I’ve been gone from my online communities the last couple weeks – no recent blog posts, ignoring some social networks, and only dabbling in others. Some might applaud this: That I’ve finally abandoned social media and digital devices and rejoined “the real world.” But my time away has convinced me that they’re wrong.
I’m not saying that everyone should be online and “going social,” or to what degree they should be online. That is everyone’s personal (and professional) choice.
Life just happened the last few weeks: taxes (notably after my father passed away last year, requiring my attention to my mother’s affairs), work obligations and travel, personal commitments, and a webinar and conference presentation to prepare and deliver.
But that hasn’t convinced me that online life is a distraction from “real” life, an escape, or an insidious yet subtly destructive force in my life.
While moderation in all things (including moderation, a friend tells me!) is important, here are some things I’ve learned during my online near-hibernation during much of this month:
- I miss the people. While some people act in very nasty ways online (read the comments section of any news site!), there are loads of kind people out there who are interested in learning from and helping others. I have missed them.
- Social and digital media are not unmanageable. While there are times when it’s nearly impossible to engage meaningfully online because of other commitments, it is within each person’s power to manage their online engagement and fold it into their existing life. It’s a choice whether they want to learn how. Like many things, success in this area is based largely on common sense.
- You get as much as you give. I think a reason many object to social media is that they expect immediate results. That’s an unrealistic expectation. Dating, career advancement, obtaining your first mortgage – these all come with time and investment.
- People don’t forget you if you haven’t tweeted in the last week. Relationships and connections that you build online can be lasting. No one expects non-stop engagement.
- Some time away is good to gain perspective. Everyone needs a vacation, so taking an online holiday (even if it’s because you’re really busy with other things) can be “steps forward” – not steps backward.
- Online life is real life, as long as you are genuine, authentic, and personal in your engagement. Then it’s a pleasure to come back to.