Little and often will make you happy with social networking

The businessman at the back of the room wasn’t that happy. When I asked an audience of business owners if any of them had used social networking one man at the back put up his hand: “I tried it once but it didn’t do me any good,” he said.

In fact, that’s quite a common reaction. Most people who sign up for social networking sites, such as Facebook or Ecademy, try out some of the more obvious features but then give up. Only every now and then do they venture back in to the network and gradually they fade away as they become unhappy with the system for its apparent failure to help them.

New research on the strange combination of religious practice and exercise suggests a reason why most people don’t find anything positive in social networking. The study looked at the happiness of 12 different religions as well as those people who take part in yoga or gym classes. What the researchers discovered was that the happiest people were those who took part regularly.

Sometimes people expect supposedly positive events to have an impact on our happiness. But, consistently, psychological research shows we tend to remember single negative events for a long time, but single positive events disappear from our consciousness.

This research suggests that you are not going to feel the impact of social networking on your business until you have taken part regularly. It’s rather like taking anti-depressant tablets such as Prozac; they don’t have an overnight effect and you need to take them for around six weeks before an impact is felt. And that’s why so many people give up taking them – they expect a more immediate positive reaction.

In social networking it’s the same – most people give up because they don’t feel positive results immediately. This new research suggests that if you do persist and take part in social networking sites regularly, you will eventually feel much happier.

So how can you ensure you get the long lasting positive feelings? Here’s my suggestion: set a time in your diary for 10 minutes each day of social networking. You could, for instance, say that you’ll take part in Ecademy or Facebook for 10 minutes first thing each day – before you do anything else. Or you could do it at lunchtime, or the end of the day. It doesn’t matter – just set a time to suit you.

Then read a few messages, add some comments, make some connections – and then disconnect from the system. Don’t return until your next “appointment” with the social networking site. Do this every day for at least two weeks. The result will be an increase in positive feelings about the social networking activity you engage in – and, this new research suggests, this will work in a much more positive way than trying to explore the whole site one afternoon and then giving up quickly.

Like a lot of things in life, social networking works best for you when it is done “little and often”.

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