Into the Social Media Abyss?

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People keep talking about what a huge time sink social media can become…

But, I’ve noticed something else happening with increasing frequency. It seems like more and more bloggers and social media regulars are actually living their lives through social media, rather than living extraordinary lives outside of social media and blogging, then tapping it as a means to share their experiences with a like-minded community online.

And, I have to confess, since selling my last company and coming down off my book launch, I’m feeling a bit like I’m one of them.

If you write about social media or tech, I get that. But, more and more, I’m seeing people fall prey reiterating, rehashing or spinning what other people have written about their “area of interest,” instead of seeking out experiences in that area and sharing what they’ve learned.

So, for example, if you write about small business or marketing, are you sharing what you’re discovering through your own adventures in business and marketing? Or, are you sharing what you think about what other people are reporting about business and marketing.

Because, when it comes down to it, if it’s well-written and story-driven, I’ll read the former forever, but the latter leaves me flat in fairly short order.

Truth is, I began to think about this while hanging out with my friend Chris Guillebeau this week, who writes the Art of Nonconformity blog. Chris is 4 years into a 5 years odyssey to visit every country in the world, then share the often fascinating, practical and insightful details of his travels.

His blog has taken off in the last few months in part because he’s a very real, decent guy who’s unusually transparent and can really write. But, even more because he’s living an extraordinary life, one that so many others dream of living, even on a micro-level. And Chris’ willingness to share that life through the vehicle of social media allows others to not only come along for the journey, but potentially learn enough and become emboldened enough to mount their own nonconformist travel odysseys.

Talking to Chris reminded me how important it is to develop a life away from the screen, something I’ve grown increasingly attached to over the last 6 months. And, I’m wondering whether it’s time for me, as I move into a fairly major transitional moment in my career and life, to step back and do a bit of creative digital destruction.

To get back to what makes me come alive. Then, turn to blogging and social media not as a way to live any substantial part of my life, but to share my adventures, experiences and discoveries away from the screen and have the tremendous gift of learning from you guys, my amazing family and community of lifestyle pioneers and explorers.

As always, just thinking out loud.

What do you think?

Let’s discuss…

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30 responses

30 responses to “Into the Social Media Abyss?”

  1. Sandy says:

    I enjoy when people really share their own journey and discoveries. Those are the blogs, articles, etc I come back to again and again. I want to let other people know about these great stories, while also sharing all that I am learning.

    We do not live and learn in a vacuum. Personal stories are what makes life interesting. But, living an interesting life is even better.


  2. Lisis says:

    I agree 100%. I’ve been posting about this recently, and reading about other bloggers who are wanting to scale back their virtual lives in order to enjoy more of their offline lives.

    I’m thinking, there’s a trend here… and it’s one I’m ALL OVER. I don’t mind sharing my life online, but I don’t want the online world to be the only one I’m living in.

  3. F’n yeah Jonathon,

    You leave me wishing I’d said it for certainly thought it. Yes, more “thinking outload” is in order.

    I have been having this conversation or one closely related for some time. I rejected Facebook when it first came out, to my publishers and PR team frustration. Then got it… enjoy it and get it but have to be damn careful with it.

    Twitter… resisted and now am in but having a hate, hate, less hate, relationship with it. Seems a little desperate to me still. Some times it’s fun but I like to have a life and don’t like the idea of feeling like I need anyone else to like, reflect or approve of my life.

    But the point you share, is about LIFE… getting one. Funny, cause my update on Facebook today was in regards to so many people pondering if there is LIFE after death but so few actually LIVING, now…

    You’ve got me thinking… and wanting to get my life back on FULL… so how about I shut up and get the F out of here…? Yes… more when I figure out how to integrate life and social.

    In Strength,
    Shawn Phillips
    Author: Strength-for-LIFE,
    Creator Full Strength Life Performance Nutrition

  4. Daniel Edlen says:

    The thing about Chris, though is that he doesn’t really talk too much about his travels. It seems weird, but I don’t remember reading too many stories about the people he’s met and things he’s done in all those countries. Most tweets are about experiences at the airports and the actual travelling more than the destinations. Maybe I’m remembering wrong.

    He IS an awesome guy, totally accessible and extremely inspirational. I loved his original manifesto and the more recent guide for artists, which I am. He’s been very encouraging of my own blogging too. But Seth is more the reason I focus on stories about my art and my thoughts about what my art means for me and others.


  5. The screen should be ‘a gateway’ for communication and interaction, not ‘the gateway’ for living.

    Great points here, Jonathan. Angel and I came to this realization about a year ago. Since then, we’ve moved across the country to San Diego and now spend at least 50% more of our time outdoors, exploring, meeting people, and watching ‘real’ life unfold in front of us. 😉

  6. Tim Brownson says:

    I kinda agree, but what is an exceptional life and isn’t it down to interpretation? I think if people are on social media all day and hate their life and what they do, then that’s one thing.

    On the other hand if somebody is on it for the same length of time and loves it as well as their life, then that’s another.

    I hate travel. I love going on vacation and have been to over 40 different countries, but the actual travel part sucks, airports are horrible places these days. What Chris is doing is fabulously exciting even to me, but you couldn’t pay me enough money to do it in person.

    Maybe it’s the age old balance thing? As well as deciding what we think at an individual level, exceptional is.

    Personally, I think you wrote an exceptional book that sits nicely alongside what Chris is doing. And that isn’t brown-nosing, it’s just my opinion on exceptional.

  7. Brandon says:

    Absolutely agree. Social Media is turning into one big echo chamber that hardly anyone leaves. Stupidity is being repeated into “truthiness”. Smart ideas are rare and so hashed and re-hashed at Internet speed that they become obliterated in a million-person committee meeting in short order. There were accusations that the Iran election issue on Twitter was being used as a propaganda campaign; and how would we know? No one’s really checking or confirming out in the real world. Spend far more time away from social media than in it. You and Social Media will both be better for it.

    And remember: Life is about Living.

  8. I totally agree. It’s the main reason I decided to start a new Rolfing practice- I didn’t want to rehash old stuff- but to be able to blog about really, actually doing something in the present tense.

    That and the need to get away from the screen and fight the dreaded blogger-butt, which you have so aptly coined!


  9. Katie says:

    When my life isn’t interesting, my blog stops being interesting. I think it’s the same for 99% of blogs and bloggers.

  10. Tim says:


    Great post. You have articulated something that I have been thinking about for a while. Many of us bloggers spend time thinking of strategies to increase traffic and social media presence but forget to live. There have been times when I am so engrossed in generating ideas for my next blog post that I fail to pay attention to what is unfolding before me.

  11. I’m also learning via people like Chris that there’s a difference between living an exciting life and being able to promote it so that other people want a piece of it.

  12. I always felt the important part of social media was the experiences people shared, not the sharing part itself. Most of my social media time is during work hours. It’s actually part of my job to understand it for our clients (lucky me?). I spend maybe 2 hours each day on it during a 9ish hour work day.

    Is that a lot of time on it, or a little? I think there’s the important question each of us has to answer. My answer: as long as it doesn’t cut into time to do other key things, then keep doing it.

  13. Love this question – “So, for example, if you write about small business or marketing, are you sharing what you’re discovering through your own adventures in business and marketing? Or, are you sharing what you think about what other people are reporting about business and marketing.”

    That’s a good question to ask all the social media experts out there! 😉

  14. Hmmm…this is a tricky one. What really makes me come alive, what I love to do more than almost anything, is write. If I’m writing on my blog and spending a lot of time writing comments on others’ sites am I really taking away from the time I would be spending writing, say, in a journal that no one will ever read? I really think this whole concept of taking a step away from the screen really depends on what it is you like to do. If you love to travel or be outdoors you should definitely be doing that. But, for someone like me who likes to be inside, writing, I don’t know how much I would be “getting back to” if I slowed down on my blogging, etc…

  15. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Sandy – Totally agree on the power of stories, in fact, when I stop writing them, I know it’s time to step away and start creating my own a bit more

    @ Lisis – Hmmm, maybe the pendulum is swinging back a little bit these days, at least for those of us who’ve been in social media long enough for it to swing out

    @ Shawn – Funny you mentioned your convos with publicist over getting into social media for book promo. That was my original purpose in blogging, but it became so much more for me. The comments to this post are a perfect example of that. Just have to be careful to revisit why and when I’m engaging in it.

    @ Daniel – You’re right about Chris talking more about the process of travel, but that’s part of what makes it so appealing, because he shares the process that makes it accessible

    @ Marc – Man, you’re tempting with that San Diego move, lol!

    @ Tim – I actually pretty much agree and when I was talking to Chris this week I flat out told him what he’s doing, while it sounds like a dream to many, is closer to my nightmare scenario. I think if your passion is one that can be largely fueled and developed within social media, cool. Mine just tend to lie more outside of that realm in entrepreneurship, lifestyles and face to face conversation

    @ Brandon – no doubt, “echo chamber” repesents a lot of what’s been unfolding in SM and I’m guilty of being a part of that echo. Which is why I think it’s time to get back to my source then circle back around the SM

    @ Brooke – love the transition you’ve made!

    @ Funny, I notice the exact same thing about my blogs

    @ Tim – You get it, my friend

    @ Alex – And “how” you use SM plays a big role, too

    @ Jonathan – Yeah, I think we each have to find our own thesholds, though it’s nice to be able to call your time on SM “work.”

    @ Tamar – Yeah, I was drawing just a bit on my own stumblings as of late with that example, but you’re right, the bigger question applies to all the social media “experts” out there as well.

    @ positivelypresent – I hear you and I share your passion for writing, but I tend to come alive much more when I write about what I’ve discovered and experienced beyond writing and connecting online. Completely my own line in the sand, and we each have to find our own.

  16. Tracy says:

    You know, this is probably totally self serving, but when I read your post my mind immediately went to how I’ve been very annoyed lately with other blogs taking my photos and other people’s photos and making some sort of “top 10” style list out of them. (not exactly the same thing you were talking about, but that’s what popped in my head)

    But you know, they’ll be sorry, because *I’m* the one that had the actual experience and for that my blog is 10 times better.

    Then I remembered my photos are all of me opening some icky foodlike substance and about fell on the floor laughing at myself.

    In all seriousness, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the world of social media and blogging and forget that for most people, it’s just not that important. For me, it becomes a very insular experience and for my work and writing to have that spark, I need to be constantly out there, wandering around until something catches my attention. Online, it seems like things are shoved in my face and there isn’t the opportunity notice things with so much stuff demanding attention.

  17. Josh Turner says:

    Great post. Reminds me of the hundreds of posts I’ve read in the last couple months alone on Twitter. So many people hyping it, but are they really hyping it for the right reasons? I’d guess that the majority are just regurgitating and haven’t actually experienced a personal gain from the tool.

    Thanks for a great blog.

  18. Anelly says:

    Interesting point of view. I must admit i have just visited your friend’s blog and it’s pretty cool. I think the title captured my attention: A nonconformity blog 🙂

  19. Milo says:

    Brilliant point. I think it comes down to being aware of what your priorities are and where social media fits into that list of priorities.

    Often our real, subconscious priorities are very different from what we think they are or would like them to be. Are you quicker to post something on Twitter than you are to complete something important you’re working on, or do you post on Twitter before you tell your real-world friends about what you’re up to? That might give you a clue as to your ‘real’ priorities.

    I also think your post touches on internet addiction, being hooked on being online, especially with iPhones and other smartphones meaning you are always connected. I am definitely having to fight that tendency myself.

  20. This is not a new problem. Writers who lead interesting lives actually have something to write about. People who are out there meeting other people in “meat space” are forging the connections that create opportunity, which reinforces this virtuous cycle.

  21. You’ve touched on an interesting point, as usual. The issue or living your life or living vicariously has always been with us. With social media it’s just more apparent and more frequent.

    While reading about true-life adventures and experiences is richer, I’m also happy that I can experience some things vicariously since I’ll never get to do it all in this lifetime.

  22. Excellent advice… Unfortunately, I think too many web – entrepreneurs become attached to the computer, we need to get out, enjoy life and then use our talent to pay the bills in a fun way

  23. Wayne says:

    For me this issue really comes down to what everyone seems to be talking about, but so few are really comfortable doing or able to do. And that is being real and authentic and honest. Its damn easy to say and very hard to do. Very. Gary V. is. Seth is. Steve Pavlina is. Shoe is. Some others are, but the lesson I have learned was best said by Jack Canfield (yes the Chicken Soup guy… lol… read how he got that book published!!! Talk about a tough road!) He said,”Discover what you love doing and arrange your life around making a living doing it.” Simple, and important… but it took me a bunch o’ years to “get” that. I kept trying to be “practical.”
    just my “two cents”


  24. Wayne says:

    ooops… I wanted to get the follow up comments… lol..

  25. “But, more and more, I’m seeing people fall prey reiterating, rehashing or spinning what other people have written about their “area of interest,” instead of seeking out experiences in that area and sharing what they’ve learned.”

    Oh yeah… Sometimes it seems like every subject area is just recirculating the same “Ten Tips.”

  26. Maggie Mae says:

    You hit the nail right on the head. I know too many — and fall prey to it myself — who suffer from this screen-life syndrome versus living a real life. I blog about life with my children with Down syndrome and often find those very children pulling me away from my keyboard… rightfully so. As if to say, “Time to go LIVE the life MOM… then, come back and write about it [to benefit others] while we’re in bed!”

    Thanks for reminding me… and just in time to enjoy the great outdoors this summer. I’m going to go put myself on a restricted summer schedule!

  27. Social media as it’s called is yet another “latest and greatest” bandwagon onto which everyone jumps. I’ve made a living as a blogger and information marketer since 2005 and frankly I rarely use any of these social sites.

    I have a Twitter account for getting more eyeballs on my blogs and articles. And I use Squidoo occasionally to field new articles and generate linkage. A business can thrive without getting married to these Web 2.0 sites (gasp!) and as the blogger noted here…

    How sad is it that people are LIVING on these social sites now? I even hear the cashiers and baggers at the grocery store now talking about catching each other on Facebook because they check that more than they answer their phones.

    On one hand I like the way the technology is catching on. And I foresee a rapid and long overdue WIDE SCALE integration of TV, voice talk, and Web because of it; in other words soon portable devices that handle all media and communications will be common and not over-priced novelty cell phones.

    But seriously it’s just another form of media and hardly worth all the hoopla it’s been given. Especially irksome are the info marketers who make big money selling the “secrets” to getting rich with Twitter, Facebook, and etc.

  28. Sharon Moore says:

    I wrote on this very topic just a day before your post here, and followed up with an article I was reading about Soft Addictions. Your thoughts and mine are right in line. Take a read if you get an opportunity! Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  29. Thanks for this post and thanks for sharing the art of nonconformity link. It also seems an interesting blog.
    Rest I agree that the social media is kind of intoxicating. The more you try it, the more you want to try it..

  30. Anna says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful article. Yes, this happens to some and I find myself happy to be connecting people I’d long ago lost touch with and have an easy way to share what we are DOING in our lives. And yes, I post interesting articles (to me) on Facebook and wonder sometimes WHAT to post on Twitter… and I definitely post mostly about my actual experiences out in the world on my blog.