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February 1, 2011Big Louise: Why we get lonely without social media

Has a song ever made you feel sad? Lonely? Depressed? Of course it has. But has a song ever made you feel sorry for someone else? You tell me.

I’m a big Scott Walker fan. Scott’s a cult singer who started out as a 60s pop crooner who gradually evolved into an experimental noisemaker by way of the dark, lyrical lounge music of Jacques Brel. Imagine if Frank Sinatra got a gig in Vegas and went from playing crowd pleasers to crooning deep numbers about call girls, death and torture, before finally just deciding to pummel a side of meat for seven minutes (Scott actually does this on his latest album).

But love him or hate him, Scott makes music that makes you think about other people. His early work was “rediscovered” in the 80s with the release of a compilation album called “Fire Escape in the Sky: The Godlike Genius of Scott Walker,” compiled by Julian Cope of The Teardrop Explodes.

The title is taken from the song “Big Louise,” a song about a lonely woman growing old alone, because her friends, and her lover, have moved on without her.

But enough talk. Just listen:

What the heck has “Big Louise” got to do with social media?

Big Louise is a song about a woman who’s sad and alone because “the world’s passed her by.”
But there’s that chorus: “in a world filled with friends, you lose your way.”

Those two sentences sum up everything that’s great, and terrible, about social media.

I said two years ago that I would never use Twitter. Why? Well, to sum up:

1. Running my own business makes me very time-poor.
2. I’m very prone to distraction (not good when you’re trying to concentrate),
3. It’s too easy to make a fool out of yourself in public. Tweet in haste, repent at leisure.
4. I’m actually a very private person.

Sometimes, I feel like Big Louise. Lonely. Like everyone else is having fun, and I’m staring down at them from a very long way away. When I’m out at mixers and I tell people what I do, they’re frequently astonished I don’t use twitter, I don’t have a Facebook fan page, and I’ve never “liked” anything because (depending on how many drinks I’ve had) “it’s nobody else’s f$%@ing business” what I like.

I’ve started to wonder if my reticence to go down the self-promotion route is hurting my business. Other people use twitter to interact with a meaningful community of peers and potential clients — I don’t.

I’m like the aloof girl at the party who stands in the corner, looking too cool for school. “I’m so good, you’ll come to me, baby.” And a lot of clients do. But how many more don’t?

Meanwhile everyone else on Twitter is standing round the punch bowl, slapping each other on the back, exchanging contact details, and generally having a whale of a time.

But the truth is I’m not a back-slapping, punchbowl kind of guy. I value longer, more meaningful exchanges with a smaller number of people. If I had a penpal, I’d rather write them a letter a week than exchange twenty 160 character messages.

And I just don’t have the time to follow a thousand people on Twitter and be talking to them all the time. I’ve got a business to run.

There’s the dilemma. Either don’t use social media and, like Big Louise, watch the world pass you by. Or spend all your time using social media and “lose your way”.

Professor Sherry Turkle of MIT recently claimed “Twitter and Facebook are driving us mad.” She said:

“We’re using inanimate objects to convince ourselves that even when we’re alone, we feel together. And then when we are with each other, we put ourselves in situations where we feel alone – constantly on our mobile devices.”

When everyone else is constantly tweeting, liking, facebooking and instant-messaging, the temptation is to join in — or be left behind.

Obviously, other freelancers manage to keep their social media profiles updated regularly and tweet hourly. I know I should be spending more time looking after my social media presence, but I’ve been so busy with work I simply haven’t had the time. But I think my reticence to tweet, to have a facebook fan page, to “like” things in the hope of getting a “like” back is the same as Professor Turkle’s. I’m worried that the technology diminishes us: in Scott Walker’s words, makes us “lose our way.”

Is there a happy medium?

Should I be tweeting once a day? Is it possible to tweet “once a day” or even just once an hour, and not get drawn into tweeting more? Am I “missing out on important networking opportunities” or would I lose clients because they see me tweeting when they’re paying me to be working?

And can social media really replace real-life networking? It’s London Social Media Week next week. Even social media experts still feel the need to “network”.

I’m doing quite well at the moment and considering taking on an intern, with a view to making them a permanent member of staff if the move pays off. The first thing I’m going to ask applicants is: are you good at social media? Because the truth is if you don’t have time for it, you’re better off finding someone who does than trying to do it yourself, half-heartedly.

Don’t let the world pass you by.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 at 5:56 pm and is filed under Blog, Me and my business, Social Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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