Too Much Social Media?

The following article appeared in Forbes Magazine in June of this year: “Americans Spent On Average More Than 1,300 Hours On Social Media Last Year.” In the article it said:

Last year, driven in no small part by the pandemic, Americans spent more than an average 1,300 hours on social media according to a new study from Uswitch. Facebook led the way, where Americans spent an average 58 minutes a day on the app – or 325 hours a year.

I wrote a blog post on this topic in November 2009 when studies showed users spent 72 hours a year on Facebook. Think about that for a second. In a little over a decade the hours spent on this particular platform has quadrupled!

I don’t want to join the predictable throng saying how dangerous this is. I suspect most of you have common sense and understand that already. Facebook and other social media are a wonder of technology and allow for unique ways to connect. We have also written here about the importance of platform and specifically showing engagement with your readers is of particular importance in getting the word out about your ideas and your book.

However, not all writers are full-time. Some must juggle day jobs or home-life responsibilities around their writing. So let’s say the average writer is cramming 20 hours a week of actual writing into their craft.

Thus if you are a writer AND you “Facebook,” this would mean the average writer is spending nearly a month’s worth of work time on Facebook or other social media.

In 325 hours, a nose-to-grindstone writer could produce 50,000 words on their next work-in-progress (that is about 1/2 page per hour). A motivated person could memorize the Constitution and the Epistle to the Galatians. An avid reader could consume at least a dozen of their favorite books.

Don’t get me wrong. I know there are tremendous benefits for the author in connecting with readers via social networking. And I’m not criticizing Facebook or Facebook users. My concern is with the amount of time authors spend on something other than making their next book a masterpiece.

Social media or social networking is something being “added” to our lives. And if something is added, something is usually subtracted. My question is, “What has been subtracted?”

An entire generation is growing up with social media as something embedded in the fabric of their lives. Not an addition. The irony is that in their case, subtracting now means subtracting social media! Not adding it.

It is also true that some of us have “addictive” personalities, and the snare of social networking can become an addiction if one isn’t careful.

It is also true that if we didn’t have social media, it may be that we wouldn’t spend the extra time writing. We’d find some other distraction to avoid having to write! (Like sorting your bookshelves by color.)

Next time you enter the social networking world, time yourself. Then ask if it was beneficial to you personally, professionally, spiritually, emotionally, or otherwise. As with all things, use common sense, discipline, and moderation. I’ve heard there are software programs (article about a few linked here) that can help by literally turning off your access after a certain period of time.

It will also keep your agent or your editor from posting a comment on your feed like “What are you doing here? You are on a deadline!”

27 Responses to Too Much Social Media?

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 25, 2021 at 3:38 am #

    Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,
    TikTok, yes, and Pinterest,
    videos of Burning Man,
    status keeps the world impressed,
    recipes to beat the band
    for the game day afternoon,
    celebrities that you can’t stand,
    and we still will give them room
    in our precious run of days
    that are God’s gift, not ours by right,
    and instead of thanks and praise
    we harken to the pale screen-light,
    always going back, enticed
    by glitter leading far from Christ.

  2. Sandy Cooper October 25, 2021 at 5:58 am #

    After taking a one-year social media hiatus in 2019-2020, I decided to get off social media entirely. I still have my accounts, but I am no longer active there. I’ve decided to use my precious few working hours for creating podcast episodes, blog posts, emails, and books. I don’t know if that is enough to continue to grow and engage my audience, but I’m willing to be the crazy person to risk it and see. Maybe it’s the dumbest decision ever for my career…but the time and peace I’ve reclaimed in my day is worth it.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 25, 2021 at 9:49 am #

      Steve, a question… are blogs considered ‘social media’?

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 25, 2021 at 9:50 am #

        And I put this in the wrong place. Fast fingers, slow brain.

      • Steve Laube October 26, 2021 at 8:52 am #

        Yes. Blogs are considered a form of social media.
        That is why it’s a bad idea to abandon one because it looks like you no longer care to engage. If you ever start one and can’t post more than a couple of times a year, take the date off the posts. That way they never look old. But remove the dates in the comments too, if you can.

    • Sara October 25, 2021 at 3:48 pm #

      This sounds wise to me, but I don’t know what the response would be from someone who is experienced in publishing.

      Steve, what say you…?

  3. Kimberley Woodhouse October 25, 2021 at 6:28 am #

    Love this, Steve. Such a good reminder for all of us. As a full-time author I find it’s a difficult balance of wanting to engage with readers but not spending too much time because I have constant deadlines. The larger our platform, the more people are there to engage, interact with, respond to. As social media has grown, I have had to constantly re-learn my own balance.

  4. Pam Halter October 25, 2021 at 7:14 am #

    I totally agree, Steve. And yet, the majority of publishing houses and agencies want us to have at least 10,000 followers (and some want 50,000) on social media. At least, that’s what I heard at the Philly conference this past June. I was told by one agent that I should NOT approach another agent or publishing house without that many followers on social media because I would be wasting their time.

    Yikes!

    But I remember when you told us at Realm Makers that email newsletters are the best way to market and sell books, so I’m finally working on that!

    • Steve Laube October 26, 2021 at 8:54 am #

      Here is the principle.
      Three things increase your chance of a traditional contract.
      Great idea
      Great writing
      Great platform

      If ou are missing one of those you’ve given the agent or editor a reason to say no thanks.

  5. Rosemary Althoff October 25, 2021 at 7:23 am #

    I’m a 20-hr per week author. I realize that platforming my books on social media is very useful. I often despair because I think that I don’t have time to publicize my SOUL’S WARFARE Series. Thank you for reminding me that I can schedule – and limit – my time on social media.

  6. Rosemary Althoff October 25, 2021 at 7:28 am #

    I forgot to include my website on my previous comment!

  7. Thomas Umstattd Jr. October 25, 2021 at 7:42 am #

    PREACH!

  8. susan Sage October 25, 2021 at 8:43 am #

    This is powerful and eye-opening…and possibly a “bit” convicting. I have a feeling I will be more aware today and hopefully in the days to come as to how much time I’m wasting on social media. Sure, we all know it’s not all a waste of time as we engage, but I know I certainly spend too much time diddling through the newsfeed. Time for some changes.

  9. Kay DiBianca October 25, 2021 at 8:52 am #

    I don’t particularly like social media. The false reality of it makes me uncomfortable. But I view it as a necessary part of what I have to do as an author, so I use it to promote my books and keep in touch with others.

  10. Anne October 25, 2021 at 9:56 am #

    Hey Steve! Thanks for the emails! I would love to be on social media less (in fact, wasn’t on at all until 2018 with my first self-publication). I would love to hear your thoughts on social media following/numbers and the likelihood of getting signed for a book. Some feedback “we” (hopeful authors 🙂 get is that we better be out there getting followers because we have to have them to get contracts. Thanks for all you teach us!

    • Sydney F. Grey October 25, 2021 at 10:33 am #

      Anne, this is my question exactly! I am constantly being told that I have to have a huge platform in order to attract agents and publishers. I hate spending lot’s of time on social media trying to increase my following when I really need to be writing instead. Very frustrating.

      Steve, I’d love to hear your take on this in more depth. Thanks!!

      • Steve Laube October 26, 2021 at 8:58 am #

        Sydney,
        See the above comment on the three things to improve your chances of a traditional contract.

        Yes, it can be frustrating. But that why this is called “work” and not “play-time.” Ultimately this is the book “business” and thus it takes work. Often incremental steps that are barely discernable.

        When I started this blog almost 12 years ago I had no idea how many thousands of words would ultimately be posted here.

        Social media is not an end-all magic elixir that will suddenly make one a published author. It is one facet of engaging a reading audience and creating one’s own community.

  11. Kristen Joy Wilks October 25, 2021 at 11:26 am #

    Ha ha! If the agent or editor is commenting on the writer’s feed … wouldn’t they ask the same question? But seriously, yes, social media can become a time sucking monster and we need to be mindful.

  12. Karen Porter October 25, 2021 at 1:30 pm #

    Thanks for this powerful challenge:

    “Next time you enter the social networking world, time yourself. Then ask if it was beneficial to you personally, professionally, spiritually, emotionally, or otherwise.”

    I evaluate my calendar each month to determine how I’m doing spiritually, professionally and personally. So now I will add this to my routine. Clearly some scrolling on social media is not beneficial and now I’ll do my best to eliminate the bad and be efficient in the good. Thanks for this Steve.

  13. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D October 25, 2021 at 2:25 pm #

    Steve, thanks so much for your comments herein. I was spending a lot of time on social media, trying to build a following but found it robbed me of what little time I have to write.

  14. Tiffany Price October 25, 2021 at 2:26 pm #

    Great topic! Social Media is such a paradoxical realm. While our time on our platforms may be used to promote our writing (and it should), it also keeps us from our writing. I’m guilty of “researching” new ways to promote my novels, when actually, I can get caught up in the fun and online socializing aspect…thus negating my primary purpose for being on the platforms in the first place! Thanks for sharing this with us, Steve. Those stats are astounding!

  15. Carol Ashby October 26, 2021 at 12:29 pm #

    So…how can an unpublished author create a platform that actually draws people to follow them to meet the requirement of publishers and even agents without social media?

    I’ve rolled my eyes at the numbers that are quoted as “required followers” since I first heard them in 2015 when I started following your blog. I built a platform that didn’t require anyone to be interested in me or my non-existent-at-the-time books, but I know mine is a one-off case that most fiction authors couldn’t replicate.

    (Your blog, by the way, has played a vital role in my success as an indie publisher. Thank you SO much for all the time your family of agents put into this. It’s especially nice that you respond to comments, making every commenter feel valued, even deliberate indies like me. I just saw this blog today (1 day late) so I know I might not get a response.)

  16. Steve Laube October 26, 2021 at 2:49 pm #

    I recommend you all read the following article for tips on how to use social media in an effective manner as an author:

    https://digitalpubbing.com/guest-post-7-simple-social-media-tips-for-successful-authors/

  17. TM Systems November 8, 2021 at 6:35 am #

    Thanks for sharing.

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