5 Remarkable Reasons To Spend MORE Time on Social Media

My Grandmother once told me “Stephen, I think Facebook is making you stupid.” And though I rarely talk back to a woman who can remember the “three world wars”, her comment intrigued me. Was Facebook really making me dumb? Was social media a net-negative in my life? And should I take advice from a woman who counts potatoes in her daily vegetables? As I mulled over her comment (and her delicious apple pie), I realized many of us have heard similar opinions. We’re surrounded by pundits who hate social media. Our parents urge us to “get off our phone” and “live a little”. Television hosts argue that we’re a generation of "online losers.” Finally, even our universities discourage its usage, arguing that we should focus on academics or other, “more practical,” skills, like public speaking.



Because students often speak to crowds of hundreds.


Yet, should we believe these warning calls? Our generation’s experience with social media may tell a different story. For myself, I began to focus on social media the summer before freshman year. I made it a goal for myself to regularly post in the Facebook page for Harvard’s Class of 2017. But, when I told my friends and parents about my plan, I got mixed reactions.


“You’re wasting your time.”


“You’re living vicariously through a page.”


“Your profile picture looks like a 50 year old lesbian.” (Thanks Mom.)


A year and a half later, however, I’ve felt incredibly happy with my investment in Facebook. On social media, I have met some of my closest friends, established a presence in my school, and improved as a writer. Now were there drawbacks? Of course. I lost a few hours during the summer and gained a terrible new title - “Facebook celeb”. But, all in all, I felt that the benefits of committing to social media far outweighed the costs.


But was my experience unique? Is social media a net positive or net negative for college students? I decided find out as a Social Media Fellow at the Harvard Global Health Institute. Through the research I found that social media usage can have a number of negative effects. For some, social media leads to social comparisonlow self-esteem, , and a shorter attention span.


Yet, there are also students who’ve thrived online. Because of social media certain individuals enjoy fame, command widespread attention, and use that attention to share their ideas. Even more surprisingly, these “influencers” (those who succeed on social media) often avoid the aforementioned negative effects.


Some gain benefits from social media while others don’t. This leads to the question: what’s the difference between the two? And how can we join those who are “succesful” online?


With this question in mind, I reached out to social media guru David Meerman Scott. David wrote my favorite book of the past summer and the bible of social media strategy  - The New Rules of Marketing and PR. David, an incredibly nice guy, agreed to have dinner with myself and a couple of twitter follower


During dinner, David stressed that anyone can become good at social media.  However, it doesn’t come easily. Like any skill it takes concerted practice, time, and a good deal of grit.  The best time to start is right now.


So, thinking about deactivating your facebook? Think again.


Five Reasons to Focus MORE on Social Media 


 1.Your social media accounts are your NEW first impression  

    Have you ever looked up someone’s Facebook profile before you met them? It turns out you’re not alone. In a survey of more than 300 hiring professionals, 90 percent of recruiters admitted they visited a candidates social media profile during their screening process. Most people focus on the negative effects of recruiters looking at your social media account, but the opposite is also true. 68 percent of recruiters said that a candidate’s social media presence had a positive effect on their decision to hire the candidate. The solution to making social media work for you? Make it a priority. Kissmetrics, a social media analytics company, suggests scheduling one time a day where you will add content and interact with others.


2. Social media helps keep weak ties intact longer 

     In our social lives, we have three types of connections: strong ties, our close friends and family; weak ties, our weaker friendships and acquaintances; and no ties, those we haven’t interacted with. One might think that our deep connections have the strongest influence in our life; however, research indicates that weak ties have a larger impact on our future success. In a 1973 study of job searchers, sociologist Mark Granovetter showed that people were 58 percent more likely to get a new job through weak ties than strong ties. As explained by Cornell professors, David Easley, and Jon Kleinberg in Networks, Crowds, and Markets, The closely-knit groups that you belong to, though they are filled with people eager to help, are also filled with people who know roughly the same things that you do”. Your weak ties tend to travel in different circles and so have knowledge that you wouldn’t be able to get from your immediate network. Social media helps you maintain connections with others far after a normal relationship would last. By staying active on social media, you stay in the front of other’s minds and you keep them firm inside your growing network.


3. Most individuals don’t understand the power of social media

For the past 50 years, self-improvement has focused on a number of specific fields: leadership, inter-communication skills, exercise, etc. However, in a new age of interconnectedness a focus on social media use has yet to catch-up. One purpose of college is to learn skills and ways of thinking that will help us in the outside world. Yet, almost no college students apply themselves to improve in one of the largest portions of their life: social media. A number of studies show that success on social media can improve your ability to influence public opinion, the strength of your personal network, and even the chance of  being hired.  Focus on social media now and you’ll be a step ahead of your peers.

Yet, this is even more important when we recognize…


4. Social media is only going to grow in importance

    Facebook currently has over 1 billion users. Twitter has over 500 million. Even more impressive, however, is that social media continues to grow. eMarketer projects that in the next four years the number of social media users will double. Social media is here to stay. As well, by 2020 over 90 percent of the world will have access to internet on their phone. Social media will grow to affect almost every facet of your life. If you haven’t started focusing on social media, it’s time to start now.


5. Social media helps you think more creatively

If you are in a knowledge based field, social media helps you improve in one important aspect: creativity. A study from the Warwick business school indicates that the more involved you are on social media the more often you interact with diverse ideas and people. As a result, the more creatively you think and the better you are at connecting disparate ideas. Many economist predict that our service based economy will transform into a “creative economy” – one that values the creation of ideas. As a result, those who draw knowledge from disparate network will be increasingly valuable. Still think that you’re wasting your time on social media? Think again.


Ultimately, our generation is just beginning to understand social media. Though we have grown up with it, we’re only starting to know its effects on our lives. Focusing more on social media might seem counterintuitive for a blog focused on productivity. But, if you want to be successful, you have to embrace the medium of our generation.


So, as much as you love your grandmother, don’t be so quick to follow her advice. After all, when was the last time she got more than 20 likes on her profile picture?


Ya. Exactly. Take that grandma.


College LifeStephen Turban