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Bloggers Without Boundaries: Are the Lines Getting Too Blurred?

Posted By Darren Rowse 2nd of March 2009 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

In this post Jonathan Fields from the Career Renegade Blog and author of the book Career Renegade talks boundaries.

It’s Sunday morning, you’re up early, the house is still quiet. And, like any self-respecting blogger, you take this time to meditate, set-up your day and plan what you’ll do with the family, today. Not!

That’s what you know you should do. But, instead, you wander over to your computer, check your blog for comments, check your subscriber and traffic stats and maybe crank out a quick post or video. Then, you jump on twitter to check your timeline, follower numbers and reply to any @’s or dm’s.

A few minutes later, the kids wander out and your day really begins. Breakfast, then the day’s activities. It’s all great fun, yet, you still find yourself reveling in those random moments in the rest-room, where you linger a few extra seconds to check your e-mail, IM, twitter and stats once more on your trusty iPhone.

Congrats!

You’ve become a card-carrying member of Bloggers Without Boundaries.

You’ve lost the ability to separate your virtual community from your real-life community. And, in fact, what happens in the ether, for you, may play an equally important and impactful role in your life as what happens in flesh and blood.

Question is…to what end?

No doubt, the line between social media and socializing has become hopelessly blurred for many. I’m sure I am not alone in counting a number of twitter and blogging relationships among my “real” friends. In fact, I speak with certain online friends far more often than I speak with other face-to-face friends.

In the thick of this social media wild west, the rules are literally being made up as we go.

Along with the rapid fire commingling of online business and online friendships comes the near total evaporation of the “time” lines that separate family time and work time.

Add to that the ubiquity of smartphones with apps that give instant access to social media wherever you go. And, many bloggers end up blogging, tweeting, e-mailing and IMing seven-days a week, often sneaking it in with smartphone-driven mircobursts.

All of which makes me wonder…

“What’s the net effect on our humanity and ability to maintain intelligent boundaries between work, play, family and friends?”

Has the expectation now become that bloggers and social media marauders are available 24/7? For people like us, is there such a thing as a fixed workweek or office hours anymore?

Is social media the new Crackberry?

Has the ability to micro-burst a small bit of work by smartphone become an ever-present intrusion on personal and family time? Or, has it allowed those of us who work largely online to take immediate action on something that, a few years ago, would’ve been spinning in our heads for hours until we could find the nearest computer or returned to our offices, and given us the ability to be more genuinely present between the offending digital distractions?

Put another way, is this technologically-driven blurring of the lines between work and play and time spent in each a good thing, a bad thing…or just a thing?

Curious what your thoughts are. Let me know in the comments below…

————

Jonathan Fields is the author of the new book, Career Renegade. He also writes [email protected] and CareerRenegade.com and produces Career Renegade TV and the weekly Renegade Profiles podcast series.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Awesome post! I think for some it does get in the way of family and such, but for others it may even help bring the family together.

    Both my wife & I blog and use social media. It’s our time together most days.

    Sometimes, when we’re not online, we’ll sit and talk about what’s going on here, or what’s happen to that person, but it’s not people in real life we’re talking about, it’s people and events online.

    I think in a lot of ways, it has replaced the time when the husband and wife talk about how their day at work went. The topic has just shifted.

    And depending on how your family is emerged into this blogging and social media revolution, it has potential to be both a good thing or a bad thing.

  2. While I understand your concern John, I think the whole point of Social Media is to tear down the boundaries between regular family and friendships. Social Media is a tool that should both help your business and help you maintain healthy relationships with friends.

    For example, just think about Facebook for a second. How many people have you contacted from your past just because of Facebook? I know I’ve contacted at least a hundred.

    So, in some cases, I can see how the boundaries are gone, but as long as you’re using the tools the right way, it should be helping you along.

  3. “For people like us, is there such a thing as a fixed workweek or office hours anymore?” No, there isn’t, is there? Go back 10/15 years, the world was nothing like it is today. Having said that I’d hate to have been living 100 years ago.

  4. Nice to see you on Copyblogger Jonathan, my “internet friend” whom I will soon see in person at SXSW.

    You must have been reading my mind. The other morning, I knew my line was crossed when, as I was busily catching up on Tweets and DMs and emails and blog comments, my 17-month old daughter walked up to me carrying her diaper box.

    There I saw the line between Crack Mama and Social Media Mama was very thin.

    It is important to draw boundaries. I am going to be more conscious of turning OFF my laptop when with my kids, since the “halfway there” state is not good for any of us.

    Now I am going to get back to work on this Sunday morning so I can re-join my family downstairs.

    :)
    -Pam

  5. This is true, some people tend to pull allnighters just to see if stats changed. People need to go outsie breathe in some fresh area, and let their blog throw in of it own work. You don’t want to just be stuck in the computer so than you close yourself in.

  6. “….is this technologically-driven blurring of the lines between work and play and time spent in each a good thing, a bad thing…or just a thing?”

    Yes.

  7. oops – of course I meant to say good to see you at “Problogger.” :)

  8. Have you been stalking me?! LOL
    I’ve blogged a few times about this. In my case I’m an empty nester (not that that makes it any better for my husband). But I have thought about it.

    I really don’t think it’s limited to the online world. When I took my job at the library in an admin role I worked 7 days a week & put in long hours for the first 2 or so years. I did the same when I started teaching in the career before that, so it’s how I’m wired.

    I’ve been online 2 yrs investing in providing others with resources. I have noticed that I can cut back on my blogging & the only thing it affects is # of visitors to my blog. I don’t depend on my blog for monetization tho.

  9. Jonathan, “Is social media the new Crackberry?”

    Great insight. I think you are right on target with this. Really nice article. I am really interested in seeing how all this plays out over the next few years.

  10. additional thoughts –
    when I am events – I go black online. I value that face to face time. When I’m talking to someone in person & they start clicking on their device – I quit talking (because they’re attention is somewhere else).

  11. Published that comment prematurely. Yes it is definitely a big part of my life. It is one out lite for advocacy thats available 24/7.
    Nice advertising. Actually attractive and loads fast. Does the publisher retain control over the ad content?

  12. Great blog, on this early Sunday morning I really enjoyed reading your blog. I truely believe social media is just a part of ones’ life as moving forward. We have to keep up w/ the times or we will be so far left behind. Have a wonderful family breakfast, for me and my family, we will have a great breakfast. http://www.blufrogenergy.com/eaglinstacy Thank you, Stacy

  13. Bai Zijian says: 03/02/2009 at 1:11 am

    I think that the blurring of such lines is almost inevitable, due to the reach of how social media is nowadays. It can be viewed both good and bad in almost a number of ways.

    For example, most bloggers are leading mostly solitary lives and twitter makes it easy to connect with other users more easily. Not to mention via blogs too.

    It may become bad in also a number of ways, such as the lack of human touch and contact. It really depends on how the person uses it rather than what type of blurring there is…..

  14. Gotta keep the balance up.

    You can have it all, you just have to manage it all. If you are someone who can do that, then great. If not, then one or the other (or more likely both) will suffer.

    George

  15. I haven’t added Twitter to my phone yet, but I have access to e-mail, phone numbers from bloggers in my network, and other access. It seems like I’m always plugged in. It’s nice, in a way, because I stay up to date, but I’m also trying to cut it off to a certain degree. It’s nice to have family time and “me” time. And my wife and I are expecting our first child soon, so I know I will need to make some changes!

  16. This is so true. Except for the “real friends” – I think I have the balance here. And if I’m with my family, then it’s them alone.
    Still very true.

    Cheers

  17. Hi Darren,
    I find your article of this morning very interesting. What exactly is happening with the advent of social media and the electronic devices that surround us. They are making time and space obsolete, in a way aren’t they?
    Yet it is a question that is often on my mind. What is going on?

    I am somewhat ‘old fashioned’ I think. I don’t have a cell phone for example and when I go on a forum I wonder where to go and what to do and who’s talking. Even trying to understand how to ‘relate’ on Twitter leaves me ‘wondering’.

    Any way I have been a long time student’s of Marshall McLuhan. I find the ideas he was espousing, back in the day, very interesting and relevant to what is going down now.

    He said that every media is an ‘extension’ of the body. For example clothes are an extension of the skin. And more relevant to the present discussion, electronic devices are an extension of the human nervous system. He further stated that we were now in the electronic age and everything was being re-tribalized.
    The era of the “job” is gone and we are now into ‘roles’ of ‘total involvement’.
    I think that is in fact what is happening.
    If your interested there are quite a few clips of McLuhan on Utube. I was just watching this one before witting this response to your query. http://tinyurl.com/38pn85

    The clip starts with this quote: Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.

    The question, for me is, what are we being turned into?
    Have a great day.
    I enjoyed your blog.
    Norm

  18. Well, considering I read this post on my Blackjack II, from a link on tiny twitter while sitting with coworkers on a break…

    I’d agree with the previous comments as far as finding a balance. I’m trying to achieve full time blogger status while still working a full time job and raise a family. So yeah, this one hits home. I’ve lost some sleep waking up early and sneaking out of bed before the wife and two year old misses me. Thinking I’ll do something productive, I sit down and … get sidetracked by my tweetstream.

    It’s easy to do! I strive every day to keep the social media aspect to a minimum, yet I understand the necessity if you want to make it in this industry. (Do we call it that?) So I find the balance, and try to make the necessary time to participate without taking time away from my family.

    The day job on the other hand…

  19. sometimes, i think we’re approaching going over the edge with our personal blog, although we’ve resisted twitter. one example is my husband likes to buy me flowers and now asks if i’ll put a picture on our blog. he used to like to just buy them for me. now i wonder if he likes the ‘publicity’ ;)?

    everything we do just isn’t that interesting or photogenic and i find myself frustrated when we don’t have something new to say. is it ok to break the schedule when all the ”experts’ say you should post 3-5 times a week to keep readers interested? i’d like to say ‘yes’.

  20. It really depends on how you manage IT. Most first time bloggers are really into IT. Specific example would be staring at the STATS. Some are also hardcore users of IT because they want their blog/site to grow. But really, IT depends…

  21. While I don’t find anything wrong with having online friends, and as Tumblemoose brings up you have to keep a balance, you made me think of something else related to boundaries.

    For me the issue isn’t so much needing boundaries around my interaction with people online, it’s more about putting boundaries about the time I devote to the whole blog/social media thing. Again as Tumblemoose pointed out, it’s a matter of balance.

    If your brick-and-mortar home (and those in it) are suffering from the time you spend online, then maybe you need to put up a time-management boundary.

    Even if nobody else is suffering (you might live alone, etc) it’s healthy to make sure you’re not burning yourself out; that blinking computer monitor can serve as an IV for some.

  22. For the most part, I’m able to draw a pretty solid line between online and offline because very few people overlap between the two groups. Similarly, there’s also very little overlap between my day job and any social media activity. Moreover, since I have a cellphone that’s only used for special occasions, I don’t have the same interruptions on my offline time as other people.

    By the same token, I can easily find several dozen acquaintances who are Twittering several times each waking hour, giving a running account of their day. There’s certainly a lot of overlap there between what might have been considered “unavailable” time but, let’s face it, it was the cellphone and pagers that really started a lot of people down the path of “always available”. Social media is just another set of steps along that journey.

    Having said all that, I do think it’s healthy to put some kind of barriers or limits on “on line time” so that it doesn’t disrupt the other, more important parts of life.

  23. Hey everyone,

    Thanks for all the quick and insightful comments. It’s funny, while writing the post, I literally kept going back and forth about how I felt about the blurring of the lines. In fact, I’m sitting here writing this comment as a quick burst of social media juice, while my daughter is doing her own thing on a Sunday morning for a few minutes.

    Is it work, is it play, does it matter?

    The more I think about it, it’s less about labeling it work or play, it’s really just about the impact it’s having on your life and on your ability to be present and engaged.

    Put another way, is it allowing you to connect with who and what matters most? Or, is it taking away?

    That line can be so thin, it’s important, at least for me, to ask the question on a pretty regular basis and adjust along the way.

  24. BloggieWoggieDoodle says: 03/02/2009 at 2:12 am

    I prefer the virtual world over the physical world.

    That isn’t to say that I don’t tend well to the physical world; I do.

    I don’t like face2face interaction. I never have. I never have and I doubt I ever will.

    Here’s something to stoke a little discussion: I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that attitude and I don’t see anything unhealthy about it especially since I get outside several times a week and take good care of the home front.

    Anyone else have similar feelings or does anyone think I “need help”?

  25. It is important to understand that family is also important. I agree that the blog is also important but family always comes before blogging. People should realize that

  26. The beginning of this article freaked me out. I don’t have kids, but it is sunday morning and I did get up before my wife woke up so I could work on my blog. And then I was sitting on the toilet when I starting reading this post on my trusty iPhone.

    My goal (and I say goal because I don’t always live up to it) is to spend focused time on everything I do. When I am with my wife or friends in person, I focus on being with them in the moment. And then I spend focused time working on my blog, checking stats, and using social media. The key is that I have to actually book out the time for those activities so that they get done, and then be disciplined enough not to work on them until it is time to.

  27. For me I am playing two roles, I am doing blogging because I love it and with that I am also having day time job as well. I am a workaholic guy and works always motivates me :)

    I am still not having such kind of life, but yeah its fun to have such.

  28. Hi,

    I think social media has offered us the ability to connect with people that have the same beliefs or the same interests or read the same blogs or watch the same movies or listen to the same music.

    Ans many times we don’t encounter in real life people that are interested by the same things as we are. And we need someone to exchange ideas and thoughts … someone who listens and understands what are we talking about. And in many cases social networks gives us this opportunity … and I think we should take it.

    Now, if this is a good thing or a bad thing I don’t know. Time will tell. If we should spend less time checking our e-mail or friending up on some social network : depends on what each individual wants. We are free now to communicate and express our feelings and share our knowledge.

    Thanks,
    @TomaBonciu

  29. My personal motivation for facing this exact blurring of lines between blogging world and real world is – Give the present to your family.

    Postpone your passion, addiction, business, work or whatever you call it. It could wait.

    Give the present to you kid handing over her doll and play with her. That moment won’t come back.

    A comment could be scapped any time and no one bothers in the mayhem of billion blogs and zillion comments.

    If you set aside some logical/humanly possible hours for work be it research/blogging anything…. It is the best solution is what I feel. At the end, a blog alone won’t speak who you really are.

    In the race for maintaing brand identity, we shouldn’t lose identity :)

  30. What an interesting and thought-provocing article!

    I think one of the reasons that a lot of internet activities are so compelling is that they give us measurable and instant feedback. How many “friends” or “followers have we got, how many people read our last blog post or made a comment. The numbers can make us feel like we are improving – something – ourselves… We get some kind of quantifiable result from our social media that we don’t get with “real friends” and family.

    I think the technologically-driven blurring of the lines between work and play and time is a very interesting question too! It does allow us to always be doing something. But why are we “cranking out work”, being super efficient, always checking, doing, commenting, connecting, texting? Isn’t the point in being effective that we reach a point when we are done for the day, and – then what? We work so that – what? What is the reward? Or are we working for the sake of working? Or are we connecting to feel that we are seen, or noticed, to feel that we exist? “I am who I know, or how many followers I have”, rather than “I am what I buy”?

    If the internet basically is one’s digital working environment, perhaps the only way to not be working, is to turn it off when one has spare time. Also in order to not burn out.

    On the one hand, the blurred lines between work and play can seem like a huge freedom. Ohhh – I can sit at a café and write! I can work any hours I like. I can check my Tweets on my iPhone. But if I find myself working much more than in a traditional setting, I have to ask myself if all these micro breaks on my social media that all in all prolong my work day by – lets say – four hours, really are what I want to do with my time.

    The trouble is that one often doesn’t tend to plan how much time one wants to spend on these activities. Is it going to be one hour a day? One hour per week? Ten minutes per day? What feels like a reasonable amount of time?

    For me, social media can be my digital break room, that I step into for a few minutes of fun, and then step out again. If I remind myself that that is what I want it to be.

    Again, thanks for a great read!

  31. Hi Jonathon. Great post and really important question. I do know that the best way to live and work is to be wholehearted about what you’re doing, while you’re doing it. And that means giving the activity in hand mindful time and attention. (Not “just a quck check”…or “back in a sec”) Otherwise, yes, the boundaries blur to such a degree that you are never truly present for anything and life is slipping past while your head and heart is somewhere else. I’d guess we’ve all been there but definitely not the way to go.
    PS it’s my observation that most pro bloggers (yes, including Darren) work far too hard. Cut yourselves a break, boys. We’ll still follow you. :).

  32. This is a great post Jonathan. I think that we need more reflection on the psychology of using social media and new web applications to “enhance” our global presence, our careers, and our lives. Because we need to have boundaries if we want to succeed in the long-term.

    The way I look at it is this: When I really need to write or create something, I have to shut out the rest of the world for the most part, and especially when I’m writing fiction. It’s just a matter of focus. When you immerse yourself in an inner world, you cannot be immersed in the thoughts, opinions, questions, or actions of others — unless you specifically need to refer to those to help your story/writing/project along and you do so consciously.

    So when I’m using social media, my concentration is already fragmented to some extent; I have less of a boundary in place to help me write and create. (Even though I may be getting inspiration — to write about later.)

    Now maybe for some people the multitasking works. But I bet most artists and writers even in our time — still create their best works in solitude.

    If what Jonathan says about boundaries resonates with you, I recommend reading the article called, “The End of Solitude” by William Deresiewicz, which is a much needed look at how solitude is becoming more obsolete in an increasingly connected world.

  33. Yep, I’m guilty of this. I own an iPhone and aside from checking email when away from my desk, I’m also checking my blog stats, moderating comments and anything else I can do on that magic little device. The only thing I haven’t done with my iPhone yet is write a post. But I’m sure that’s not too far down the road!

    Great post!

  34. Funny, I just read an article this morning on Christianity Today’s site saying that many people are going on a “Facebook fast” for lent! Apparently giving up facebook is more of a sacrifce than living without food…interesting! Great post, very funny and yet sad.

  35. I agree that blogging can become distracting from the truly important things in life. Life is too short to become obsessed with any one thing at the expense of truly living. Yesterday my blog tracker website was down and I went snow shoeing in rocky mountain national park at bear lake. It was magical and I was able to put my life into perspective. life is a continual balancing act and I am trying integrate blogging into it without letting it define my life. I have too many other interests to let that happen. But I do have a constantly renewed hope that blogging and internet networking in general will usher in a new age of rapidly diffusable wisdom and public consciousness and maybe even a new Renaissance of art and culture through this New Media. In this hope we have started a competition with a $100 cash prize on our humble blog. Anyone can show off their posting talents see this post for details. http://www.tompainesghost.com/2009/02/post-with-most-on-tom-paines-ghost_23.html
    ~K

  36. I guess I’m one of the few who doesn’t carry an iPhone. I recognize my need for separation, and realize that if I had socail media at my disposal 24/7, my wife would be even less thrilled with my career as an internet marketer.

    It’s nice to be able to put it aside now and again to reconnect with the “real” world.

  37. Hi,

    I think it is real important to have clear boundaries between work and family. Otherwise its hard to focus.

    I don’t blog at tt weekend as thats family time. I do blog at odd hours during the week but that fits in with what I am doing usually.

    Social media is great, but it can waste a lot of your time and if you are building a business you must be able to focus otherwise you will never succeed :-(

    Good talking point – eek its Sunday, I shoulden’t be doing this :-)

    cheers
    Tony

  38. Yes, your post aptly points out the negative side effects that social media, blogging, and smart phones can bring into your life. But, as with anything setting boundaries is key, although the boundaries can get quite blury these days. Who hasn’t been guilty of checking their blog for comments or responding to DM’s when they should have been paying attention to something else.

    As long as the quality of the relationships with the one’s you care about is unaffected you will experience mostly positive benefits from the blogosphere/social media.

  39. Nothing is “bad” until you make it that way. When that “thing”, an object, a person, an event, or an activity becomes your main focus in life, then you should be concerned. If your life lives to fulfill the needs of that thing, then it is bad, especially if others are hurt and sacrificed for it. Obviously some things are ok to serve, like your family, and your job to a certain extent. When you plan dinner with your wife and kids around checking your blog stats, or when you can’t get through dinner without tweeting, you’re in trouble. Otherwise, have it.

  40. Excellent topic.

    I have definitive boundaries when I’m in both work mode and family mode. After 5pm, for example, I generally shut down my work-mind and call the kids to the family room to watch TV/cuddle/walk the mooses etc. And ideally Tuesdays and Friday is Me time for karate sparring and all-around relaxing.

    Boundaries…very important things indeed.

    Data points, Barbara

  41. As with everything in life, we must remind ourselves to seek balance. A task much easier said than done.

    On one hand, blogging and social media enable us to connect and contribute while being mobile. For many of us that use these mediums for work, this can allow us to work from your home office while watching the kids or from half-way around the world sitting on the beach in the Mediterranean. But on the other hand, too much time spent ‘plugged in’ can begin to take away from the core relationships that make life worth living (family).

    I think Mr. Fields above poses the right question: “…it’s less about labeling it work or play, it’s really just about the impact it’s having on your life and on your ability to be present and engaged.” That said, I think scheduling time for both, as well as allowing a little flexibility for spontaneity, is the way forward.

    And remember, as Timothy Ferriss puts it; “Schedule your life well in advance of when you actually want to live it.”

    Regards, Michael

  42. I think its only natural. We are living in more fluid times. Boundries are shrinkings and our reach expanding.

  43. Harry says: 03/02/2009 at 9:34 am

    I must agree with Connie about people clicking while talking. I, also, withdraw until I have a chance to compete with the Crackberry.

    The always connected social media phenomenon has actually resulted in a decrease in face-to-face social skills. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve watched “under the table” texting during a presentation and I’ve actually walked out of a presentation after the second attendee answered her phone while I was trying to help them focus their marketing efforts. I apologized and offered the opportunity to reschedule when I could have their undivided attention.

    The boundaries ARE blurred when you allow your connectivity to interfere with “real time” face time with another human being, whether family, friend or business associate.

  44. I think it is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it creates the instant ability to do work and connect with your clients/coworkers. On the other hand, it creates a society based on instant gratification. That causes problems for any service provider that doesn’t respond near instantly to users’ requests. That makes it difficult for us (the service providers) to break away and actually have a “day off”. I’ve just started getting into the social media consulting business and I’m already finding out that i need to be on call for most of the time. I guess when I try to take my first real vacation this summer, I’ll find out how it affects business.

  45. Being a new blogger, working on building your blog can sometimes take over. Being an active participant on social networking sites and other networks can sometimes consume you and it become difficult to sometimes just “turn off.” But, I am learning how to do just that.

  46. I contemplate this often myself!! Between my iphone, laptop and imac I am always digitally connected. I have noticed my older son commenting on how much I love my computer! I have begun to wonder if I should give myself time lines each day when I can and can’t work on my blogging/online work!! I get so absorbed sometimes the day dissappears!! This didn’t happen when I was just working online without trying to blog and network and rank!! It’s like a whole new world I am learning, but I think it does pull me in and get to consuming!!

  47. It’s not bad or good. It just is.

    Personally I think it’s great. Indeed I call some of my online fellows friends and sometimes it feels like I know them better than some of my offline friends.

    It tears down boundaries between people and cultures and enriches our lives. I think it makes this world a better place.

    Of course there will ever be people who will use it in a negative way, but that is with everything in life. Even a ball pen can be a deadly weapon in the wrong hands.

    So, just enjoy it.

  48. Enjoyed it thanks.

  49. If social media is being used as an escape from real-life relationships or as a way to feel productive, then yes, in excess it’s a problem. But if you can honestly say you’re doing it for reasons in tune with what you value, then whether or not you’re blurring the boundaries between work and play is besides the point.

    When you’re living your passion, work and play are inherently blurred. Your work is your play. It’s like asking whether or not your playing soccer on Saturdays is taking away from your musical pursuits. It’s a very very different way of looking at the work / personal life balance issue.

    The better question to ask is, “Are any of things I value being neglected because of something I’m doing?” And then, “What can I do about it?” If you don’t value face to face interaction, there’s little reason to change your behavior.

  50. You made me LAUGH! Yes, I know someone just like it…. I’m living with ‘m….. ha ha… Thank goodness, I can pull him away from that computer for enough times in the day to keep his health up!

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