Many hate social media.
Why? I think it has some inherent emotional traps.
While social media is very real—there are (most often) humans behind these little headshots—it’s not the interaction, relationships, and conversations of real life.
If you’re active on social media (76 percent of the world according to Pew), you may fall into one of two extremes: silence or shouting.
There are users who document and broadcast every moment, users who lurk and spy, users who carefully craft every single post, and many others in between. There’s really no right or wrong—the way that you share yourself online is dependent on your offline goals and personality.
Today, I encourage you to think about why and how you use social media. I have some simple do’s and don’ts that I hope will make it more fun and enjoyable for you!
DO NOT compare yourself.
The biggest psychological trap of social media is comparing your life and career to someone else’s. You cannot do this. You are on your own journey. Furthermore, what we see online isn’t always the full truth!
If you find yourself constantly comparing yourself, consider cultivating a custom feed through lists or unfollowing the people who make you feel bad!
DO NOT seek validation.
Social media becomes a dangerous place when you base self-worth, self-confidence, or self-esteem on likes, comments, views, followers, etc. While these things can have astonishingly positive effects, you want to avoid the need for instant gratification or validation.
Don’t get it twisted! No matter how many hearts you receive online, you have to love yourself first. (Thank you, RuPaul!) I’ll go further and state the true love of one person—even platonic—is more important than the multitude of hearts on any one post.
DO NOT seek attention.
We often have a need to be in the spotlight—to be fully seen and heard. When you use social media out of a need for attention, you may fall into addiction. Online, you want to come from a place of giving and sharing—not needing and asking. It’s a bit like audition technique! Your job is to give and share what you have… then release the results.
DO some social marketing.
Social media does offer you an incredible way to market yourself. Keep in mind that no one really likes to be marketed to, so this is really just about presenting your best self at all times.
Much like the phrases “your interview begins the moment you walk into the room” or “your audition begins the moment you leave the house,” your online presence is somewhat like a 24/7 date, audition or interview.
People go to Google, Facebook, YouTube, and more to research you. While it's not all of you, keep in mind you probably want to be taken seriously for your work.
You don’t have to overdo social marketing or self-promotion. You also don’t have to censor yourself. Good social marketing means maintaining professionalism while revealing some of your humanity online. It's about showing you’re a great (even fun!) person with whom to collaborate.
I’d encourage you to avoid the traps of narcissism and nudity that come from the desire (or addiction) to attention. These can tarnish or taint your reputation. Whether it’s colleagues, dates, employers, etc., people make judgements. Be conscious about what and how you share things online. What you post goes out to hundreds of people at a time and often gets left behind in your social footprint/archives/timeline.
DO some social networking.
We often take on certain projects or attend specific events to get seen and meet important people. These people are online!
Social media is the perfect way to make a connection with someone without weeks of low-paid work or expensive networking events.
You must be conscious of the timing and tactics, but you are an equal contributor in the world. When the time is right—reach out! These people aren’t on social media to hide!
DO use it for connection.
At the end of the day, remember that social media, namely Facebook, started as a way for us to stay connected. Due to replacement of connections for relationships in the digital age, it’s easy to get a little “disconnected” personally.
You can use social media however you want! I will close with the words of my dear friend, Mary Anna Dennard.
“Be bold. Be brave. Be yourself.”
Whether posting or engaging, use social media to stay connected with the people and things that matter to you most. I hope these do’s and don’ts opened your eyes to some opportunities, as well as some traps to avoid.
Tony Howell is a digital strategist dedicated to helping you design your future—creating offline success from your online presence.