I’m Rethinking Social Media

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

With all of the various alert and notification options on my Mac, my iPad and my iPhone, the din of social media can be deafening at times—and most of us are set up to only see the “important” things. The reality is that if you follow more than 50 people on Twitter or Facebook, you’re only getting a fraction of the actual stream of information being shared. I’ve been thinking about how I use various social media platforms—or rather how they use me—for quite a while and have recently gained a bit more clarity around it in a conversation I had with photographer John Keatley for an episode of the Craft & Vision podcast. Among other things, John shared how he approaches social media by asking specific questions before posting to each platform. As we continued the conversation (both online and off) I came to realize that much of the way I have been using social media has been a distraction at best and, at worse, I have been adding to the noise that I am wanting to get away from. The main problem is that I don’t really use social media as much as I simply participate in it, without any sort of definite direction or purpose, and lately I’ve been asking myself why. The way I feel about social media is similar to the way I feel about something like Evernote. I know quite a few people who swear by it and insist that there lives are better with it than without it, but I’ve yet to really figure out how it fits into my workflow. That said, one of the terrific things about the current state of information, and by extension the way we share that information, is that it’s fluid. We aren’t locked into a mode, method or strategy (which for some people is a four-letter word). Over the coming weeks, I’m going to be trying a new direction, perhaps several new directions, beginning with looking at the platforms I currently use and asking myself both how and why they are relevant, what I bring to them as well as what they offer me. I’ll be deleting unused lists, leaving stagnant groups and purging my “friends” lists of names I either don’t recognize or can’t remember the last time we actually connected. It’s nothing personal—and maybe that’s the problem. I want it to be personal. Maybe the years of reading and listening to Seth Godin have finally sunk in and I’m ready to stop chasing likes and followers and instead focus on making real connections and having authentic conversations with people that interest, move and inspire me. On some level, I think I’ve already started, but it’s been largely by osmosis rather than by design. I was reminded a few weeks ago by an On Taking Pictures listener that I often talk about the importance of purpose or intent. The context of his email was different than what I’m writing about here, but the point is still valid. I talk about these things because I feel that they are important, maybe even integral parts of my process—I could even go so far as to say that I am driven by them. I’m still sorting out what this all means in practical terms, but I do know it hinges on two things:

  • being of service
  • trying to be more mindful of not only what I share, but why

I’m going to borrow from John in asking a few simple (but important) questions before sharing, like: Is this educational? Is it inspiring in some way? Will it start a conversation? I love these questions and think they get to the heart of not only what I want to accomplish within social media, but with my life. Of course there will be exceptions—retweets, one-offs, etc.—but as a general rule, I would like what I share to tick at least one or two of these boxes. In the simplest terms, I want to make more meaningful connections and less of what Seth calls “fake networking.” More signal and less noise.

Links

My conversation with John Keatley
Seth Godin on Social Networking