Don’t believe the hype: You still have to connect with people in a personal way.

I was attending a work event where someone mentioned they were moving to a new office location. “That’s great!” I replied, “are you planning on moving closer to work?” Her response, in a very serious tone, was fairly short: “I posted all of the details on Facebook. Didn’t you read my post?

Well, here’s news to her (and to everyone else): I’m not on Facebook. Or Instagram. Or on dozens of other social networking sites that have been nice to have but did not add much to my work or personal life. It’s not that I am against using social media, but I spend so much of my time in front of a computer that I need time interacting with people in ways other than technology-moderated communication.

So, no, I did not read her post. My choices to not use Facebook were predicated by the amount of advertising, the amount of non-productive time I spent “staying connected,” and my personal lack of interest in other people’s lives. I may like you and we can be great friends, but I don’t want to know what you ate for dinner (#omgthisisdelicious).

But social media is so easy to access!

There’s a reason that candy is located in the checkout line. There’s a reason social media comes pre-installed on your new phone and computer. While an errant candy bar might slip into my shopping cart, I regularly remove social media software from my technology. Yes, social media is easy to access, but spending time on social media saps the time that I have to connect meaningfully with friends and colleagues.

As a distance leader, your posts can become your personality if you are not careful.

I’ve written in previous posts about the importance of being visible as a distance leader, and my experience is that distance leaders’ careers can quickly suffer without careful attention to connections. Calling people directly to solve problems collaboratively, using video chats to mentor employees, and reaching out to kindle a work friendship will be the keys to maintaining your presence when you are a distance leader. Real, genuine, and personal connections are more difficult to maintain over social media. To be trustworthy, recognized as a leader, and maintain a career trajectory, you have to connect with people in a personal way.

But I like social media! It’s a great diversion!

My dear distance leader, let me make it clear: I doubt your social media posts can demonstrate the things you bring to the organization. 

Does your “cloud of friends” on social media complete your job review? Pay your paycheck? Decide if you are going to receive a promotion?

No?

Perhaps a little balance is needed between your career-building activities and your social media use.

The Process

I’ll say it again: There is nothing wrong with social media, and it is a great tool for broadcasting to large numbers of people. Even better, social media maintains “distant” connections extremely well. There’s even research reflecting the importance of these distant connections, and I agree that these connections are important to consider. As a leader, though, recognize social media for what it is, and balance your social media time with the time you spend actually demonstrating your value within your organization. What can you do to balance your time using social media?

Step 1: Track your workday

The first thing you should do is take a cold, hard look at the time you are spending on social media (Newport, 2016). Find an app that does this for you with keywords like “mindful living” or “monitor social media use”. Also, track the amount of time you are connecting directly with people (phone, videoconference, in-person meetings) that will help build relationships or your career. You decide on the interval of time you do the tracking, but the key here is to be honest with yourself.

Also, what you do on your personal time should be just that: personal. The real question is whether or not social media is bleeding into your work time.

Step 2: Assess

With data in hand, ask some key questions:

  • Am I using social media during work hours?
  • Am I using social media to avoid doing meaningful work? (Hey, everyone wants a distraction sometimes!)
  • Am I spending enough time supporting my career?
  • Am I making personal connections with those people who evaluate me?

Those four questions should help you think about your priorities using social media.

Step 3: Prioritize

If you scan the latest Twitter headlines while you brush your teeth or when you first get up in the morning, that may be a habit you decide is worthwhile. However, if you check your social media and participate in conversations for more than 30 minutes during your workday, then perhaps you need to rethink the power that social media has over your workday (Monacis et al., 2017). If you spent those 30 minutes updating your resume, calling a colleague, or meeting a customer in person, would that help foster your career?

Step 4: Reflect

The stresses of working at home can make social media feel like a welcome relief. However, if you find that your “social media world” is taking precedence over your “work world,” then you can almost guarantee that your career is suffering because of misplaced attention. Social media has a place in many people’s lives, but unless that is, in fact, your job, then using social media is probably not going to give you that promotion or the advocacy you need for your next raise.

If you really find that you need to scale back on your social media time, you may need to create a plan or find support to help refocus your workday. I’m not a medical professional, but there are people addicted to social media. Please seek the support you need if you feel that you are unable to control your social media time.

    The Results and

    Social Media as a Distance Leader

    Being more focused and present with colleagues and clients has career rewards with lasting impact. As a distance leader, your presence is determined by where and how you “show up” in your organization. Be honest with yourself about how you are using social media at work, and then develop a strategy for building your career.

    Have you ever found yourself spending too much time on social media?

    What have you done to prevent “distractors” in your workday?

    Comment with your answers below!

    Links

    Are you interested in learning more about developing more intense work habits? Check out Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. Rule #3 is all about quitting social media. The following affiliate link will allow you to get a copy from Amazon.com. Please note that I do receive a small commission at no cost to you.

    References

    Monacis, L., de Palo, V., Griffiths, M., & Sinatra, M. (2017). Social networking addiction, attachment style, and validation of the Italian version of the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale. Journal of Behavioral Addictions 6(2), 178-186. doi: 10.1556/2006.6.2017.023

    Newport, C. (2016). Deep work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing.

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