There’s a big difference between activity and productivity. There’s a big difference between noise and signal. And there’s a big difference between using social media and making effective use of social media.
The truth is, there’s a lot of noise, and precious little signal, in the social sphere. Lots of activity, too, but much less productivity. If you want to use social media effectively, the key is knowing the difference between the two.
If you want to do your best work, social media will likely be a means to an end, not an end unto itself. Your best work will be a byproduct of the time you spend with social media, but not likely to happen while you’re using social media. While its true that you generally get out of social media what you put into it, that doesn’t necessarily mean that more hours will lead to better results. In fact, about the only thing you’ll get out of more unexamined hours–more Tweets for the sake of Tweeting, more blog posts for the sake of blogging, more profiles for the sake of creating more profiles, etc., etc.–is more noise and more unproductive activity. To put it plainly, more shit.
If you want to do your best work, it’s critical that you make this distinction. Instead of spending time with social media for the sake of spending time with social media, recognize what’s valuable, and what’s shit. If you want to do your best work–the work that will define you and define whether you have a fulfilling, meaningful career–you have to be careful not to fall into the trap of over polishing. Doing your best work absolutely does not preclude the use of social media–I’d say the opposite is true, in fact–but it’s critical to be protective of your time and attention. When you recognize yourself getting sucked into something unproductive, don’t be shy about saying “I don’t have time for this shit.” Others may criticize you. Let ’em. You’ve got work to do.