Is social media Hormetic?

What doesn’t kill cures. Variations of that old idea have been around for centuries. social media overdose

There is even a word to describe something that is beneficial in small amounts but harmful in high doses.

Hormesis ” a theoretical phenomenon of dose-response relationships in which something (as a heavy metal or ionizing radiation) that produces harmful biological effects at moderate to high doses may produce beneficial effects at low doses.” – Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary.

What prompted me to remember that ancient word was a post by Daniel Donahoo on Huffington Post today. In his post he accurately explains how:

“Sometimes social media makes it impossible for me to do anything.

It stuns and silences me.

He writes about the problem exceptionally well, I am not going to steal his thunder by repeating it, so click on his name above and read it, it will make you chuckle and wonder if you are affected as much as others.

Reading about it, I recalled a tweet I read earlier today when @KDCaulfield commented on a news item which stated that supposedly healthy brown rice was found to contain high levels of arsenic.

Thoughts about “Arsenic” and the debilitating effect of social media overload must have been  twirling around in some dim recess of my subconscious for the afternoon and coalesced to remind me of the word Hormesis. (I had to check the spelling in the dictionary).

Very many years ago on a different continent – and it seems like in a former life- my first job after leaving the farm for the city was with a pharmaceutical manufacturer which still produced remedies containing small doses of arsenic. The business also sold concentrated cattle dips for ticks and ant treatments for ant infestations containing arsenic.

I really believe the word “hormesis” is ideally suited to social media. In small doses it is good for us. It expands our network of connections, helps us meet some amazing and interesting people, and if we get it all right, directly or indirectly, connects us with new people to do business with. All beneficial, like any good medicine or tonic should be.

But in higher doses, it can kill our productivity, stop us doing more important work, increase our stress levels and totally overwhelm us. It can completely shut down our creative juices, deprive us of sleep and turn us into zombies.

One of the most sneaky side effects of an overdose of social media is its ability to lead us down convoluted rabbit holes following threads that never end, just change form, direction and purpose. It is quite simple to allocate time for most business tasks or activities. I know I can usually write a 800 word blog post in 45 to 60 minutes, spend another 30 editing and polishing it, adding an image, choosing tags and it’s published in about an hour and a half from the start.

Let me spot a tweet or update from an interesting source on Google+, Facebook or Linked In with an interesting link, and that could have me tied up for a couple of hours. First, the link needs checking out, that often involves a video on You tube, while I am there I need to check my in box which can lead to more paths to follow, then back to respond to the original update, perhaps add something on that platform. Along the way links might need to be bookmarked, good snippets scooped or photos pinned, other bits buffered.

My remedy for this is ruthless use of a timer whenever I venture onto a social media site during the day, (I do spend more time in the evening rather than watching TV) and using Google Reader to subscribe to Rss feeds of blogs I follow. This keeps my email in box down to manageable levels and allows me to scan a lot of blogs quickly. I also have a regular pruning schedule to trim the number of subscriptions and I aim to mark all unread items “read” at the end of each week whether they have been read or not.

That’s how I generally keep my social media at the level where it works like a tonic or stimulant, but some days I do still overdose and suffer the consequences of “harmful biological effects”

I really do believe social media is hormetic.

What about you? Do you also overdose or do you have a strategy to keep your exposure down to beneficial levels?

Leave a comment, you might help other sufferers.

Wishing you success in all your endeavours.

Peter Wright


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