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Balancing act: Social networking affects work/life balance

Published: Monday, Jan. 2 2012 1:00 p.m. MST

Social networking can affect work/life balance.

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The Twitter account connected to this column, @gkratzbalancing, crossed the 300 followers mark on New Year's Day.

My Facebook journalist page has 102 "likes."

In the world of social networking, those numbers are tiny. But from my perspective, they're kind of amazing.

I still consider myself to be relatively inexperienced in this virtual world. I've had a personal Facebook page for a couple of years now — the "journalist" page is less than a year old. I've had a Twitter account for more than a year, too.

I never intended to be an early adopter in either case. In fact, I dragged my feet quite a bit, which is why I was late to the game and why my numbers are still low. In a world full of distractions, I figured the last thing I needed were more little things to occupy my precious time.

That changed somewhat when I became managing editor for deseretnews.com and started seeing the impact such sites could have as we tried to attract traffic.

Good stories told by talented writers were — and, I believe, always will be — the things that are most important in determining whether a news story or feature piece draws attention online. However, an excellent story that, in the past, would have been popular with just a small group of local readers can now become a national, or even international, sensation, thanks to Twitter, Facebook and the like.

Having witnessed this more than once while I was still at deseretnews.com, I decided to start my own column-related accounts based on my desire to promote better work/life balance.

The irony is that keeping up with Twitter and Facebook adds yet one more task to my list of things to do, and since I'm not at the paper anymore, I have to do so on my own time.

That's why, every Monday, I find myself taking a late lunch so I can use some of my break time to check my column online and then post links to it to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

It's not a huge deal, but I do feel pressure to try to come up with a catchy phrase to post in the hopes that I can attract a little attention for my own pieces and make them worthwhile for the editors at my former workplace.

I don't know whether these efforts have paid off, but I have received some interesting feedback from my social networking friends and followers.

For example, in response to a column I wrote a few months ago about the challenges of being patient with myself as I started a new job, one Twitter follower responded: "That was exactly my life about 12 months ago. Still feel it sometimes. Patience is still the toughest aspect, no doubt."

Replying to one of my periodic rants against neckties, another Twitter follower (and airline pilot) wrote: "Greg, there's only one thing worse than having to wear a tie at work: only be allowed one color. Great column!"

But another follower, identified as "Salazar's Bolo Tie," was less complimentary. "My strings tightened as I read this bolocidal column by @gkratzbalancing. All neckwear should constrict in revolt," this tweeter wrote.

"Without resorting to invective, I submit @gkratzbalancing is ... a poltroon. He wants a freed neck — but at what cost fashion? He should be calling for manly neckwear that is still noble when loosened. Bolo ties are ideal, yet completely ignored by @gkratzbalancing."

A poltroon? Very creative, if harsh. I admit that I did not consider bolo ties in my anti-neckwear pieces. (Incidentally, Mr. Bolo Tie, I've got nothing against you. Perhaps I'll give you a try someday, but for now, I'm keeping my collar open!)

Another reader responded on Facebook to my column on the benefits of technology, even if it does sometimes seem to keep us a little too connected: "You nailed it with your line: 'technology is just a tool, and like any tool, it is up to me to use it correctly.' "

Even if it does sometimes result in name-calling (I'm still struggling with the "poltroon" thing), and though it takes up some of my free time, I appreciate the instant feedback and ideas I receive through social networking.

In fact, I'm hoping I can double both my Twitter followers and Facebook likes in 2012, and I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts on work/life balance issues through those outlets (or by email, if that's your preference).

Maybe if I keep on irritating items of neckwear that happen to have their own Twitter accounts, I'll attract enough attention to do just that!

Email your comments to kratzbalancingact@gmail.com or post them online at deseretnews.com. Follow me on Twitter at gkratzbalancing and on Facebook on my journalist page.

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