Can we stop blaming social media for our lack of a social media plan? Whether that’s personal or professional, knowing how you are going to use the tool changes the outcome.
There’s a lot of conversation about social media as a bad thing. Yes, it’s addictive. Yes, it makes us compare ourselves to others. Yes, it can be a dreadful sinkhole of time that tricks us into feeling productive.
But is it this evil mechanism we need to remove from society? Honestly, no I don’t think so.
I believe we still have the ability to influence our relationship with social media. And I believe we can still use it for cool things, such as activism and education. We can use it to stay connected to people and to have fun. We can use it for marketing, customer relationship management and building a business. It begins with having a social media plan.
How do we then get a better relationship with social media? By critically analysing our relationship and having a social media plan to follow
Examining what you’re exposed to
I think we’ve all had moments with social media that makes our heads and our hearts hurt. It’s a place where the bottle of humanity has a loose lid. And a lot of unexpected contents falls out.
There are two things I have found that help me understand the internet better:
- Rage travels faster than vulnerability – it’s easier to be mad, angry and divorced from consequences than it is to be happy, pleasant and compassionate
- Disinhibition influences human behaviour – if we don’t have to worry about dealing with someone the next day or look them in the eye as we communicate, it’s much easier to reduce our inhibitions and be a jerk. It’s technological dehumanisation
These are huge, spikey and negative points. But they also come with a comforting partner in crime:
- Rage may travel faster, but vulnerability stands out- The more people rely on anger and cynicism to communicate, the more you look like a beacon if you lean away from it
- Disinhibition is a clue, not a new state of mind- the person in front of you that is being vicious and dreadful is telling you something about them. That’s either how they enjoy life, or they aren’t coping and are being triggered. Either way, you can choose to work out their reality or you can choose to walk away. Consider it an early warning sign to problems or a problematic person
We have to be accountable for social media. Humans built it, humans use it, and we continue to miss the point a lot when using it.
Applying critical thinking to what you see helps change things. Notice the person who is always unhappy, always sharing misery, angry in the comments section.
Now notice where they are in your life. Build a social media plan. Nut out those moments you want to have. Put a ring around the behaviour you won’t accept.
If they are someone you met through a friend of a friend that you didn’t spent time with much and haven’t seen in 6 years, does it matter what his opinions are on your Facebook page? There are tools to reduce his access to your content and a big button to shove him off completely.
Have you got over 1500 alleged friends and are drowning in their baby spam and life minutiae? Or their anger at a lack of gigs or women’s rights or politics? Why do you need that many people connected to you? If it’s easier to leave that for business or gigging purposes, why not start some other profile for actual friends and use that one for distributing your content?
You don’t have to have exposure to people you don’t want on your social media. We’re well past the unlike or unfollow being the dreadful social taboo it was light years ago. Don’t accept it as your lot in life. Change it.
Defining what you want from a social media plan
My social media plan (professional or otherwise) is pretty simple-
- I want the ability to have fun and share a joke
- I want to learn new things
- To lower the barrier to creation and distribution
- To keep in touch with my freelance community
- To stay up to date with local stuff and family far away
- Understanding things outside my bubble
- Genuine connection
- To promote my freelance business
I also actively seek out people that value their work over the personality they’ve created to sell it. And I dig into subversive ideas – non-traditional beauty over beauty myths; human frailty over curated perfection; scrappy art and experimentation; the candid over the posed; creative art over sales pitches; relationship and community over consumerism; ideas over identities.
Because this is what I want from my social media experience, I regularly follow and unfollow people, personalities and places. I don’t need to completely cut those people off, I just need to lower my dosage.
For me, it meant creating a social media plan that allowed me to do the following:
- Split my Instagram usage from personal and professional
- Following far more art, designers and illustrators on both then business coaches, sales happy people and personality-based promoters
- I stay for investigation of ideas and the story now more than if the picture is pretty
- Spending more time in Facebook groups than anywhere else
- Making use of the profile limitation features to ensure that while I stay connected to some people, they see a limited version of my content
- Drastically lowering the shares on my Facebook business page
- Treating LinkedIn and Twitter as a “set and forget” situation until I work out what I want from those relationships
- Unfollowing a lot of people (or using Facebook’s 30-day squelch feature) that are too hard sell
- Actively seeking replacements for these people in ones that have conversations- and not canned ones – on social media. In essence, to create community, I looked for people doing their own communication
To me, social media is a playground. And when you move away from that, you start losing your grip on it. It’s a strange place to walk too because it begins to overtake you. So, you need to have a backgrounder on what you are there for and what you are and aren’t willing to accept.
How do you combat the slip times?
What do I mean by a social media slip? Think of things like:
- Simply putting content out there to be heard
- The dreaded social media procrastination day
- When you start engaging with angry people online
- When you are the angry person online
- Unable to disconnect even when you are bored
The way to combat them is to treat them like a learning process.
If you find yourself slipping off your social media plan, look at what is happening around you. How do you feel? What sort of mood are you in? Have you been drinking? Are you under stress? Is the work in front of you engaging? When was the last time you took a break from the computer? Has an issue that is on social media wound you up? Are you bored? What else is lacking?
If you can work out what your emotional triggers are, it’s much easier to combat social media slips. And it also means you can unpack the problem that creates the behaviour, too.
You can try the social media blockers, the digital detox days and other limitations available to you. What has been found though is that a digital detox often leads to increased usage once you are back. Plus, it doesn’t address the root cause. You need to understand the choices you are making with social media and implement strategies to change the behaviour.
And if you are finding that addiction is a part of that, seek help. If you were a heavy drinker, drug user, addicted to sex or gambling or finding that something had become unhealthy, you’d seek support. This isn’t any different.
Addressing the wider issues with social media
You’ll notice I haven’t talked about the issues with Facebook and Google and data breaches, sharing and manipulation. You’ll also notice I haven’t gone down the path of the intersection of racism, people hurting each other and the toll on moderators from pre-screening content. These are all really serious issues.
But they won’t change unless we get our relationship with social media to a somewhat healthier place first. And we cannot come from a point of view of swaying social media platforms to clean up their act without being accountable and informed, too.
These companies care about making money. And they do so with your data. Changing the way your data presents, being active as a company and following the GDPR, choosing not to give moral outrage the sunlight it doesn’t need.
Social media isn’t going anywhere
As much as there are fantasies about deleting accounts and removing the world from social media, it’s here to stay. You have to commit to a social media plan if you are going to make the most of it.
If we attempt to think critically about social media and make it more of the place we want it to be, then maybe, we can lessen the impact. We can create it into something we want and can use to our best advantage.