Social Media ist das Opium des Volkes

iStock_000009250299XSmallby Mike O’Mary

Okay, so maybe Karl Marx was talking about religion instead of social media when he tagged an institution as “the opiate of the people.” But if Karl were alive today, I don’t think he’d argue with calling social media an opiate. Speaking for myself, I swore off television years ago only to end up spending those newfound hours in front of the computer every day. Sucked in again!

How much time do you spend on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, Classmates, YouTube, Flickr, Google Buzz, Bebo, Flixster, MyLife, etc., etc.? And I’m not even talking about the time you spend checking your e-mail accounts, blogs, bank/brokerage accounts, shopping, travel, and all that other “essential” stuff. Talk about a huge time suck.

To be clear, social media is pretty amazing. You have hundreds — sometimes thousands — of personal and business connections at your fingertips. This simply was not possible ten years ago. Old college friends were just that…old college friends. Maybe you saw them at your 10th or 20th or 50th reunion. Now you can see them every day. Perhaps all you learn is that they spend oodles of time fertilizing eggplant in FarmVille. But hey, you’ll have something to talk about at the next reunion, right? (“Hey, Greg…how’d that degree in library science turn out? Oh. Sorry. Nice eggplant farm though.”)

I started to say that social media is pretty amazing. And that it has its place. It’s helped me spread the word about my new book publishing business faster and cheaper and to a broader audience than I could have done with traditional PR or marketing. And I’ve made some new friends along the way. It’s been great. But I really did get sucked in. Here’s what happened: I was spending LOTS of time each day trying to keep up with all of my social media accounts, and then staying up very late at night doing all the other things that are traditionally associated with book publishing. That had to stop. My job is editing and publishing. My job is not social media gadfly — no matter how entertaining, compelling or (dare I say it) ADDICTING social media might be.

Here is a longer version of the famous Karl Marx quote. Again, I have substituted “social media” for “religion”:
[Social media] is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

It’s your life. Don’t live it all virtually.

Mike O’Mary is founding dreamer of Dream of Things, an independent book publisher currently accepting creative nonfiction stories for anthologies on 15 topics.