How to explain social media to your spouse

I loved Amber Naslund’s recent post about the always-on, world of digital media. As she correctly said, The New World of Work Includes Social Media.

But here’s the problem. That’s easy for ME to say.

It’s easy for Amber to say.

But is it easy for you to explain to your spouse?  How do you explain why you always need to be tethered to the Internet?

Before I get into the heart of the post, you have to promise me something.  Actually, three things:

  1. You are not a workaholic/addictive personality using social media as an excuse to avoid your family. This is not a post about time management. This is a post about sensitively handling a shift in a person’s lifestyle.
  2. You are not playing World of Warcraft or Farmville and explaining it to your spouse as social media research, and
  3. You are responsibly trying to have a balance with family life most of the time.  That’s important.

If you can agree to these things, I think you’re probably just a stressed marketing pro like the rest of us trying to hang on and stay afloat.  If that’s the case, here are some ideas to explain to your spouse why you don’t have a 9-5 job any more.

Prepare martinis. No, that’s really not the first thing to do. The real first step is to “listen.” But if I wrote “listen” you would skip over this paragraph and that would be a big mistake, so I tricked you. I know you, don’t I?

Seriously.  You need to just shut up. Don’t explain anything at first. If your spouse doesn’t understand why you spend so much time on the social web, let them express their feelings and frustrations FIRST. This doesn’t mean be quiet and prepare to speak, this means authentically connect and try to truly understand what is going on. Don’t rule out that they may be right. Maybe you ARE over-doing it. P.S. Don’t skip this step.

Empathize. This would be expressed in words like: “Wow. I can see how much this is impacting you. I would probably feel the same way.” Or, “I had no idea this was having this kind of an affect on you.”  It’s important that you acknowledge the feelings of the other person as being legitimate.

Lead with feelings. Yes guys, that means you too.  How does it make you FEEL to be immersed in social media marketing? Energized? Depressed? Excited? Renewed? Overwhelmed?  Leading with these kind of words will help set the stage so you can have a non-defensive discussion. You can’t really argue with feelings. They just are.

Don’t explain, show. Chances are you’ve tried to explain what is going on before. Doesn’t work, does it?  There is no way people can understand why social media is so time consuming unless they SEE it. Let them into your world.  And before you have your talk, do a little homework. Have this ready:

  1. Something to make an impression that the marketing world is changing relentlessly. The Qualman “shift” video is always good for something like this and I’m sure you can recommend others.
  2. Be able to demonstrate your typical routine on each social platform. Show how it is connected to your work, your income and your future. Explain why there are no shortcuts.
  3. Give examples of how quickly the technology is changing. Don’t make them read. Show graphs and videos where you can make quick, bold impressions demonstrating urgency and change. Mine Mashable for that stuff.

Be honest. Chances are, the time you spend on the social web is not going to lessen. Let’s face it. These productivity tools only pull us into new niches and corners and rabbit holes. The world is getting faster, not slower.

Tune in to priorities. Be prepared to make a concession to important needs. When are the times you absolutely, positively need to put the smartphone down? Dinner? Vacation? Playtime with the kids? Sunday mornings?  Listen intently, respond compassionately, keep your promises.

Follow-up. Check-in every other week or so and see how things are going on this issue. Are you keeping your promises?

OK.  Help fill in the gaps for me.  How are you handling the workload and explaining social media immersion to your family?

P.S. I have an urge to provide a little explanation here. Sometimes when I read “self help” oriented blog posts I think … “who are you to be giving advice?”  For the record, I do have a masters degree in applied behavioral sciences and spent a lot of time with conflict resolution. I don’t write about this stuff too often but I will probably be getting into those areas now and then because it is interesting to me.

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