Staying Connected: Tips for Navigating Social Media Without the Negativity
It's nearly impossible today to find someone that doesn't have at least one social media account. And if you look at business owners and entrepreneurs - it is impossible to find someone that isn't active on several different social platforms.
Having a successful business today requires being engaged with social media. Your audience expects it of you.
And while it is possible to detach yourself from social media, outsourcing and scheduling it with tools so that you rarely have to touch it (or know what's going on), research shows that this isn't enough. This type of "engagement" with your audience on social media simply doesn't work anymore.
Your audience can tell the difference between content that is original and personal and content which is created to simply check a to-do off a list.
Content, in order for it to work, needs to be timely, meaningful and valuable - and it's rare to be able to produce that if a real person isn't engaged on the other side.
But what does it mean to be "engaged" on social media?
Today, that likely means that you have to develop a relationship with your social media accounts and, for most people, doing so often creates an obsession. It is difficult to be simultaneously engaged and active on social media without feeling the need to constantly check-in, monitor, and inundate your social life with selfies and time-outs so you can post.
Sadly, social life is turning into social media life.
Look around at any event - be it concert or a group of friends gathered at a restaurant or bar - and you're likely to see more phones than eyes. Rather than enjoying the moment and engaging with the humans in front of us, we choose to engage in real life only so that we can share with our social media life.
Whether we are posting for business or ourselves (or there's a good chance today that we're posting for both as so many of us have blurred the lines of personal life and business life so that they are one and the same), we live for getting likes.
We are driven to be so absorbed by social media because we have become obsessed with our online lives. We truly believe that our real lives or the success of our businesses are impacted by the number of likes or views we get on a post. The comments we receive on these social media platforms can make or break us. We are compelled to check-in constantly to check out the competition. How are we comparing? What are they doing? What can we do better? What can we do differently?
All of this leads not only to exhaustion and burn out, it also leads to unhealthy perceptions of ourselves and our businesses.
Social media has caused many of us to enter a state of constant comparison. We feel like we need to do better, look better, be better. And, just when we hit a goal and start to feel pretty good about ourselves, we see a new post that makes us feel like shit. And we start the impossible journey to perfection all over again.
Don't get me wrong, competition isn't bad. Neither is healthy goal-setting. But the problem with social media is that it is so inundating and invasive. We are constantly connected by our phones and computers. And we have become so addicted, that it's rare we're not checking in. This need to be constantly engaged with our social media selves means that we rarely give ourselves a quiet moment to reflect or to congratulate ourselves for exactly where we are.
And this is where the scary, negative side of social media begins to creep in and rear its ugly head.
What to do?
Try these three tips and see if you can carve a new pattern of healthy engagement on social media.
1. Set A Schedule. It's important to set ground rules in life, including your social media life. Just like you don't want to find yourself on the ugly side of a one-night stand, you don't want to find yourself red-eyed and distressed after a three hour Twitter binge. Give yourself a specific time each day to get on your various platforms and stick to it. Like all ground rules, they are only as good as your ability to follow them. Usually what we need to actually accomplish on social media takes much less time than what we end up spending. Social media has the power to suck you in and down the rabbit hole if you give it time to do so. By setting a schedule and an intention (why do you need to get on Facebook right now?), you can minimize the time you spend and, therefore, the negative effects it can have on your life.
2. Focus On One "Self" At A Time. In Julia Hobsbawm's book, Fully Connected: Surviving & Thriving in an Age of Overload, she discusses "the blended self", referring to the juggling of personal, professional, and online selves. This need to maintain different "selves" leads to an unbalanced (and unhealthy) life. While having these different selves is a requirement for most of us in the modern world, it's not a requirement to try to do all of them at once. When you are engaging in your personal life (at home, with your spouse or children, or out with friends and family) don't let other lives seep in. This means, turn the phone off.
3. Manage Stress. Whether you are aware of it or not, engaging online creates stress - even if you enjoy posting, pinning, and tweeting in the moment. Simply being inundated with so much information and stimulus at once is stressful for your nervous system. Not to mention the stress the light that is being emitted from the device is causing too. Build in time each day to unwind. Try things like yoga, meditation, running, or just getting outside and breathing.
While we should be grateful for every opportunity social media gives us, let's remember that there's more to life and business than followers and likes. Who you are in real life is more important than who you are perceived to be online. Yes, you can find success, money, and happiness with your online self, but it's short-lived and often shallow. Your real life relationships? That's where the success you'll care about at the end of your life lives.
About The Author
Julie Schoen is an internationally acclaimed yoga teacher, retreat coordinator, writer, and branding expert. She is also the founder of Yoginiology.com, Little Pearl Publishing, and Buzzy Blogs, where she is the head writer and editor. She is a leading female social entrepreneur in the United States, author of over twenty best-selling books, mom of three, wife of one, and an expert at putting her foot in her mouth, figuratively and literally.
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