Over the last few days I’ve driven over 350 miles to client offices. I’ve been delivering workshops and hands on training sessions on site. Each trip has been over 50 miles from my office. I’ve crossed several counties and driven round major motorways and roads.
And I’ve been very, very stressed about each trip I’ve made. All because of social media.
Last week, as the snow fell, Twitter lit up with the interactive snow map, produced by using the hashtag #uksnow. People send messages rating the snowfall on their area.
Local news channels invited people to send in their photos of the snow. Websites showed abandoned cars, gritters, snowplows and people sledging and skiing in town streets.
My own Facebook feed filled with icy gardens, snowmen and white snow covered roads. My friends in the UK rushed to social media to tell their friends just how bad the snow was.
London Heathrow airport cancelled 20 per cent of its flights. I was extremely worried about driving to my client meeting in an office close to Heathrow.
Would I get there, would I have to abandon my car miles away from the office and walk? Would I have to reschedule the meeting?
I asked my Facebook friends how the snow was in each location I wanted to get to. I asked people about the driving conditions on my route. And I scanned the news for real time information.
Saturday was a stressful day watching the weather reports. On Sunday I decided to leave home early and stay with friends who lived closer to the client. I did not want to risk the 120 mile drive early on Monday morning. i worried about the trip all day on Sunday finally setting off early complete with emergency supplies in the car, blankets, hot drinks and a shovel.
The drive was much better than I’d imagined. Although it was snowing heavily, the gritters were out keeping the roads clear. There were no hold ups and people were driving at a sensible speed. I had no problems.
On Monday morning, I started my journey an hour earlier than I normally would do – and I arrived at the client offices an hour early on a bright sunny day. My drive home from the client gave me no problems. The greatest amount of snow was in my own driveway. Tuesday’s drive to my next event was smooth and snow free.
I had worried for days – all for nothing. And social media had fuelled my anxiety.
20 years ago, I would have got in the car and made the drive. I might have seen the TV reports, I might have called the client before I left to gauge the snow. I certainly would not have spent days before the event worrying about the weather and poring over user generated reports.
I would have just gone out and made the journey. I have driven in all sorts of weathers since I learned to drive. It didn’t bother me at all – until this weekend. Social media snow stories stressed me out.
I had believed everything I read on Twitter and Facebook about the weather and I worried. Should I have depended so much on all the data I was getting? Thinking about this makes sense. The snow map is more representative of where people tweet about snow, than where snow is actually falling.
In isolated or rural areas people might not tweet about snow as they are busy clearing it away from the roads. Not everyone in the country uses Twitter – or Facebook.
I was basing my decisions on a huge amount of data – and not making my own judgement calls on the situation.
So will I check my social feeds the next time the UK has a dramatic fall of snow? Yes, probably. But next time, I’ll follow my own experience and hunches and I won’t be so swayed by the user generated content I see. Next time I’ll trust my own judgement — just like I used to.
Social media will continue to inform me – not stress me out. And I’ll enjoy others’ images of snow – without anxiety
Eileen is a social business and social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact Eileen to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.