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Sometimes we just need a break from our online social networks

July 6, 2009

by Mark Ollig

It’s true; I speak from my own personal experience and the comments I read out there on those numerous online social networks.

Habitual communication via the online medium does take a toll, and I am here to say symptoms of online social networking overuse can lead to temporary online burnout.

Being one who socializes (a lot) on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, JustinTV, various blogs, and other online social networks – on a daily basis – I have come to understand a break is not just sometimes needed, it has become an accepted necessity of those of us who seem to live online.

I sometimes find myself caught up in the whirlwind of having to respond right away to every text message, e-mail, Twitter post, Facebook and MySpace message and query, plus those online friend requests, and even answering Skype calls. When I am in a “live chat” channel, I make sure I am responding and contributing in a timely manner. I mean, it takes a lot of concentration to make sure one is properly using the correct emoticons, chat terms, and saying interesting things like: hahaha, TMI, BRB, and LOL.

Anyone else out there using Twitter? After all, Twitter boasts it is the telegraph system of the web. Twitter simply wants you to tell the world what you are doing at this particular moment in your life.

Well, coming up with something new to say each day is somewhat challenging. With only 140 characters per tweet, one must be precise in saying what’s on your mind and type it in an articulate, succinct, and descriptive manner which captures the attention and fancy of your Twitter followers.

Twitter has a tendency to become overloaded during times of major news happenings, such as when Michael Jackson passed, everyone seemed to be sending messages over Twitter at the same time, and so sometimes Twitter could not be reached.

Being on Twitter isn’t just for us “Citizens of the ‘Net” or “Netizens” either.

Many savvy businesses have figured out that where we are they better be too. I not only have businesses following me on Twitter, but I also follow them. I follow CNNBRK (breaking news), MinnPost, CNETTV, NASAJPL, and others, so it works to my benefit, as well. In total, I follow 62 fellow Twitters and friends (including William Shatner and Dame Elizabeth aka Elizabeth Taylor).

I have found myself becoming obsessed in making sure I am keeping myself current with all my social networks, everyday.

There is a new phrase regularly occurring on social networks, which is one everyone can understand: “I needed to take a break.” This particular phrase is being used more often, and you know what? We, the online QWERTY keyboarders and dedicated typists of the text totally understand and will give an automatic pass to these online friends who have hit the online social networking wall.

Sometimes I might not hear from these recuperating online video casters, chatters, tweeters, bloggers, Facebook and MySpace friends for a week or longer. They will then suddenly re-appear with an enthusiastic “I’m Back!” and pick up where they left off with a renewed energy and new stories to tell.

One positive about online social networking I have noticed since becoming a member on Facebook is in re-discovering many of my former classmates and old “real-world” friends, many of whom I have not communicated with for years (and years).

These kinds of online discoveries charges me up and I find myself typing pages worth of Facebook messages catching up on what has been happening in their lives, and also chatting in real-time about the past and what is happening today.

Not only with friends, but chatting with my siblings and even my adult children online is trendy. For me, it’s somewhat easier to gather my thoughts and type them when I am in a chat session – I seem to be fairly good at doing that. So, having a brief moment to think about what I want to type out in a chat room sometimes is easier than talking in person – gosh, does this mean I am not a very quick-witted in person? I hadn’t thought about that.

How many hours do you spend online conversing, tweeting, or chatting in a social network each day? I know I probably spend from three to five hours, and this is just during the week, on the weekends I will sometimes be online for what seems to be endless hours.

But being human, I sometimes reach a point where I need a break from the online world. One need not feel guilty. There is no harm here and nothing to feel bad about.

When you mention you are going to take a short break from posting online, you will be surprised at how much understanding and even sympathy you will receive. When I needed a break, I will get a response, such as, “No problem, yeah, you have been posting everyday . . . we all need a break every once and awhile.” It is wonderful how understanding and considerate our online community of friends are.

Gosh, I got to run: I need to send out a tweet on Twitter . . . TTYL.