Social media is here to stay. (Obviously, I’m at least ten years behind. With all due respect, it’s part of my brand.)
Realizing social media isn’t going away within my lifetime, I don’t want to appear like one of those elderly ladies taking an ax to kegs during the prohibition.
It’s my responsibility to fully internalize any new social reality; internalize what it means for youth, learning, creativity, relationships, and small businesses.
Radically rigid people throughout history are easy to cite as they reacted against changes we now accept. For example, some people whose jobs were wrapped up in horseshoes and carriages freaked out about cars (for good reason). Some people who didn’t know any better thought electricity was the work of the devil.
Ending up on the wrong side of history? Not my goal. No thanks.
That being said, I do think social media will be treated like fast food and smoking at some point in the near future.
All in all, I’m not here to bash social media. I’m here to bash the way I was using it (Part 1) and figure out how to survive and maybe even thrive on it.
One Small Fish’s Week Online
*This is not an example of how to thrive.
Oftentimes, I’m a slow and meticulous deep processor of information. I could be wrong, but excessive deep processing seems to work against someone in the social media environment. For example, I don’t need to read into someone's motives when they post a picture of their cat... What do they mean by that? What are they getting at? Why is this mode of attention seeking working for them?
With over 26 billion views on Youtube, cats are the most popular social media category EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Let’s all pause and take that in (...deep processing....).
I'm open to trying out new ideas for social media success. Therefore, I'll deviate from my history theme this week and instead bring to life some judgemental personal finance cats ...
Day 1: A Solo Promotional Experience
I posted Part 1 of this article on Twitter after I finished writing it and felt really good about its potential usefulness. When it didn’t garner a response after 40 minutes, I deleted it.
How dare I leave something up with little engagement? Little response from others will signal I’m a small fish.
Day 2: Some Validation
As an experiment with the idea of social proof, I’ve scaled back on promoting anything of my own until it has been endorsed by others. (At this point, Part 1 has been shared by more than ten separate people, been retweeted far more times than that, and is probably one of my more successful posts during the past six months.)
While approaching self-promotion the above way felt tactful and assisted with navigating the unspoken rules of anti-egomaniacism, the implications of my actions concern me on a larger scale.
As in, I’m disappointed with myself because there's still some small part of me that leaves my own assessment of my work up to the changing whims of others’ interests, opinions, attitudes, and judgments. I literally can’t imagine how boring the world would be if great inventors, artists, and thinkers of the past would have felt the need to wait for their ideas to be endorsed by others.
In addition, I don't use this logic when anyone else posts their own articles, so why do I judge myself so harshly for self-promotion?
Day 3: An Important and Relevant Lesson From Forbes
When Gregor Mendel first presented his well-thought-out ideas about pea plants in 1865, it was apparently the most boring thing that room of 40 people had ever heard. (I personally like the study of genetics. I find it equally intriguing how Mendel didn’t even realize the importance of what he had discovered.)
Main Take Away: Sometimes you can’t care what people think (including yourself).
Day 4: My Kind of Twitter Drama!
Internal thoughts while checking Twitter on my lunch hour Wednesday: I was about to go have cake in the lounge, but now I feel the need to completely rethink my thoughts on Thoreau...
Possible Response Number 1:
"This has stirred some thoughts in me because hate is a strong word, and I am haphazardly pondering how Thoreau should be posthumously diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (recently reclassified as Autism Spectrum Disorder in the DSM). Maybe that lonely struggle of his morphed into covert narcissism? Let me explain. Maybe he unproductively processed his pain of feeling so different from others within the context of his time that he consequently formed a superiority complex? In addition, he seamlessly fits The Outcast Personality profile in Routh Soukup’s brilliant new book. There are reasons why this personality needs to collaborate more in order to reach its potential.. but maybe he just couldn’t pull it off? Maybe he was so harsh with others while shamefully and paradoxically reliant on Emerson because he wanted to reject society before it rejected him? This doesn’t forgive his occasional sentiments of ignorance nor provide any excuses..."
Day 5: Realizing I Missed Out on Cake
A quip rekindling internal excitement:
Possible Response (Try Number 2):
"While I do not agree with all of his quotes, I appreciate the depth of reasoning behind the Transcendentalist movement as a whole. I wonder if he expressed his demeaning and judgemental sentiments from a source of pain. We CANNOT forgive him, but as you know, his landmark work Walden helped shine light on a movement that was benign and well-intentioned overall and included the brilliant Louise May Alcott…"
Internal thoughts: Am I spending my limited brain power trying to put in a good word for a dead man many considered to be a rude and condescending freeloader?
SUDDEN REALIZATION: I don’t have a strong opinion about this at all! Where’s the cake? Is it all gone?
The Part of My Story I Disagree With
When I quit social media and my music career around the same time, it wasn’t a coincidence. It was simply ridiculous.
Should someone give up on creative work (especially when they have found a way to get paid for it) just because they are uncomfortable with short-form promotional content and engagement?
My main annoyance with social media was not the time spent on social media itself, but the background chatter in my mind that arose as a result.
I didn’t establish boundaries. I also didn’t know what I wanted out of life as a young person (and I became even more confused when others flashed their stuff). In addition, I didn’t know how to separate out my own narrow interests from the reality not many people I knew in person were interested in the same things.
Clearly, as an adult with a more solid identity, most of my past problems seem like minimal concerns. They also seem to be fully on my side of the court. So I’m ready to tackle them. And I'm ready to take breaks instead of quitting altogether.
I’ve now re-joined social media because of my overwhelming belief in a few creative ideas. My desire to join the conversation and learn from others has finally outweighed the fears inherent in my outcast personality.
Beyond my own above story as a naive adult, at this point in my life, I’ve worked with several amazing kids from all kinds of backgrounds who struggle with speaking up. It’s an enormous concern of mine that many uniquely intelligent and highly sensitive young people with helpful, eccentric, and relevant long-form ideas quit promotional tasks early because they lack an interest in keeping up with the short-form noise of social media. Some of them have the ideas I want to hear the most and they don’t speak up at all (online or off)! I am terrified of a world where the above demographic of people exit the spot-lighted conversations of our time.
Day 6 and Into the Summer: Let the Experiments Continue!
I have narrow interests. (This is probably apparent by now.) I’m also highly sensitive - from crying at the sight of road kill to hating and detesting loud sounds. Throw in some introversion and I’m a little bomb of weirdness waiting to explode. Luckily, I’ve learned throughout my life to make this combination “go off” under the right circumstances (with art/music) and in the correct locations.
But this awareness took a lot of hard work and several ugly isolated phases.
While many of the traits mentioned in this article can work against someone on social media, I also think it is worth trying to see if there are particular strengths that can show up in such an environment, especially if the eventual goal is long-form creative work.
For example, niches can work great for highly focused people whose minds are consistently high-jacked by narrow interests. Concerning high-sensitivity, if channeled correctly, it can help someone recognize, respond, and adjust to nuances and changes potentially overlooked by others.
It has been a recent creative goal of mine to experiment with the above realizations in a low-risk environment containing several great role-models.
Thanks for being nice to me.
Now please check out my life-long course and corresponding guide to Being Socially Awkward and Surviving While Back Online.
(Just kidding.) However, if you think such a thing should exist, feel free to comment below.