When Social Media Turns into TMI

IMG_3598Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, most of us know the feeling of over-sharing pretty intimately. We do it ourselves, and we see it from friends (and even some businesses). It never feels good to realize you’ve just spent two hours numbly browsing Facebook, or that you’ve inadvertently started a snarky war on Twitter. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in information and communication.

Last week, Grace Bonney (who runs Design*Sponge) posted the first in a series of blogs about Living Online. I think what she wrote (see it here) is pretty great, and brave, too. She talks openly about how difficult it can be to open your personal life on the Internet for professional reasons, and how hurtful it is when people misunderstand who you are.

Again, we all know this feeling to some extent, but when you run social media for a business (or when you have a personal brand, like many freelancers do), it hits another level. Don’t get me wrong — I’m glad social media exists for my business, and for the most part I enjoy it. I know I’m lucky to live at a time that media costs are so low, when I can develop and implement an advertising plan literally in minutes. But those same difficulties we have with personal social media can get exponentially worse when we’re juggling business accounts too, and I think it’s a good idea to have a strategy to deal with that.

I used to be really disciplined about posting for my shop, Church Street Coffee & Books, every single day. I created original posts for each form of social media, and I never duplicated content. And … I got really exhausted. Now I post a lot, but I don’t post all the time. Here are the two guidelines that help me decide when to reach out online and when not to:

1. I don’t post when I have nothing to say.

This seems obvious, but as I’ve written about before, it isn’t clear to everyone. We find ourselves needing to be visible all the time, not realizing that sometimes the constant chatter actually makes us invisible because people start to tune us out. If you’re sick of hearing yourself talk on social media, chances are other people are tired of hearing you, too. Taking a morning or a few days off probably isn’t going to break your business. In social media, a little bit of absence can make the heart grow fonder. I’ve found that my followers reward me for taking breaks, coming through with more likes, views and comments when I come back. (I particularly see a jump in traffic after taking a short break on Facebook, which makes me wonder if that may be part of their throttling process.)

2. I don’t post when it’s making me feel less human.

This one’s tougher to explain, but for me it’s easy to identify. Grace writes that she puts her phone down during parties in order to just enjoy the moment. I often do the same thing when I’m having a simple dinner with friends. I do share some personal moments, but not when I think my smartphone is taking attention away from real life. The exception? I try to post when I’m hanging out at a small business or a local event that would benefit by more word-of-mouth praise: I’m a big believer that we help small businesses and community projects exponentially when we “advertise” about them to our friends and family, simply by posting pictures or tweets. I know I love it when people do that for Church Street, so I try to do it for others as well.

Sometimes social media can be wonderful. But sometimes it just makes me feel like a robot, programmed to capture the moment instead of enjoy it. It’s those times that I put my phone down. And you know what? I think holding onto my humanity makes me better at social media, too.


Carrie Rollwagen is a freelance writer based in Birmingham, Alabama.

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