You’ve surely heard about or most likely experienced the power of social media and its ability to lure us in with photos of an old flame’s wedding, a friend’s new baby, tips on creating a quixotic tabletop display, recipes for the latest gluten, sugar, fat, dairy, nut and taste free side dishes, as well as those hilariously quirky cat videos. But these time-sucking, productivity-killing banalities aren’t the only sinister mind traps of the 24-hour online world.
There is also a crap-ton of terrific, useful, inspirational and motivational art and information flying over those fiber optic freeways. As a writer and editor, I regularly wade through a torrent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blog posts–mostly great stuff about what other people are doing to make the world a better and more interesting place. I want to be like them. Those people are “out there.” They’re moving and shaking and making things happen. They’re writing reams of content, noticing and photographing tiny seeds bursting forth in springtime, designing killer web pages and mixing Mad Men styled cocktails for their weekly poetry readings. It’s all so amazing and exhausting.
But here’s the thing… The thing is, we (and by “we,” I mean, “I”) too often tend to lump all that online action into one giant pile of competing ambitions and then attempt to ascent this impossible media-made mountain–or just sit immobilized along its foothills trying to discern our next best move. And then, if you’re anything like me, you eventually say, “Screw it,” and go watch The Voice while folding laundry and tweeting about whether Adam Levine’s shirt selection makes him look more or less sexy.
It’s kind of like what happens when kids go off to college and spend too much time checking the status of friends at other universities. The constant social media impression that students at other schools are having better parties, meeting more interesting people and receiving a better education experience can leave a kid feeling unsatisfied and questioning her choices.
I’m way beyond college, thank God. But I still find myself wondering if I’m in the right place. Maybe you do too. If so, let me share what a wise woman recently reminded me of. She noted that when your career and/or life is already in pretty good shape and on an acceptable trajectory, it makes little sense to burn out trying to go in a dozen different directions, especially if it prevents you from doing your best work at your current job. Stop. Self evaluate. Don’t confuse contentment with complacency.
Heck, even if your career and/or life are a hot mess, it makes little sense to attempt to plod a dozen different paths just as much as choosing no path at all.
Social media can help promote and even elevate your career. But it can also be a career stifling distraction. Focus more on being who you are and what you’re doing well right now. Concentrate less on trying to imitate or measure up to social media standards. Create more content than you consume. (This includes those crazy cat videos. I love those.)
Find your niche and plow into your future with purpose. Go ahead and leverage the inspiration and knowledge you discover online to help improve your writing, networking and creativity. But stop letting it distract or discourage you. (And by “you,” I mean “me.” But if this advice also helps you, then my work here is done. Godspeed.)