a good online presence. So how do you reconcile the two?

I think it’s healthier to limit your time on social media and focus on life outside the computer. They’re also huge distractions and can kill productivity. But how do you manage this if you’re a budding author or someone who needs to create and foster a platform online?

Do you feel isolated when you spend too much time on social media? Do you find yourself comparing your success and social standing to those of others? How do you cope with this?

Awesome book cover Friday: The Teleportation Accident

Today’s book cover pick is The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman.

The Teleportation Accident

It’s a novel “about sex, violence, space, time, and how the best way to deal with history is to ignore it.”

This actually sounds pretty fun: a book about time travel and a guy who can’t get laid. It’s a weird concoction, but that seems to be Beauman’s thing. His other novel, Boxer, Beetle, mixes Nazi history and crime with a protagonist whose genetic condition makes him smell like rotting fish (P.S. that’s a real disorder).

A computer is an object. Turned on, it’s millions of people.

I came across this nice little video about remembering that “at the end of every computer is a real person.”

Watch the three-and-a-half minute long video, and you’ll see that it communicates a stronger message that simply, “Words hurt.”

My personal policy now is that when you’re angry or impatient, focus on something else. Take time to cool off. Use lots of smilies — they make people feel good. Always reply as soon as possible, even if it’s just a polite “yes” or “no” (both are absolutely okay), because people’s time is valuable just like yours. Every day spent not returning an email is the same as not returning a phone call. If you’re too busy to commit, say so early. Appreciate the little gestures. Help when you can. Treat people like they’re your neighbors — they have lives, families, and problems, the same as you.

What’s your personal motto for engaging with other people from your computer screen? Have you had good or bad experiences online (or both)? Please take a moment to share.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who weighed in on last week’s poll! You can still vote if you want to!