Is Social Media Your Drug?

Social media use is ubiquitous.  And, excessive use of social media can negatively affect your personal brand, job search, and career.  This blog post helps determine if your use of social media may be a problem and offers suggestions for improvement.

Is Social Media Your Drug - @DennyMcCorkle

I must confess.

I have a disease.

It robs me from deep and restful sleep at night.

It slows me to get up and out in the mornings.

It distracts me from the social pleasures and physical interactions of the day.

But, it’s not just me.  It is probably you, too.

And, most certainly this disease is quickly spreading to others.

I see it with people in the cars next to me at the stop lights.

I see at the restaurants where families and couples gather but rarely look at each other.

And, I see it in the hallways of academia and sidewalks of suburbia where students and others walk zombie-like with heads down and senses off in ignorance of surrounding environments.

Of course, if you haven’t guessed, I am talking about SMA.

Yes, that is a real thing.

I blame it on Zuckerberg, Dorsey, Page, Silbermann, Systrom, Hurley, Spiegel, Mullenweg, McCue, and others.

These digital titans are the enablers and the blameworthy for this disease called: Social Media Addiction.

A Simple Test for Social Media Addiction.

Take this test that I adapted from an earlier blog post:

1) Do you check your social media before getting out of bed in the morning?

2) Do you check your social media more often during the day than you check your email?

3) Are you selfie driven in your social sharing behavior?

4) Have you ever checked Twitter while driving (or at a stop light)?

5) Is it difficult for you go for 24 hours without checking your Facebook?

6) Do others regularly ask you to put down your smart phone and talk, go to sleep, eat, or pay attention?

7) Have you ever walked into something or someone while looking down at the social media on your smart phone?

If you answered yes to the majority of the above questions, then social media is your virtual drug.

Why is Social Media Addiction a Problem?

Ironically, the most negative effects of SMA on your personal brand are more likely physical rather than digital.

  1. Unprofessional first impressions.

The concept of personal branding and how others see you applies to both your online and offline social behaviors.

Whether a first impression or a repeated impression, burying your head into your mobile device is easily interpreted by others as anti-social.

And, disrespectful.

And, unprofessional.

It sends an immediately noticeable message that your digital life is more important than your physical life.

Whether surrounded by friends, family, colleagues, or strangers, it sends a signal of “don’t bother me,” this digital interruption is more important than you.

“Is social media networking making us look dumb in the physical world?”

  1. A digital distraction.

With attempts to deflate our fear of missing out (FOMO) from all the exciting things that are rapid-fire social shared in our social media, research says that we truly are missing out in our physical environment and surroundings.

Recent academic research reported that students spend as much as 20% of their class time using digital devices for non-learning activities, such as texting and social media.  And, these students admitted that as a result, they don’t pay attention and miss instruction.

Now apply similar results to other experiences that are missed due to lack of self-control with use of social media: attempted conversations with friends and family, opportunities to meet new people and establish relationships, or the simple enjoyment of absorbing your immediate surroundings.

“Is social media networking reducing our ability for meaningful physical networking?”

  1. Deprivation of sleep.

Beyond anecdotal, there is also research to support the notion that excessive use of social media is stealing our sleep.

This sleep loss comes in two forms.  One, the time used for social media at bedtime robs us of the time we may have used for actual sleep time.  Two, the screens of these mobile devices we take to bed emit a blue light that delays the release of the melatonin hormone.  The lack of this hormone that makes us sleepy instead delays our sleepiness and encourages continued and possibly excessive use of social media.

The aftermath is that this lack of sleep can overflow into the next day as tardiness, reduced alertness, efficiency, creativity, and productivity.

“Is social media networking depriving our personal brand of success?”

  1. The oversharing of too much information (TMI).

Old habits die hard. And, so do new habits.

The excessive use of social media can falsely confuse our perceptions of our “personal life” and what we share with friends and family versus our “professional life” and what we share with professionals (professional contacts, career stakeholders, and current and potential employers and colleagues).

Indeed, research by Career Builder reveals the danger of such online behaviors. In their search for employment candidates, of the more that 2000 recruiters, 46% had found inappropriate photos, 40% found drinking or drug use, 34% had found speaking poorly of previous company or fellow employees, 30% found poor communication skills, and 29% had found discriminatory comments about race, religion, or gender.

“Does over-use of social media lead to under-filtering of our personal brand’s social sharing behaviors on social media?”

What to do about Social Media Addiction?

While some have certainly done so, and many have thought of doing so, dropping out of social media is not likely the best solution.

Instead, try to gain a better control over your social media behaviors with the right mind towards managing and controlling your personal brand.

  1. Focus on a few social platforms.

You don’t have to quit your use of social media cold turkey.

Nor do you need to take the overly dramatic steps to eradicate your noisy Facebook Feed or Twitter Home Stream by dumping the majority of your connections.

Instead, focus on one or two social platforms.  Find your favorites.  Perhaps choose one for professional use and another for personal.

And, spend less time on social media.

It is better to be a master of one, rather than an amateur of many.

  1. Eliminate the digital distractions.

Turn off notifications.

Do you really need an alert every time a tweet is retweeted? Or, when a new email has arrived? Or, when a Facebook friend has commented?

Plain and simple, excessive use of notifications can interrupt your flow.  While I am not talking about oxygen flow or saliva flow, I am talking about creative flow.  Creative flow is the equivalent of a runner’s high or a state of extreme focus.  This is where time seems to stand still and creativity and work efficiency skyrockets.

If you have not recently experienced this psychological flow I am referencing, then you should stop right now and visit the computer and smart device settings for all your social media platforms, apps, and tools.  Then, turn off all notifications.

Turn off your smartwatch notifications, too.  Nada. Zilch. None.

  1. Move your digital devices out of the bedroom.

Yes, deprivation of sleep is one of the worst and telling effects of SMA.

Even with notifications on mute, the calls of your favorite digital sirens are continually luring you into the blue lights of sleeplessness.

And, even if true that Apple has a fix for this with its latest update that includes Night Shift, smart devices will continue to rob you of precious slumber time.

Thus, the best solution is to move these not always smart devices to another room, or at least beyond arm’s length and the temptation of “one more thing.”

Yes, I already know what you are thinking: “but I need my alarm clock.”  Or, “I have to check my Internet of Things (IoT).”

No you don’t.

Instead, turn up the alarm volume so you can hear it from across or another room.  Get a dog.  Or, buy yourself a real sleeper’s analog clock.

  1. Don’t let your smart devices make you look dumb.

And after you have banned the smart devices from the bedroom, do so with gusto for the dining room, the meeting room, and the classroom.

One more: while walking.

Yes, just as you should never pass a water fountain without drinking, or never use the elevator when there are stairs, just for the health of it, you should not walk while checking your smart device.

When social media and all things digital go mobile, this can hinder attention spans, prevent psychological flow for thinking and creativity, and dumb down your reaction to others and their impression of you.

  1. Stop flirting with the fear of missing out (FOMO).

“I need to flip a few more pages in my Flipboard just in case something has happened in the news in the last five minutes.”

“I have a few more folders in my Feedly that I need to check so I am among the first to social share the good stuff.”

“I need one more minute in my Twitter Home stream just in case there is another dancing cat or farting panda video.”

No you don’t.

The world can go on without you knowing about it in minutiae.

Besides, the greatest chill pill to conquer the fear of missing out is to realize that the best of the good stuff will be social shared, liked, repinned, hearted, retweeted, and plus oned by others; and, will come around again in your social streams tomorrow, or at a more appropriately lazy time to enjoy.

  1. Keep some secrets to yourself.

The more we social share, the more we crave acceptance.  The more we crave acceptance, the more we social share.  We live our social lives in a do-loop, a merry-go-round of mayhem, all fueled by our social media addiction and need for attention, recognition, or applause.

Don’t let your social media narcissism run amok.

At some point in our social sharing existence we turn on the notifications and turn off our privacy and our entire life become an open book of extreme transparency.

Yes, the social media experts tell us to be authentic, be real, and be you.  However, even then we should do so with filters.

To literally let it all hang out, is not good for your personal brand, your job search, or your career.

In this day and digital age where anyone can easily search and potentially find the real, the unfettered, and the raw you, this is not a good thing.

Good personal branding needs controls, needs filters, and should define the “best of you” and not “the all of you.”

The Take-Away.

Social media fills our lives with the good: entertainment, news, career enhancing learning, social relationships, and business opportunities.

Social media fills our lives with the bad: distractions, fears, sleeplessness, and short attention spans.

And, social media fills our lives with the ugly: limited privacy, over-sharing, haters, personal brand breaking bad behaviors.

When we can restrain our social media use to mostly the good, we can sleep deeply, learn passionately, create flowingly, and enjoy the beneficial mashups of a digital and analog life worth living.

These are my thoughts, now they are yours.

What are you suggestions for managing and controlling your use of social media for personal branding, job search, and career? Please comment below.

Image credits: Denny McCorkle


Is social media your drug #DigitalSMA

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Denny McCorkle @DennyMcCorkle

Professor of Marketing, Monfort College of Business at University of Northern Colorado
As a nationally recognized and award winning Marketing Professor in the Monfort College of Business at the University of Northern Colorado, I help students, professors, and professionals to gain a Digital Self Marketing Advantage through the use of social media marketing for personal branding, job search, skills development, career advancement, and life-long learning.