Can You be a Success in SM and Still Have a Real Life?

Broken heart shaped biscuit on dish by cup of coffeeThe innumerable articles and blog posts that have spawned from the Vanity Fair “tweetheart”article have been well…innumerable. Here’s another one.

Stefanie Michaels’s (1.4 million followers) husband considers himself a “twidower.” He says his wife found Twitter and dropped him. Ouch. I’ve received some of my own backlash from friends and family. It’s more like mockery, but I’ve gotten less than stellar feedback from my non-Twitter friends on my commitment to this social medium. I’ve even had to create BlackBerry rules for myself (…which I sometimes follow) so I don’t dismiss the company I’m in for the ambient glow of UberTwitter.

Facebook, Twitter, etc. require attention and steady commitment. I found the more I tweeted, the more followers I gained on Twitter. Seems more often my head is down, focused on the 2.5 inch screen of my smartphone and I don’t keep the Tweeting to my office hours.

So I’d like to think the obvious answer here is “yes, Kate. You can have a great SM presence and have a real life.” But lend me your thoughts. Where have you run into real life snags? Does anyone in your real life resent your social media involvement? Or has it enhanced your real life?

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  • jeffespo

    Believe it or not, I get more flack working in the space at work than at home. Folks just don't get the point of social media and will say yeah its cool, but unproven. During the home-time the wifey is fascinated by some of the things and even signed up for Twitter to see what I was talking about. Granted there was too much for her so Seesmic Look is in her future.

    As for the home life, I set boundaries including not using a computer during X times and signing into my SM accounts only three or four times over the weekend. And like Virginia with Santa Clause, Yes Kate there is a way to balance of the two. It's just a matter of figuring what works for you.

  • mikeschaffer

    Ah, the never-ending battle between online and “real life!” Great topic, Kate!

    It's all about balance and merging.

    For balance – set boundaries for each, but don't kill yourself if you overstep them a time or twenty! There are certain times at home where my wife and I are watching TV when I realize, “Dude, put down the damn computer!” So I do.

    For merging – I've come across an incredible “Tweetup” group in DC with a few hundred people. We have happy hour/dinner events every few weeks. Tweeting with them as become more about making “real life” plans. If you aren't in a position to merge the two worlds in that way, understanding what you are trying to get out of social media is critical. Be it networking, sharing ideas, etc.

    There is no magic formula here. Stay true to yourself and what makes you happy. Screw the rest of 'em. 🙂

  • Ohh Kate! Great post.

    I feel like this problem isn't isolated to social media geeks and geekettes – I think our generation has a fixation on virtual communication.
    Jeff and Mike are soo right about setting boundaries. After numerous..heated discussions…the Mister and I have declared our weekly date night “off-limits” for phones in general – we turn them off at the same time. I've also started tweeting less on the weekends and not really checking Facebook. It's pretty liberating – albeit very difficult at first.

    Additionally, I've set “phone etiquette 2.0” rules and all my friends are well aware: 1) A text does not count as a call. 2) A call without a voice mail does not warrant a call-back. 3) And email is not the proper way to make a date with me. I want to hear people's voices! I want them to make the effort! Because isn't that really what it's about – making an effort to show people in our “real lives” that we love them as much as we love our bff's on Twitter?

  • This is a great topic and I agree with the post below: balance is crucial. I'm active in social media networks but I'm constantly annoyed when I'm out to dinner with friends who are obsessively on their phones tweeting, IMing, BBMing, or checking emails. Step away for an hour!

  • keegan_shoutz

    I find it difficult to be a college student and keep up with the constant updates and happenings on sites like Twitter. I started using it a lot this year to keep in touch with PR experts, potential employers and opportunities for my PRSSA members.

    It's a great resource to find new information about the PR world, especially when you come from a smaller city. The down side however, is just as you stated; it takes a commitment.

    Many of my professors don't utilize the social media market so it's hard to complete the tasks they require as well as keep my connections and followers.

    It is probably a blessing that my smartphone won't allow me to sign into Twitter otherwise I too would be a victim of tweeting on the go.

    Tools like tweetdeck however, do make it a little easier to keep with what is going down while simultaneously completing projects.

    In a broader scope, yes, I do get little backlash from my non-twitter using peers but in the long run I have made many connections and opened many doors with this great networking tool.

    I guess self-discipline and time-management are skills to master in this new age of the social media spectrum.

  • You are so right, Meg! It's not only Twitter for me. It's BBM, g-chat, texts, e-mails, FB messages. When my eyes are glued to my phone, it's 15 different things at once! Oy. It's exhausting. Love your rules 😉

    Thanks for the comment!

  • keithtrivitt

    Kate – This is one of the eternal toughies within the PR and marketing world: How do we balance all of the seemingly cool things we get to work with every day with the fact that yes, we do – and are – supposed to have real lives outside of all of that.

    What I really try to do is not pressure myself to always be on Twitter, or Facebook or reading/commenting on blogs. I do it when I can. So that usually means when I first get to work and until I get busy there, then sporadically throughout the day. And I don't feel pressured or guilty if I'm not on more during the day, or if I miss a day or two.

    Hell, I usually force myself to take the entire weekend off from Twitter and Facebook, YouTube, etc. That's my down time. That's the time I want to spend with my fiance and friends, and for me, that often means offline, being active and outside, and enjoying life.

  • There've been a few nights that my husband and I are laying in bed and I look over and see him on his phone checking Twitter and then realize that I am doing the same thing. I laugh, but then stop to think, wait a minute, is this normal? I think the answer is yes. I'm sure we aren't the only ones. I think the most difficult part is explaining why you are on your phone as soon as you arrive at a restaurant (I have to check in on Foursquare) or why it's so important to RT that funny tweet to the people that aren't engaged on that space. As long as you can explain that it isn't meant as disrespectful, it is an actual part of your life (for most of us on here, it is part of work) and that you give face-to-face time to your friends and family and that you engage in person with your audience at some point (if possible), then you can find a balance.

  • LindsTR


    Excellent topic. The main person who comments on my Twitter use is my fiance. I use Twitter more than any other social network and find myself clicking the UberTwitter icon on my BlackBerry while we're out to eat. I've tried to curb that addiction by leaving my phone in my purse while we're out to eat.

    On another note, there are some people who seem to be on Twitter literally from the time they get up until they are in bed that night. I often wonder how in the world they get anything else accomplished during the day. Even if social media is part of your job, I doubt staying on Twitter all day is what you're supposed to be doing!

    Also, social media users do need to find a balance and still connect with people offline, IMO.


  • And this is why we're friends. 🙂

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  • Thus far, my social media experience has done nothing but improve my real social life. I've had the pleasure of meeting tons of new people through SM that I had no idea were so close (geographically) to me.

    I admit that I've got “online friends” and “offline friends”, but my key to social media has always been to connect back to real life. I doubt it will happen, but I would like to meet everybody I've connected with online over the past couple years. It doesn't have to take time away from my “real life” because it fits in so seamlessly.

    The biggest step, for me, was realizing that I don't need to see every item in my news feed on Facebook or every tweet in my stream. I see what I see and I miss what I miss – life (real and online) goes on.

  • Great piece Kate. And you're right, people have not stopped talking about that Vanity Fair article; it's awesome.

    What a fabulous batch of comments you have below. I really like what Keith said about not feeling guilty; that's important. Because 1) you did nothing wrong and 2) guilt isn't productive. I love sharing this little trick, when I feel stressed or spread too thin, I start tagging #Balance2010 on my tweets. It's a great reminder to myself and others. And when I see that on my tweets, it helps me put things into perspective.

    I also agree with Linds that it can seem like some users are on Twitter from the minute they get up to the minute they hit the hay. I've learned to be inspired and challenged by these users; many of them have monetized their time and effort on social media. Some enjoy themselves heartily and when it's time for their teleseminar, webinar, or whatever they're hosting, their tweeps are automatically in. And they make sales from then on. It's part of a strategy. Or, they have a team under them and that is how work is getting done although it appears they're on Twitter 24 hours a day.

    Sometimes, seeing what's behind the scenes for others can help you breathe a sigh of relief. We've all been given 24 hours a day, and 365 days a year. What will you do with yours?

  • When I read your comment, Scott, I said “Yyessss!” Ha! There are so many wonderful friends I have in my life that I know (fact) I would have never met them had it not been for Twitter. Heck, the family that is PRBC wouldn't exist most likely. Thanks so much for your comment!

  • crockstar

    I definitely think this is a good question to be asking! Especially in light of some recent concerns that I've been reading about internet marketing (and internet marketers) and how cut-throat people can be. I was just thinking yesterday on my commute home how nice it was to see people in as much of a rush to get home as they are to get to work in the morning.

    Now, my hope is that these people wanted to get back to real life relationships and were excited to see friends and family (not just miserable at work), but I think it raises an interesting concern. Building relationships online seems almost more difficult than in real life (certainly more time consuming).

    It doesn't seem to matter how fast a typist you are, online relationships do not allow us (internet marketers who are concerned about reputation at least) to speak as freely or as quickly as we might in person. Additionally, it can take so long to earn a “friend” or “follower” in the online world, but losing one seems to be quite easy.

    I am certainly not a king of social media (I do not have an outrageous number of followers on Twitter and do not submit regularly to Digg or Reddit), so I cannot say. I personally think it is most important to keep being yourself and doing what you do, and not to let social media run your life.

    I can definitely see how someone who fully depends on a group of people they may never have met in person would feel as though they constantly had to be working on that relationship. In the process it is pretty easy to see how real life relationships could suffer.

    My first level response? It is probably quite reasonable to become an expert/success in one area of social media and maintain a “real life.” However, I have my doubts that people could have a massive following across many mediums of social media (unless of course they are a celebrity) without their personal relationships suffering.

  • TimOtis

    Thanks for this bit of wisdom and reality. You're dead on when you say the more you tweet, the more followers you get. It's just that simple.

    But yes, that means spending all day on Twitter. And let's make one thing clear for those who think Twitter doesn't travel: you can be on your phone tweeting so that doesn't mean you're glued to the computer screen, rather a much smaller screen.

    Like alcohol, use social media in moderation. Those that find social media as a way to feel worth or fulfilled during the day is what some would call disturbing– and moreover, an addiction.

    I have rules when I leave the office:
    – Enjoy the company of my fiancee
    – If there's a valuable chat session on Twitter, jump in for 1/2 hour to an hour
    – Check facebook for 1-2 hours, which includes sharing some content that my friends would love to know about
    -Finally, silence the mobile fun at night so I don't hear sounding notifications of twitter, facebook, gmail, work mail, etc.

  • This is a great post, and the comments are excellent. Thanks.

    Yes, there needs to be a balance. Part of the difficulty is when you feel pulled in different directions at the same time.

    The key is to set boundaries (as someone rightly pointed out) and stick with them as best you can. If situations come up where you overstep those boundaries, don't beat yourself up over it (again, as someone rightly pointed out) because it happens.

    I think it's great to go “unplugged” at least one day a week. Connecting with the IRL important people who are with you (spouses, kids, significant others, close friends, etc.) is too important to neglect.