Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Biznik, blogs, comments, status updates, “friend”ing, fan pages…aaah! Where does it end?
Do you find yourself avoiding social media, or find it overwhelming? You’re so not alone. I’ve talked to many people, of all ages, highly technical and not, and it’s a common issue.
What if you are not a natural social butterfly? How do you get any work done if you Facebook all day? How can you have meaningful interactions when you can’t keep up with all the conversations? What is reasonable? What is normal? What “should” I be doing?
I have some perspectives I’ll share in a bit. But first I want to state vehemently that there are very good reasons for why it’s overwhelming and confusing.
The online business landscape is changing at a very rapid rate. Nobody can keep up. If you make it about keeping up, you’ll feel like you are drowning.
Social media requires a much different approach to media that we are used to. You approach an encyclopedia very differently than a magazine. You approach a raging river very differently than you approach a still lake. And you need to approach Twitter and Facebook very differently than email. For example, Twitter is a stream – you dip in and see what goes by, but you don’t try to drink the whole river. Email is more like a bucket – you process each thing that goes in and out.
Rules and social expectations are different too. If someone sends you an email, they usually expect a response. But if someone comments or “likes” your Facebook status, a return comment is not expected. It’s a more optional medium. These are rules and norms that take time to figure out and get comfortable with.
And there’s the issue of privacy. The lines between personal, private, public, and professional are getting all blurry. That’s fascinating…and scary. Privacy is a primal need. In human society, rules and norms about privacy usually change very slowly. Right now they are all over the map. Understanding how to navigate in a world where the very nature of privacy and the personal is being questioned and rewritten daily is confusing and unsettling.
Social media tools are changing fundamental patterns of interaction, and I think we can’t even see where that will take us yet. It’s going to be disorienting for awhile. The best way to cope is to expect change and give yourself a liberal amount of self-acceptance for not knowing what exactly is going on or how you feel about it.
Next, some perspectives.
I’m not a social media expert. In fact, I’m pretty skeptical, and sometimes a bit peeved, at most people who call themselves that.
But I’ve had my share of resistance to social media. These ideas represent my experience making sense of it.
Resistance #1: It is all too much! I have a dozen invites to different services in my Inbox!
It’s an 80/20 thing. 80% of the activity is on 20% of the sites. Only it’s probably more like 95/5. Facebook’s popularity is huge compared with most others. Twitter is up there too.
You only need to have one network that you really participate in to build an online community. So choose one that makes sense to you and you feel at home with.
I like Facebook because I like the way it has threaded comments and it’s personal. Some of my friends live in Twitter. Another friend is crazy about GoodReads. Community is happening on all these sites. It’s more about picking and sticking than about being on all of them.
Don’t join the smaller ones unless you really want to. Or you have a compelling reason to, like you already know a group on that service you want to be part of, or you know that it’s where folks in your niche actually do hang out.
If your people aren’t there, you can’t socialize with them. So join a network where people you like and want to share space with are hanging out.
Resistance #2: I’m an introvert. I have nothing to say to these people.
A lot of us creative types are not exactly the life of the party. We prefer small groups of friends or one-on-one conversations to big gatherings. We’d rather know a few people well than keep up with hundreds of acquaintances. We can’t imagine why anybody cares about all the trivial crap that gets posted on Facebook.
Here’s the thing: Even if you are not that social, a lot of other people are. They will get value out of connecting to you and reading your updates, even if you think they are not worth posting. They will want to “friend” you even if you would never think to “friend” them. Sometimes you don’t have to do much more than let them. Let people (and customers) know you. Start there.
Next, notice what events or activities in your daily life you talk to your friends about. What do you send in emails to people you know well? What do you share with them on the phone? Become mindful of the news you are already sharing with the contacts that you already know. Start posting some of these news items to your Facebook status feed or Twitter. Develop it as a habit slowly over time.
The stars of social media post constantly and consistently. And they’ll say it’s necessary. But it’s not, in my opinion. Once a day, or even once a week, is enough for people to have a presence to connect to. Do what is natural to you. More becomes noise. You don’t have to become Ms. Chit-Chat if that’s not who you are. Start with just showing up, in your authenticity, and letting people get a glimpse of you from time to time.
Resistance #3: People won’t like me. Nobody will care about what I write.
Do your friends like you in real life?
Of course they do. Bring whatever it is that they like and love about you into social media.
What value do you already bring to the network you already have? Ground yourself solidly in who you are and what value you bring before approaching social media.
Use your strengths. Are you an idea person? Post some of your ideas. Are you a researcher? Post interesting sites or discoveries. Do you inspire people? Post inspirational thoughts. Do you like to make people think? Post questions or links to controversial articles. Are you an artist? Do you love your family? Whatever it is that makes you a well-rounded human being is stuff you can share.
Bring your full self.
Then let go.
You can’t control what anybody else thinks about you. Whether they like you, friend you, ignore you, or even criticize you in some way, it’s not about you. You met their needs, or you didn’t, or they had a bad day, or they had a good day, or you remind them of their favorite niece, or who knows. Take it as information, weighted evenly with what you know of them and how close they are to you. Consider its value to you as feedback, but don’t take it personally.
Any kind of recognition brings up our fear of rejection. Notice it, affirm your own worth, be true to who you are and show up in the fullness of you, and then let go of the need to control what other people are thinking. You can’t control anybody else’s opinions, actions, or preferences. You’ll go nutty trying.
Hand it over, or do whatever works for you to surrender things you can’t control.
Resistance #4: It will take over my life. I sit down and suddenly it’s 4 hours later.
Reading updates and following blogs can be addictive, it’s true. And it can be draining. You sit down to check your feed and make a status update and suddenly you have followed a thread to a blog to another blog to a new site you spent 1/2 hour on to a book you had to buy on Amazon. And now you are down $12.95 and you didn’t get anything done today.
This is an opportunity to get mindful and notice what really serves you. How much time per week reading blogs and Twitter fits into your life in a balanced, healthy way? Is it 1/2 hour? 5 hours? Nobody knows but you. But that’s the amount you should do it.
Personally my limit is about 15 minutes per sitting, and I like to do it once a day or so. I’ve developed the habit of checking in with myself: “Is this getting draining? Is it time to stop now and do something else?”.
Mindfulness is simply noticing what is true for you. As you become more aware of your needs and validate them, you will find it easier to approach things that are overwhelming and be confident that you can be responsible to yourself.
Resistance #5: I am a private person. I don’t want to be “transparent”.
There is a difference between “authentic” and “transparent”. Authentic means what you say is true and it’s about you. It’s not spin, hype, promotional, invented, or, um, plagiarized. It’s said in a genuine spirit of sharing.
Transparent, on the other hand, means you share everything. That works for some people. But it doesn’t work for most people. And that’s not what social media is really about. It’s about connection. It’s about inviting people into your living room occasionally. Or maybe onto your front porch to sit and have a chat. Not into your bedroom, or any other rooms you don’t want them visiting. You get to choose.
You can be authentic and share only 5% of what is going on for you in your life. That’s OK. You don’t have to be naked. You can wear a snowsuit. As long as people can see your face, they can connect to you. And that’s the point.
Resistance #6: Social media is full of shallow self-promotion and friend-collecting. I’d rather spend my time cultivating real connections.
Yes, there is a lot of self-promotion going on in social media.
Of course, there is a lot going on everywhere.
When I go to an in-person networking meeting, there are the people who shove their business cards at me, and the people who engage in real conversations with me. I get to choose which one I’m going to be, and which people I’m going to engage with. The choices I make determine whether the event meets my needs or not. You have those same choices online.
Social media is like one giant party that you can drop in and out of at any time, and you can pick exactly who you want to talk to. Get comfortable with tools like “hide this person’s updates from my stream” and “ignore” and “unfollow”. There is no reason you have to engage with people who aren’t being real. Make choices, just like in real life. Go for connections with people that are genuine and that you care about.
Set the tone you want. It’s as much about how you show up as how others show up. If you’re being real, other people who like that will want to be part of the conversation you’re having. Ask yourself: am I demonstrating the quality of connection I am seeking? Am I open to genuine interactions with people?
It’s up to you.
There are no rules here. It’s really up to you.
The key to working with any resistance is mindfully noticing what it is about over time and seeing what is true for you. Eventually the resistance unwinds and you come back to a place of choice. Curiosity arises about the possibilities.
What do you want to create? What works for you? How might social media be an asset to your life or your business? In what ways do you want to open to the larger world around you? In what ways do you want to reserve space and time for aloneness, introspection, time away from the computer, and rest? All needs are valid, and there are many strategies to meet these needs.
A final note: Believe in yourself
A lot of resistance to social media boils down to one thing: shyness. Not the natural introversion and need to be alone that a lot of us can relate to, but a more insidious lack of faith in oneself. It’s a feeling that your work isn’t so great that it would be all that interesting to anyone anyhow. So you hold back, in big and small ways. And people don’t get to see you, or benefit from what you have to offer.
If this rings true for you, consider this: it’s highly likely that people already love you more than you let them. If you have a habit of hiding or putting up fences for fear of being exposed and rejected, you are probably keeping love out more than you are keeping criticism out. Criticism will happen, but love will happen more. People like to love each other. Social media is just a conduit for it.