When I asked my newsletter subscribers for feedback in December regarding challenges they faced, a vast majority said, “I’m overwhelmed!” “I can’t keep up with all of it.” “I’ve no time for social media.”

I’ve struggled with these challenges too — especially fitting in social media. I started writing my blog in 2006 and just kept adding things as they came out — LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, G+.

The more social media platforms and tools proliferated like mushrooms, the more stressed I became. Having the ability to be “always on” via my iPhone and iPad didn’t help.

One day in August 2011, I decided to take a break. I stopped reading and listening to the news and music while driving. I stopped reading marketing books, magazines and blogs. I even stopped posting on social media and my blog for a month.

The result? For the first time in a very long time, I could hear myself think.

And boy, did that feel good.

I also got lucky. While taking this break, I happened to be ghostwriting a book about social media. For the first time, I found myself **watching** social media happen instead of participating.

I began asking myself questions such as: “Why was I trying to maintain four social media platforms and a blog — in addition to running a business and raising my son?” “Why did I feel like I needed to be an expert in everything?” “Did I really need to be a top blogger or have thousands of followers to be effective?”

I came back to social media with a much different perspective — one I was afraid to say in public because, well, it’s not what social media gurus advocate.

I realized the fewer gurus I followed and the less content I read, the more I actually learned and the smarter I felt.

I learned my real priority and mission is to be of service to my clients.

I learned that by paying attention to what showed up in my own news feed, I could easily see which social media activities worked – and which ones didn’t – and that I didn’t need to be a genius to figure this out.

I learned that by controlling social media, instead of having it control me, I could regain some peace in my work day and life. I now have plans to plant an herb garden this spring, take afternoons off to go sailing on the Charles, and just relax and enjoy solitude when I can. It feels really good.

I kept my secret to myself for months because revealing it felt like I was pointing out the emperor has no clothes. But then I began reading the new book by Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

When I watched her TED video the other day — a video that has “smashed all TED records” – I knew it was time to come clean.

The upshot? I’m an introvert, and part of being creative is honoring the time I need to think.

Because I was filling my spare minutes trying to “keep up” with social media, I didn’t get this down time. And too, with social media, and the Internet in general, you’re subject to lots of noise and “group think” — a condition where everyone ends up thinking and doing the same things.

Group think doesn’t lead to innovation, new ways of looking at things or creative problem solving, a topic Cain discusses at length in her book.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be because yes, you’re busy. But it may also be because you’re an introvert and need some down time. Watch Cain’s video, then get her book. I think you’ll come away with a different perspective on your work and your life.

Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

  • You’re brave. And smart. It’s scary to think about _reducing_ my social media because I might miss something. But your words ring true… thanks!

  • Dianna,

    So good to see your post. Absolutely. I see a very disturbing trend in our culture – we’re so inundated with information and everyone else’s thoughts that we’re losing out ability to think . . . And this isn’t just an issue for introverts – this is everyone.

    Social media and business has not only spawned a decline in creativity and problem-solving. But ironically, it’s increased the amount of loneliness in our culture. A 2004 survey found that 1 in 4 people felt that they had no one they could really call a friend, and the average number of real friends – people you could confide in and turn to in a pinch – was 2 people per person who had friends. This is down form 1985 when the average American adult reported having 3 close friends. A survey conducted by AARP in 2010 found that 35% of us felt chronically lonely – a 15% jump from 10 years earlier.

    I’ve written about this risk to our ability to think and live fully on my blog, Your Healthy Home Biz –

    http://www.yourhealthyhomebiz.com/thinking-101-put-down-the-book-and-step-away-from-the-screen

    Dianna, your recent creative offer – your book on women who triumph against all odds to realize their dreams – is a great testimony to the powerful stuff inside of us if we just take some time to listen.

    Enjoy your garden and springtime!

  • Frances

    Brava, Dianna!

    • @FYJ — How nice to see you! And thank you.

      @Sarah — Thank you for this long comment (and the one on FB page) — I could write a whole other post on it. 🙂 Suffice to say, I’m not sure books are the problem (it was a book that helped me connect all the dots in my post). But I do agree we’re relying on too many people to tell us answers versus figuring them out for ourselves.

      @Steve — I agree that the big fear, when dialing back on SM, is that I’ll miss something. But then I think about all the things I used to do before social media / the Internet, and somehow the tradeoff doesn’t seem right.

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  • Dianna, I just got started with social media and am already feeling overwhelmed. I worry that if I don’t keep up I’ll lose the chance to score a client or a sale… But I can’t hear myself think! Good advice to simply take a step back and only do what really needs to be done. Thanks for that!

    • Evelyn – thanks for the comment. I’m glad you found the post helpful.