I hear a lot of folks say things like, “I just don’t have time for social media.”
I feel like this a lot. In fact, I generally feel like I don’t have time for most anything at all that involves active creation. Passive consumption is just… so much easier. And I know most folks feel the same. We’re a culture built on consumerism. Consuming is easy. Creation is hard.
As a full-time copywriter by day and fiction writer by night, I follow a lot of other writers with the same gig, one of whom recently discussed his calculated decision many years ago to become an active content producer instead of an active content consumer.
What’s the difference? On some level, we’re all content consumers. We read web pages, articles, books, watch film clips, movies, maybe some television shows. Most of us are exposed to billboards, consumer packaging and associated messages, banner ads, many more, but this latter category is a much more passive consumption. It’s what you’re exposed to, not necessarily what we seek out. But the sheer proliferation of content (and the ease with which we can gain access to it) has meant that the active consumption of content has actually begun taking over a significant portion of our lives.
It used to be you came home from the day job and planted a garden, darned a sweater, read a book, cooked dinner, and worked on a jigsaw puzzle – all in one night. Now we’re increasingly engaged in passive consumption of pre-cut content, which leaves us with little time for active creation – including creating original content for our own social networks. Fewer creators means less creativity, less content, and ultimately, a far less interesting world.
How much television do you watch a day? Three hours? Four? How about video games? How much time do you spend playing flash games on Facebook? Watching television shows online? How often do you randomly browse the Internet with your Stumble button?
What you start to realize when you add all of these hours up is that you’re very likely spending most of your free time as an active content consumer. That’s great for folks creating content, but not so great if you’re actively building a career based on content, whether it’s creating content for your personal business or working to improve your marketable skills.
As a closet gamer, I’ve been known to look up on a Sunday evening and find that I’d spend the last four hours killing virtual baddies for virtual stuff. Then I wondered why it was I hadn’t updated my personal blog in two weeks. Why is it, I sometimes think, that I never have “time” for my personal projects?
If you’re ready to make the switch from content consumer to producer, it’s likely time to unplug. That means cut your cable, turn off your television, and uninstall all those Facebook apps. Anything you need to turn back on for research purposes for a project will be right there waiting for you when you get back. This works for those of you putting in time at a traditional day job, too. Are you developing a social media strategy? Engaging with customers? You’re going to do a much better job connecting if you’re hooked into just a few networks where you can put all of your time. Once you start down the long road toward viewing every video posted by your personal Facebook friends instead of engaging with conversations with your fans, all is lost.
In the meantime, take that extra couple of hours you were using to surf the net or catch up on Lost and put it toward your personal creative projects, including building your social networks, blogging, and writing and submitting articles in your field. Look for volunteer opportunities in your area and networking events.
I stopped playing one of my more addictive video games some time back and found that I was actively bored the first few weeks because I was so unused to the time to myself. I had to sit down and write up a comprehensive content schedule just to get myself back on track.
When you unplug, you suddenly find that all of the projects you felt you didn’t have time for during the 8-5 grind (let alone after hours!) are a lot easier to tackle.