Back when I first started out as a school librarian, it was mostly a job. I enjoyed it, it was helping me pay off my student loans, and it was fun. But it was something that I did within my own space. Sure, I would share ideas with other librarians in my district and I would go to my state conference, but that was it. I read a few blogs of other librarians and I had a few false-starts of a school blog, but mostly I didn’t feel like there was much for me to be sharing.
Notifications, Social Media, and How Connected Do We REALLY Need to Be
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Late 2013 changed things for me. My friend recommended the book, The Connected Educator and I began to see the power in using social media and other platforms to share and collaborate. I went to a workshop that Susan Ballard offered at FAME that helped me to see that this was a career to take seriously, that it was okay to promote yourself because we need to share what we do. During this period, I opened a Twitter account, created a LinkedIn (and later an online portfolio) and started the first version of Renovated Learning.
Also around this time, one of my friends from my district told me that there was this conference called ISTE happening in Atlanta that year and convinced me to go. While I couldn’t fathom spending the money to fly to a conference, driving for eight hours didn’t seem so bad. In January 2014, I put those bins of K’nex out on the library tables and the rest is history.
The Power of Social Media
When I was first getting started, I thrived on Twitter chats. I joined multiple chats every week to share ideas and encouragement and get inspiration. I met colleagues that have become good friends. Some of them I’ve never actually met in person. Colleen and I actually didn’t meet in person until we had already started working on the book together. I didn’t meet Aaron until it was almost done. I loved writing up blog posts on what I was doing in my library and getting feedback from others.
The Dark Side of Notifications
But at some point, I started to feel exhausted. Constant notifications – so-and-so retweeted your tweet! Someone liked your Instagram post! Look, there’s a direct message asking you how you built your LEGO wall! Each one seemingly urgent and fragmenting my attention. At some point, I read an article suggesting to turn off all your notifications for a week and then see which ones you miss and add them back. At first, I felt anxious. Like my phone was naked. I kept clicking into Twitter to see if I missed something important. I kept feeling phantom vibrations thinking that my phone was trying to get my attention. But did I miss anything important? Not really. I did eventually add back notifications for Instagram comments, but only because they tend to get buried in the app, they aren’t super-frequent and I generally enjoy reading them.
Do I miss notifications now? Not at all! I’ve actually deleted all the social media apps from my phone (except Instagram, because it’s my favorite and hard to use in a browser). I re-add Twitter when I go to conferences, but then I delete it. If I want to check my notifications, I have to go to a physical computer, login and look at them. This means that I don’t participate as much in social media as I used to. But I also feel like I’ve gotten back my focus. My attention doesn’t feel so fragmented that sitting down and writing and article like this takes massive amounts of work. My evenings are calmer and more relaxed. I actually look at and talk to my husband instead of stare at my phone or computer. And when I do participate in social media, I’m able to be more fully present.
How Connected Do We REALLY Need to Be?
So, am I quitting social media? No, not at this moment (except maybe Facebook, but that account is private and personal anyhow). I still find value in sharing and connecting on Twitter. Posting pictures to Instagram makes me happy (and let’s not lie, cat Instagram accounts make the world a better place). I want to provide ways for my readers to get in touch with me. But I’ve also learned to carefully guard my time and attention. I want to be connected, but not CONSTANTLY connected. And there’s a huge difference.
And if you want some recommended reading related to this subject that’s shaped my thinking, check out these books:
- Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self by Manoush Zomorodi (my review here)
- Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (my review here)
How do you use social media professionally? Do you find that it helps or hinders you?