Thursday, March 10, 2011

Social Media and Work/Life Balance, Redux

I had to have minor surgery last Friday and, subsequently, am trying my best to be "off the grid" this week while I recover. I'm off work for the week and have been sufficiently out of it that I actually have been (mostly) off the computer, including (again, mostly) Facebook and Twitter. And I have to admit--it has been nice. Actually, better than nice. It's honestly making me wonder whether a career involving social media is a good idea for someone who wants a balanced life.

I've blogged before about why I think community management/social media jobs make work/life balance incredibly hard. (I've also blogged before about how there's a huge blur between the terms "social media" and "community management" and pointed to Rachel Happe's post on why they're not the same thing, yet I still struggle with how to refer to either when writing about this stuff.) On the surface, it seems these careers would be well-suited to someone who wants work/life balance, right--I mean, ostensibly, at least, you can do these job from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection, right? And it is true--you can do a lot of the job from home or basically anywhere your iPhone can get a signal.

But there's so much more to just the job part of a social media or community management job...there's the constant flow of staying up-to-date with the latest that's going on in social media world. Facebook's changes. Conferences. Twitter chats. Blog posts--writing and reading them. Keeping up with Twitter--since I don't like Google Reader I rely largely on links to blog posts that people tweet--admittedly not a great strategy, but then again, neither is having to keep up with dozens of blog feeds. And that's just my own personal/professional development end of things--that doesn't even count the same amount of effort on each of those things for my actual job--the blog I manage, Facebook page, Twitter, communities I manage, etc. I'm a good multi-tasker, thank god, but there are only so many hours in a day...and stopping basically all of these activities and just being still has made me realize how tiring and time-consuming it is to keep up with the constant flow of information necessary to sustain a career related to social media.

Let's face it--having a job that requires you to spend hours and hours and hours on a computer means those hours can't be spent doing stuff like, say, NOT staring at a computer. Reading books. Exercising. Spending time with family and friends--and actually being present, not there in person but constantly checking Twitter or email. It's already been reported that Facebook is increasingly a cause of divorce--but what about social media use/addiction in general as a cause of divorce? Or, if not divorce (yet), certainly family strife--e.g. upsetting the balance that being an active part of a family requires? We've all seen movies and read books in which one of the major plot points was the father or, more rarely, mother who was such a workaholic that it caused the kids to grow up scarred or ruined the marriage or some other terrible fate. So what about new "flexible" careers like blogging or community management--careers that allow you to maybe work from home, but that also require an extreme number of hours of para-work (I think I just invented that word, btw)--e.g. the stuff that's not a direct part of the job but actually is, such as networking, traveling, reading, and all the rest of it.

Am I just crazy from the after-effects of general anesthesia, or do you think that it is actually harder to maintain work/life balance in new social media-related jobs than traditional jobs?

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