The Truth About Social Media Time Suck

Are you sitting down? Good. Because guess what. *takes a deep breath* ‘Time suck’ is in the dictionary. This may not stun urban word-anistas, like Natalie Hartford, but it was news to me. Close your eyes and ponder the term. What leaps to mind? Lemme guess—Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? All-things-internet?

The Urban Word Dictionary defines ‘time suck’ as: “Something that’s engrossing and addictive, but that keeps you from doing things that are actually important, like earning a living, or eating meals, or caring for your children.” Example: “Facebook is a time suck! I posted a funny picture after dinner and all of a sudden it’s midnight!”

Hmm… But no one is tying us down before the keyboard, or forcing our eyes on the screen. We may feel compelled to abandon other responsibilities and lose track of time, but if a child cried out from a nearby room, we wouldn’t say, “Quiet, kiddo. I’m on eBay.” We’d rush to his or her rescue. In other words, time sucks are voluntary—more like investments than stealers.

Unless you A) have a compulsive psychological disorder involving social media, or B) are being held at gunpoint by an internet-mongering psychopath (in which case, please visit there are many ways to keep TS at bay and still reap the many benefits social media has to offer.

7 Ways to Dodge Social Media Time Suck 

1. Approach it like a pro. Social media is a lot like L.A. nightlife, minus the swanky outfits and over-priced drinks. When I was working as an actress, the scene was part of my job. But my goal was networking, not partying. So I never—okay seldom—partied too late or too much. Doing so would’ve given the wrong impression and sabotaged opportunities. The same applies for authors on social media. Like parties, social media is fun. But if we approach it like a party, our professionalism might tank.

2. Prioritize. Think of your time as an up-side-down Christmas tree. (Use a regular pine tree if you wish. I prefer the sparkles.) The widest part of the tree represents what matters most and what demands the most time. If you’re an author, your craft and career are likely top priority, as far as work goes. Building a social media platform is an important component, but the most important is producing quality work and growing craft-wise. Don’t let social media steal that away.

3. Step away from the net. We all know when we’re helping our platform and when we’re simply procrastinating or surrendering to the TS vacuum. When the latter happens, un-plug. Take a break. Eat a healthy snack. Turn your wireless off. Step…away… If you feel incapable, seek professional help. (I mean that sincerely. Therapy’s a great thing.)

4. Strategize, time-wise. After blogging—arguably the most important web presence for authors—the top three social media platforms are Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. We have limited time to spend on-line; best we use it wisely. Popping over to Google+, Linked In and other sites can help, but spreading ourselves too thin turns even modest efforts into TS. Invest more time into the most popular sites and less into others. Basic, right?

5. Strategize, timing-wise. I’m a morning person, so I prefer to get my writing in early. As much fun as it would be to post creative, witty or otherwise sharp blurbs on Facebook during my peak brain-time, I’d rather invest that sharpness into my craft. If you’re groggy during morning hours, social media can provide a great warm up; save your juice for later. In other words, find and commit to timing that works for you. (If you’re someone who can’t help but be sharp, creative and/or hilarious at all times, timing is less of an issue—lucky duck!)

6. Link it up. Remember those three social media superstars from #4? We can link them all together—a huge time saver, if used appropriately. Since I’ve linked my Pinterest account to Facebook, I’ve had more dialogue and connectivity going on via both. My Facebook fan page is linked to Twitter, so anything I share on the fan page goes out to the Twitter-verse. Don’t overdo link-ups, however, as we don’t want to spam our friends and readers. Spending quality time on each platform is important.

7. Keep your goals in mind. If we lose sight of our goals, little will hold us to them. Distracting-TS-ers will seep in, robbing us of dreams we’re fully capable of reaching. If goal-focus doesn’t come easy for you, keep reminders near your computer—inspiring photos, quotes or affirmations. Connecting with supportive friends can also help. So while over-doing social media can detract from our careers, lean on friends—on the web or in-person—as needed.

Extra Tips & Tricks:

  • If you don’t have time to read blogs throughout a particular week—or even if you do—read Gene Lempp’s Blog Treasures. His Saturday morning mash-ups feature the “best of the blogosphere” from the previous week, and they never disappoint.
  • Pin on Saturdays. Pinterest activity rages on Saturdays, when other social media quiets down. So if adding pinning to your already-full plate seems daunting, save it for Saturdays.
  • If you are prone to social media TS, set a timer. Dan Taylor, a Vienna-based social media consultant, offers this and other great advice in his post, How to Avoid the Social Media Time Suck.
  • Consider joining Triberr. Not sure what it is or how to use it? Check out Jenny Hansen’s great post, My New Time-Saving Social Media BFF—Triberr.
  • Use Twitter lists. Roni Loren sold me on lists in her post, Picky, Picky – The Danger of Authors Being Too Clique-y on Twitter.
  • Take your computer out for coffee. Okay, sounds sort of sick. But seriously, social networking in social settings can help shake things up, put us in a sociable mood, and prevent day-long Facebook/Twitter-thons. (Once you run out of coffee, go home. :))

How do you avoid social media TS? Have you mastered time management? Any tips or challenges to add? 

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  1. Lance

     /  April 19, 2012

    I know this will anger someone, possibly you, but I find the whining and hand wringing about social media “time sucking” to be ,well, sucky.

    I know I’m suppose to be part robot but I don’t have a problem doing the twitter, the facebook, working my job, being a father and husband, blogging, responding to my friend’s blogs (hi friend), and reading the news of the day.

    I recently deleted about 200 twitter follows and I’m doing the same with about 100 facebook folks. I think social media is what you make of it. If you want a good marriage, work on it. If you want to be a good writer, write. If you want to be good at social media, engage and work at it.

    good post

    • Not angered at all, Lance. The negativity you mentioned is a major reason I wrote this post. And I think quality by far trumps quantity when it comes to our connections. That said, I believe social media is an important tool for authors business/career and, often, emotional health-wise. 😉 Thanks for sharing your insight—love it.

  2. I’ve just had to embrace my chaoticness – when I try to organize my time, I oft-times end up frustrated *laughing* – yeah . . . it’s tough being my brain. But, I also am disciplined; I know I have deadlines and must write the next book or do edits or galleys or whatever it is, so I do it. However, I did finally go in and do a flurry of “unsubscribing” to things I never or rarely used/went to and really thinking about what I enjoyed/benefited from and etc – and that helped.

    Going to bookmark this so I can check out the links – always up for trying new things to make life easier!

  3. I’m actually going to agree with Lance in that I get annoyed with people complaining about how busy and frustrated they are with social media. It is what you make of it, and I feel like it’s often a bunch of people in a crowded room shouting at the top of their lungs to be heard. I don’t have that in me.

    So while I have confidence and believe that my writing should be read and shared, I refuse to spend writing time or even time actually living OFFLINE in order to “pin” things or keep up with what others are doing. I know this is a detriment to future success, but at the end of the day, I have to pick my battles.

    I have fun with social media and try not to take it too seriously, as when I do, I start to feel really insignificant and insecure. It is what you make of it. Great post!

  4. gingercalem

     /  April 19, 2012

    Great tips! I haven’t started Pinterest yet. Almost afraid it will indeed become a TS for me. But I’m being ‘lured’. 😉

  5. For me it’s the blogosphere that sucks up the time. I work diligently to comment and reply to posts and posters that I pay attention to and it takes a lot of time. I have to find a way to manage that a little better. (but not today because this is a great post)

    • Sweet of you to say, Louise! You are such a giving, supportive writer. I think it’s important to cut ourselves some slack, especially as our blog and book readership grows. Roni Loren wrote another great post on blog etiquette. In case you haven’t read it, I think it’s worth the time. 😉

      Another tip: I have filters set up on my email, so all posts I subscribe to land in one folder, which I go to when I have time. Triberr also helps, by putting blogs of friends in one spot. Prioritizing, reading and following blogs we most dig and making plenty of time for ourselves and work is vital. Hope you’re getting lots of that last bit!

      • I’m going to have to start using filters more efficiently. I’ll track down Roni’s blog after work tonight.

  6. You are absolutely spot on about the Pinterest crowd. Amazing. I’m an early morning – well okay, 9am twitterer/facebooker. Gets my sluggish brain moving for the day!

  7. Awesome post, August! I think I have a fairly decent handle on social media, which includes email, but it did take a few months and refinement is a never-ending process. I haven’t added in Facebook yet, but think I will need too soon and this post gives me some good ideas on how to cut down on the initial time suck that will cause. A definite treasure here, August, thanks for the linkage 🙂

  8. Great post August, I definitely need to implement these!
    I do suffer from TS now and again but I made a decision that on one day a week I avoid the internet completely.
    I also have two laptops – one is much slower than the other so I never surf the net on that one. I use it exclusively for typing/editing my WIP. So when I’m working, I never feel tempted to go on the internet. 🙂

  9. This post came at a perfect time for me. As much as I enjoy social media, it is taking away from my creative writing. I need to restructure my “Christmas tree.” Thanks for giving me the nudge I needed.

  10. Great post, as always. 🙂

    Your #1 in the list made me laugh. It is SO true. The conferences I attended at my last job were totally like that. Work and network and attend seminars all day, wine and dine clients after that, then hit some hot spot after that. There was a business purpose to it all, but if you didn’t pace yourself, you would be totally burnt out and useless when you had to start all over again at 8 a.m. the next morning.

    Social media really isn’t that different. It’s an excellent tool, and you can totally have fun using it, but if you don’t pace yourself, you won’t have the energy (or time) to dedicate to your writing. (Or laundry…or kid who hasn’t had a bath in days…)

    I don’t really find social media to be a time suck, but it’s because I’ve already been approaching it the way you mentioned. Very good advice for everyone!

  11. Kourtney Heintz

     /  April 19, 2012

    Great advice August! I tend not to be a morning person. So I spend half an hour to 45 minutes checking email, social media, responding to blog comments. Then my belly roars and I get to making breakfast. That’s my way of limiting the online time. 🙂

  12. Thanks August – As I have onlky recently mastered peeling Oranges, dare I ask what Pinterest is? Too busy enjoying nonsensing to really understand all this social media stuff! Is there an idiots guide to it you know of? Thanks

    • Ha! 🙂 Pinterest involves virtual “pin boards”——think cork boards, web-style. You can check it out out by visiting Joining is free once you have an invite from the company or a current member. If you’d like one, say the word.

      They have great beginners guides within the site. If you’re interested, I also wrote a post recently on Pinterest & blogging.

  13. Great advice, August! I kind of feel like I have to defend the ‘whiners’ a little bit though. Been there, done that….after taking a workshop that basically said we must do A, B, and C…if we want to be successful writers. So, desiring to be good students, we devote ourselves to following the instructions…and then realize a few months later that our real lives have disappeared. Yup, we were sucked into the internet in an effort to read more blogs and build that platform. The whining, I believe, is just the way we let others know we’ll be cutting back. And posts like this one help us figure out how we can do that…without committing platform suicide. 🙂

    • Excellent points, Kristy. The whining often does come from a legitimate place. And recognizing the need for change, even if it comes out negatively, is important.

  14. Marc Schuster

     /  April 19, 2012

    Very helpful post, especially since I’ve just started on Twitter! And nice work on “sparkles,” by the way!

  15. Thanks for this, August. I was getting overwhelmed and I realize that’s all my own doing. Your tips help. I have to keep telling myself that I have a choice here. No one is MAKING me do any of this! 🙂

  16. Great subject and a great approach, August.

    I often set a timer while on social media. I have my accounts linked and this is, possibly, the most important time-saving technique for me. Triberr is a good tool, although it has it’s shortcomings. Twitter, FB, Goodreads and Blogosphere are my top four. I am also on Pinterest, G+, LinkedIn but I don’t spend more than a couple of hours a week, combined, on those.

    On FB I mostly concentrate on interacting with friends and people in the writing/publishing business. I have never played any of those farm-animals-type games since they don’t serve my purpose on social media. From time to time I like to post an image, a quote or a short update on something totally trivial on my wall under the umbrella of interacting with friends.

    BranchOut caught my eye recently, and I signed up, but, for now, I just let others to connect with me there. I will look into this site deeper in the future, but, presently, I have my hands full 🙂 Maybe you or Jenny Hansen decide to investigate and write a post – I would definitely welcome your opinion!

  17. Jennette Marie Powell

     /  April 19, 2012

    Although it’s still a challenge, I’ve found a few things that help:
    – Google Reader lets me group my blog subs, and I generally only check each group one day a week
    – Tweet stuff on my smartphone as I find it
    – If I’ve commented on someone’s blog several times and they’ve never once commented on mine or tweeted my posts, I unsubscribe from their blog. Not keeping score, but I just don’t have time to support people who never support me.
    – I’ve resisted Pinterest as it’s all I can do to keep up with what I already do.

    Lots of good points in this post- thanks!

  18. Coleen Patrick

     /  April 19, 2012

    My sister calls the internet time suck a “soft addiction” :)–which I guess can be true. Even though I am on the internet primarily for a “business” purpose it can easily get out of control, so I turn internet time into a reward. I typically don’t go on until I’ve met my word count for the day. Also if I feel like I’m on the internet too long I try to ask myself if what I’m doing is moving me forward in my goals.
    Great post August.

  19. Great post August. Every morning I get up and check my emails and I will have an enormous amount of blogs to read (the number has started to drop). I do my best to read them all and comment on most. I have had to set a predetermined stop time on the clock in order to not get sucked in to the point that I am not writing. I’ve seen the interest in Pinterest really pick up but I have not even investigated what it is all about. I save your blog on that subject in case I ever become interested.

  20. Another great post, August. In fact, it’s inspired me to get off the Net and get back to my writing!

  21. As always, you are on it with the topics. I lose my time in the blogs – reading and commenting. I have lost track of some because of the time involved. I needed to start timing myself to make time for writing – find that balance. My email! Oh that is just a horrid mess that I shy away from. Ugly! Too much stuff. I’ll get there though. Slowly but surely. That’s how you win the race, right?

  22. Raani York

     /  April 19, 2012

    Thank you for another great blog post, August. After carefully checking your tipps and tricks and advice I have to say: I don’t think I do too bad after all. 🙂 I’m relieved!
    The only thing I definitely need to be careful with is bloigging. *grin*

  23. mgmillerbooks

     /  April 19, 2012

    Right. On. Target. I’ve had to take a big step away from SM to accomplish the things I need to (like writing, which is why I do social media in the first place), and the truth is, I’m happier and less stressed now because of my limited SM time. Sure, I worry that my blog buddies will be angry that I’m not as engaged as I was for a while, but how can I be expected to make others happy when I’m not?

    • Interacting less won’t disgruntle your best blog buddies, MG. But your not writing would (so please don’t! ;)). And I couldn’t agree more: happy write = happy life.

  24. Okay, so I hope I’m not reposting my comment. (My smartphone just got dumb. :P) Anyway, just wanted to say great post. I had no idea Pinterest was so busy on Saturdays. I’ll be re-doing my soc media schedule now to take advantage of that. Thanks for the info. 🙂

  25. Very excellent reminders, August. I also like the new things I picked up from your post as well. Like Triberr. I will check it out right now. Thanks! Keep up your awesome work!

  26. This week has been spent succumbing to linking my blogging to other avenues. The hope is that the cross feeding will be like eating healthy while maintaining one’s weight. The brain feels stretched with each expansion into social media.

    Thanks for a good list. Your commenters are interesting also!

  27. Great post, as usual, and the comments always offer good tips too. Thanks to Jenny, Triberr has become my friend but I haven’t had the courage to jump into Pinterest in spite of raves from you and a few others. I feel I’m doing ok with TS issue and primarily try to read and support the blogs I follow, tweet, etc. Once I get this WIP finished (hopefully end April *fingers crossed as I type*) I’ll try to get even more organized. Thanks for all your great advice!

    • I think we’re all WIPs, in regards to organization, social media and writing. Sounds like you’re on a solid, productive path, Patricia. Keep it up! 🙂 Best wishes with finishing your current work. Such an exciting place to be.

  28. I’m beginning to find a nice balance to social media, but it’s definitely something that needs to be worked at and constantly refined. Let’s face it, just when we get it all down pat, the next-newest-greatest social media tool arrives. LOL! One of the things I’ve decided to do is stop and consider each one, instead of jumping in with both feet. As usual, a great post, August, very informative and gives me lots more to consider in my quest for the perfect balance. Thank you!

    Oh, and I love Pinterest!

  29. I love the image of the upside down tree for organizing priorities. I once belonged to a women’s dream group where I learned (among other important things) that many of the excuses we give ourselves are just that. For example, the would-be writer who says, “I just don’t have time to write” is really saying “I haven’t made time to write.” That’s why my calendar says, “WRITING” in the 8 a.m. – 9 a.m. time slot, 5 days a week.

  30. I think it’s important to remember that I’m a writer first. Social media is there to support my writing, but if I spend too much time on social media I won’t have time to write. It can be a terrible Catch-22 if you aren’t careful. I’ve learned to prioritize everything I need to get accomplished. Last week I basically took off of social media so I could work on the book. This week I’m back to my schedule and am loving it. I actually missed all my friends! My goal is to make sure I never have a week like last week. It kind of sucked.

    Like you, I’m an early morning writer so I’ve made a deal with myself that I only write in the morning. When my son gets home from school, that’s whey I can play around on social media while he’s doing homework. So far, it’s working out really well.

  31. Thanks for the link love! And this is a fantastic post. It is a huge time suck, though I feel slightly obligated to to it since it’s part of the whole building brand thing. But I have had to work on balancing it since I’m writing on deadline now and have limited time.

  32. Like you, I am most productive in the morning so that is when I try to work on Manny. Whaaat? You don’t name your WIP? I try to go to my fan page and post a favorite blog of the day OR write a funny little tidbit. Sometimes, when Manny has me flummoxed, I ask folks on Facebook for help. They love feeling like they are giving input. And their ideas help to get my juices flowing.

    That said, I’ve made peace with the fact that I’ll never be a really big blogger. Because in order to really become huge, you need to strap your cell phone to your hip and answer every push notification immediately. I can’t do it. I just can’t. It drains me.

    Awesome post. And I read your article on Pinterest, and I just can’t bring myself to do it. It’s just going to break me. I’m sure of it.

    • You’re a RBB in my eyes, Renee. Thanks for the super insight!

      Oh, and my WIP… It varies, but right now I’m working on my second thriller, Beauty Complex. 🙂

  33. I think a factor left out by those folks who complain about how much time social media takes up is whether they actually enjoy the social media they choose to participate in or not. If I don’t enjoy it, or have time for it, I don’t do it. You are spot on about doing the most important things, like actually writing, first, and delegating less important activities for later (or never…if we don’t enjoy them).

    • Fantastic point, Cynthia. I personally try to make social media platforms enjoyable, which tends to stimulate better interaction and minimize related stress. 🙂 If we loathe the experience, it probably shows.

  34. Well, you just maaaaay have made me think about joining pinterest. LOL. Your bonus tips are awesome, especially including Gene’s mash up since it is the creme de la creme of blog posts!

    I totally agree with approaching social media like a pro. It makes sense when it comes to setting up our author platforms. Well done post, August! Course, that’s no surprise. 😉 Keep it up, lady!

  35. EllieAnn

     /  April 20, 2012

    Dude! Yes! This is such a great article. So wise. You are like the sage of our time, August. =)
    All of these words are so helpful.
    I wake up early to write, so I pretend that my internet is down until I’ve finished my word count or the scene for the day. I also have to do this on Sunday, which is the day I write my blog posts for the week. Of course, sometimes I’ll think of something I HAVE to do on the net, and there goes 20 minutes, haha, but then I’ll catch myself (sometimes) and get back to work.
    Also, we should come up with a safe word in case we’re ever held at gun point by a psycho. So…if I ever type ‘hippopotamus has bad breath’ then please call 9-1-1, thanks! =)

    • LOL Thanks, Ellie Ann! I love your pretending your internet is down technique. If there’s one thing we writers should utilize, it’s our imagination!

  36. This is a great post. If it’s not presumptuous of me, though, I’d like to add a qualifier to #4. I think people should concentrate on the social media platforms that (a) provide the most traffic to their site, (b) provide the highest quality traffic to their site, and (c) that they enjoy. Google+ is actually a better investment for me time-wise than Pinterest at this point. It consistently ranks as my 3rd or 4th highest traffic referrer (after Twitter and Facebook), and the people who come to my site from Google+ stay and engage. People from Pinterest have a high bounce rate for me. You have to know where your audience is and Google+ has a lot of nerds on it 🙂

    • Great points, Marcy. Finding what works for us and our audience seems vital. It’s inspiring to hear that you’ve had success with Google+. If nerds hang out there, so must I. 😉

  37. You’re such a helpful mammal, August!
    Well done!

  38. FAB tips and tricks girl!! Amazing and LUVED the shout out – you soooo rock!! Woot woot!!!

  39. Many useful tips, August, but may I open a different stream of thought about all this?

    I was worried when the gentleman commented that he was tired of those people who whined about social media. I don’t think they’re whining. They’re frustrated and wondering what’s happened to themselves, or afraid that they’re not keeping up, or know something’s not working but can’t articulate it. It has to do with what they’re not hearing out there, and it’s about how social media is effecting their writing, the writing itself.

    I work with writers who say they won’t leave a comment of dissent about social media on any blog because they feel something is awry, but can’t put their finger on it. It’s not that they’re addicted to the internet or need therapy or are scared of the internet and everything they “should” be doing. It’s what’s happening to them personally with what they fell in love with first. One of the comments that came in on my latest blog “Why I didn’t Blog for over Two Months,” was this:

    “And didn’t we get day jobs so that we could at least write after hours? It’s like globalization, somehow. Our real work has been shipped off to the business model, leaving us writing with a minimum-wage mentality.”

    And that’s one of the results: we’ve taken a business model, “time management” being part of that, and applied it to creativity. If we have to use business language, let’s talk about “management style” and how that differs for writers and widget makers.

    If you’re interested in opening up a discussion about that and what I’d personally like writers to be conscious of, here’s the link:

    In my next blog post, I’ll offer suggestions on how to protect yourself as a writer and assess what choices to make about social media. Besides dropping out. 🙂

  40. BoJo Photo

     /  May 4, 2012

    Awesome post August. I added some of your points to my business plan! 🙂 Social media can get out of control in a hurry. Its fruits can be sweet when carefully handled but they can be high maintenance time consumers as well!

    Speaking of posts, I’ve been building a courtyard that is very time consuming! I’m beginning to see the end in sight. Down to 6 more posts!!! Whew doggies!!! I knew it would suck some time but it has been a bigger vacum than I imagined. I live on a rock pit which makes for hard digging! 🙂 Burned some calories! 🙂

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