In every session I conduct about social media, I am asked the question: How do you find the time (to be online, chat, tweet, update statuses, use geo-location, etc.)?
When most Americans watch TV
While most settle in at night to watch network news, reality shows, and weekly series, I get online. Sometimes this online activity is serious study—learning, listening, investigating, engaging in online discussions or contributing to wiki or other collaborating works. At other times, I am more relaxed. I browse the news of the day that I may have missed or read something that hits my personal interests. In most cases, the TV is on while the family watches, and my daughter is in the same room online too.
For me, watching network news and television shows flow too slowly. Commercials every few minutes are very distracting. I want information and news without forced interruption. On a side note, I also find that most of the time, the inflection of news broadcasters and background mislead the importance of a point or lean one to feel an emotion that is not based on fact.
I would rather spend my time consuming information at my own pace and be able to select what I consume. I would rather fill this time, making a contribution, finding out how friends and family are doing, and having interactive fun—not waiting for TV media to pour to me.
According to Clay Shirky in Cognitive Surplus (see this post for video and transcript), Americans watch 200 billion hours of television every year. Trillions of hours of TV are viewed worldwide each year. What if 1% (or 5%) of this time is spent contributing online content, public bookmarking what you are reading, and another 1% (or 5%) of this time is spent connecting or socializing with others? What if the time spent watching advertisements was used in producing or contributing to online projects? Some groups of teenagers are adapting in this way. These teenagers are spending less time watching TV than their parents. These teenagers are creating storylines, music, or artistic works, learning to work others, building leaderships skills, and having fun.
When I have dead time
When waiting in line at Walmart, or in the car (parked) waiting on the kids, I quickly check Tweetdeck to find out what is being said on Twitter from those I follow and in the categories I have set for searches. If possible and if my response would be meaningful, I will work in this dead time a response. I may also browse Google Buzz comments.
Of course, during these dead times, I also check email and read my favorite friends in Facebook that have been fed to my Facebook application.
During the day, I periodically check the continuous stream from Tweetdeck
Though some find a continuous pop-up Twitter stream distracting, I have learned that I can ignore the tweets during my busy times and choose to read a few when I feel like it. At my desk, I glance at the automatic feeds or wait until I have more time, I scan my Tweetdeck columns.
I seldom go to the Twitter.com page.
When certain groups have Twitter chats (they make use of hashtags), I may keep up peripherally if I don’t have time or I may wait until later and check the stream.
I don’t read everything every day
I follow roughly 2,000 people. I also track different terms using the search feature in Tweetdeck. For instance, I have searched columns for “military families”, “#milfam”, “ag”, “#agchat”, and “#coopext”. I periodically add search columns for topics that are more relevant for a short period. Additionally, I have columns for retweets and direct messages. Because I can’t see every tweet, I prioritize the accounts I follow. On days that I don’t have much time, I look at the columns that I feel are the most important.
So you may ask “When am I not online?”
I can be online in some form about anytime I want to be. It is also up to me to decide when I get offline as it is up to families to decide when the TV is on or off. There are times that simply having face to face conversations mean being attentive with the most important people in my life and work. Also, it is up to me to find time to move, exercise, jog, walk, read, write, pray, and think alone. However, these times do not always come in the after 5 and on weekends. I choose when I am offline and online—making sure I get my job done well and serve my family well.
Balancing my time is not easy, never has been. And, I am certainly not always successful, but it is my responsibility to find the balance. There is no reason to sit in the recliner every night and be purely a consumer of information and entertainment.
Sometimes, when I am online, it is for entertainment or purely social reasons, playing scrabble online, chatting with friends in Facebook or watching or reading something that is for my enjoyment and has nothing to do with work.
Understanding filters and priorities
Filtering and prioritizing are ways of managing the flow of tweets, Facebook statuses and comments, Google Buzz, and Google Wave. Though I have talked about Twitter, it is only one of many tools.
Twitter gives me the greatest diversity of information. Most of the time tweets only hit the surface, but will lead me to find greater depth on a topic, current issue or debate.
Prioritizing which conversations warrant my attention helps me stay focused on busy days.
Importance of mobile devices and computing
I certainly could not keep up without a good smartphone and understand how to integrate different social media tools and applications.
Why do I do it?
As an educator, part of my responsibilities are to keep up with new information and research and to continuously learn. Also my responsibilities include developing relationships that in turn create trust and credibility. Being part of communities that create content and develop ideas is another way of being an effective educator. I can’t be effective if I don’t participate online. Thus, finding ways to consume information, process it, and collaborate with others is a must.