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12 Mar 14

Not Cool Enough For Social Media

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a love-hate relationship with social media.

Corrina as a teen - not cool enough for social media?

Me, aged 13.

I’m active every day on Facebook and Twitter, I play around with Pinterest from time to time and I post occasionally on LinkedIn.

I love connecting, chatting, getting to know new people and making connections across the globe that lead to amazing opportunities and synchronicities.

However, the premise of being “followed”, “liked”, and “favourited” has all-too-easily reminded me of my teenage years when I was desperate to be seen and to belong.

I wasn’t cool at school. I was chubby and shy, with thick NHS glasses and hairy arms. My mum once cut my fringe really short and I walked around the school corridors with kids pointing and laughing at my exposed forehead; I prayed for the floor to swallow me up.

I joined our local youth group and signed up for a week-long summer camp; I think I cried every day, walking alone from activity to activity while others walked arm-in-arm, chummily paired up.

I didn’t get it. Why weren’t people noticing me? Why didn’t I fit in? Where did you get the cool badge from, and why didn’t I yet have it?

I wanted people to see me. I wanted them to like me and talk to me. I wanted their approval.

Feeling like a teenager again

Now, as a business owner, with amazing friends and family, a supportive partner and a far stronger sense of self-esteem, I’ve had feelings in my working days that are uncomfortably familiar.

On social media, I’ve wanted people to see me. To “Like” me. To @-talk to me.

A higher level of engagement (a.k.a. approval?) increases your organic unpaid reach on Facebook, so it makes sense to keep an eye on numbers and interactions and check you’re sharing content of interest… but how to pay attention to who likes you without it reminding you of a teen popularity contest?

On a platform where one of the key metrics you’re paying attention to is: “How many people like me?”, it’s hard not to hear your teenage self sniffling, “Why doesn’t anybody like me?”

When we can see how many times people have “favourited” us or “followed us”, it’s no wonder our teenage insecurities rear their heads. The social networking set-up taps into our teenage yearnings: to be significant, to be loved, to belong.

Second chance to be cool?

As the number of followers rises, it can certainly feel like a second chance to be cool. I can use the carefully curated nature of social media to share things which, finally, position me as a cool kid.

But please know that on certain days, a status with zero engagement has taken me right back to that feeling of sitting in a classroom, surrounded by conversations, yet nobody was talking to me. And even with thousands of followers, I’ve looked at my peers with tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of followers, and got caught up in comparison mode, feeling like the uncool one again.

So, how can we get the great benefits of social without collapsing into a puddle of teen insecurities every day?
People who love you won't care if you're cool enough for social media

1. Find your Tribe

I found a great group of friends for a few years at school. We were a bit grungy and read Virginia Andrews books obsessively; I felt I could be myself with them and didn’t have to try to be cool.

On social, I’ve learnt to stop trying to get the “cool kids” to pay attention to me. Your Tribe love you just as you are, no contortion required.

2. Create your own space

These friends and I spent lunch hours chatting under stairwells; we carved out our own safe zones. And I guess this is one of the reasons I love blogging; when you blog, you create your own online home and it feels safe. You’re inviting friends to leave the crowded, noisy corridors of social media and enter your territory, where you’re the host and you can say exactly what you choose.

3. Limit your time on social

One of the freedoms of self-employment is that you can work whenever suits you, but I know that checking Twitter late at night is a Bad Idea for me. Just like throughout my teen years, I’m more likely to get caught up in comparison paralysis when I’m tired. If I browse with no real purpose, following the crumbs from one “cool” profile to another, it’s like sitting in bed with a big tub of ice-cream, heart sinking as I watch catwalk models on TV. It’s not a fair contest.

So, enter social media wisely. A great practice is to preschedule social statuses (I use Buffer) and then pop into social spaces for just five or ten minutes per day, in an empowered state of mind, with a clean and defined purpose.

4. Check in with what’s normal

Having self-employed buddies is so valuable. You can share celebrations – and confide with them about insecurities such as these. You might have thought it was just you who felt anxious around social media; actually, from conversation after conversation I’ve had with my peers, it’s incredibly normal.

If you want to meet like-minded new friends in person and can get to London, join us for a You Inspire Me Community Meet-Up. (Bonus: Our next guest speaker is delving into the inner journey of self-employment; click here for tickets.)

5. Don’t make it mean too much

When ten more people follow you on Twitter, it doesn’t mean you’re more worthy, beautiful, talented or lovable. It’s just what happened.

Don’t place too much importance on numbers going up. Read less into it; make it matter way less. It’s a game. It’s a ride. You’re inherently worthy and completely brilliant, regardless of your number of Facebook Likes or Twitter followers.

Over to you

How do you measure your impact on social media? What aspect of being on social do you find hardest? What rules or practices have you established to ensure you don’t get caught up in comparisons or insecurities?

Leave a comment below, let us know.

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© Corrina Gordon-Barnes 2014

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27 Comments

  1. Leda Sammarco

    I love this post, Corrina. As ever, it’s so honest. We’ve all been there – I remember those teenage years and not in a good way!! I think it’s all about tribe and quality over quantity. It’s very easy to click a ‘like’ button on someone’s Facebook page without it really meaning very much, but it’s the interactions and community that really count. I enjoy being on Twitter (although I’m not always that active), and for me it’s the meaningful conversations or connections that can occur, which allow you build a loyal group of followers over time. Plus, social media encourages diversity, something that school with it’s ‘in crowd mentality’ never did!

     Reply
  2. Melanie Mackie

    Brilliant post Corinna and I am sure many, including me agree with you that on a off day you can feel totally ignored or “unliked” on social media. I believe it would be great if the networks took away the numbers, so the importance on pages likes, followers and post likes isn’t the main focus. And then we could all continue to focus on sharing our best social content, creating and conversing with our own tribes. And one follower = 1 connection = 1 person.
    Melanie Mackie´s last blog post ..They Don’t Know What You Don’t Tell

     Reply
    1. Corrina

      Melanie – Wow, I hadn’t thought of that: the world of social media without any numbers… Even then, we’d still be assessing our relevance through quantity/quality of comments and replies, right? So we’d still have to address our internal response to that.

       Reply
      1. Karen J

        “…we’d still be assessing our relevance through quantity/quality of comments and replies, right? …”
        Yess, but…
        It seems like there’s some different kind of “quality” to those internal comparisons, compared to “the numbers game” ~ I can’t put my finger on it right now, but it’s not so kick-in-the-gut, “OMG! What am I gonna do about this?” to it… maybe because you can actually interact with Comments, where Likes are more drive-by-whatever.they.are., and completely anonymous…

         Reply
  3. Lisa McLoughlin

    Fabulous post. I was a quiet swot in school who didn’t say much and used to be mocked for having a broken nose and a wart on my hand ….oh and for needing school dinner support….
    In social media, I have experienced compare and despair and can feel like I have disappeared from people’s minds….but what I do now is not look at stats but respond to the few people that regularly look out for me and support me. I create content and engage for them and if anyone else joins the ride..then fab…but otherwise I keep taking one step at time….

     Reply
    1. Kate Bacon

      @Lisa great strategy – hang out with those who support you, build your tribe on honest, meaningful interactions!

      @Corrina – this really hit home: If I browse with no real purpose, following the crumbs from one “cool” profile to another…

      How many times have I done just that (late at night too) – there is no way you AREN’T going to compare yourself too the “cool” ones!
      Kate Bacon´s last blog post ..Help! I’m scared I’m going to have to compromise my values to make money online

       Reply
  4. Chris Durrant

    Great post Corinna.

    Did anyone like being a teenager? I know I hated it.

    Good advice not to look at social media when you are tired.

    Find your tribe and take notice of them is also a good plan.

    I love the snoopy cartoon.
    Chris Durrant´s last blog post ..Lots of clothes but nothing to wear?

     Reply
  5. Judy Heminsley

    Good tips, Corrina, thank you!
    From my point of view, one of the downsides of social media is that it can all too easily reinforce the feelings of not being good enough that tend to go hand-in-hand with self-employment, working from home and spending a fair amount of time on your own.
    People tend to share the positive stuff – the new contracts, awards, new clients etc, and it’s all too easy to start believing everyone else is doing well and it’s only me that has difficulties and setbacks.
    Not at all true, as no doubt we’ve all found when talking at your meet-ups. There’s such a relief in finding others experience the same challenges.
    Judy Heminsley´s last blog post ..Twitter etiquette

     Reply
    1. Corrina

      Judy – I love that such honesty is shared at the You Inspire Me Community Meet-Ups – and in our shared online spaces too. Thanks for being a regular friendly (and honest) face there and here :)

       Reply
  6. claire

    Ha – reading this was like walking into my (non existent) diaries from my teens. I went from having loads of friends (all boys) at junior school to having none at all at school and my memories of that time are very similar to yours. I think I’ve managed to avoid the whole worrying about social media because in the back of my brain I remember the magic that happened when I went to college. Suddenly it was not only ok to be my kind of weird, but there were actually other people like me and I didn’t have to try at all for them to like me.
    I have the same feeling about social media – like me or not; doesn’t matter. I think maybe I do need to mind a tad more, so that I actually try to get a grip on social media a little better though!
    As always a great post – even if I just had to take a trip down a memory lane that I’m not tooooo keen on visiting again!
    claire´s last blog post ..Why I am inspired by the Winter Paralympics

     Reply
    1. Corrina

      Claire – “It’s okay to be my kind of weird” – what a great bumper sticker!

      But yes, you’ve identified the challenge: to mind enough to pay attention, so we see if what we’re doing with social media is actually reaching anyone and having a positive impact.

      If we ignore stats and comments completely, we might as well be just writing in our journals. Social is about being… social, which involves people and feedback.

       Reply
      1. claire stone

        That’s spot on – I think I had to try sooo hard to ignore what other people thought of me, that it feels like a huge can of worms to open up and think a little bit about what people think of me now. That might explain my HUGE procrastination about the whole analytics and measuring different aspects of my work!
        Brilliant post, as always – thank you so much.

         Reply
  7. flavourphotos

    If people claim that their school years were the best, they must have had a pretty bad life since ;-) Being a teenager is really hard!
    I had a wonderful first boyfriend who gave me the wonderful feeling of being loved unconditionally. I remember that growing confidence and the point when it suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t need EVERYBODY to like me. I’m more ‘the real me’ with every year that passes and it’s a great feeling.

    Rejection hurts all of us but I think it’s the firm security that a partner/child/tribe loves us and cares for us just the way we are that allows us to love them back unconditionally too.
    flavourphotos´s last blog post ..Sausage-sizzling Germany – An unexpected vegan paradise!

     Reply
    1. claire stone

      Great point – and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about each year becoming more and more ‘you’ – that’s why some older people really don’t care about what other people think about them, and they are the really happy ones! I’m gonna be one of those!
      claire stone´s last blog post ..Why I am inspired by the Winter Paralympics

       Reply
  8. Kamini

    Great post Corrina,

    I really find social media challenging for the same reason I find parties and other social situations difficult: I am no good at small talk and chit chat and I don’t like standing out of the crowd for being different and going against the flow of people pleasing social butterflies… Often feeling like the outsider and hating it but not being able to conform to fit in.
    I do hope that when I get going with my business and have a clear message and purpose it will be easier. I hope what you say is true that when I find my tribe it will feel comfortable.
    At the moment I am in ostrich mode!
    As always I am amazed at how well you know your tribe xx

     Reply
    1. Corrina

      Kamini – I’ve got to know a guy in Cambridge recently who just doesn’t do small talk and it’s so refreshing. I seek him out in coffee shops (we both cafe-hop with our laptops!) because I know that when he asks, “How are you?” he actually means it, it’s not glib.

      So, perhaps that’s what you can become known for in social networking and also in-person meet-ups: that you’re the person who speaks about deep and meaningful things, and *that* is what your Tribe are desperate for. You’ll be like the oasis in the desert for them.

      Bottom line – social doesn’t have to be shallow/superficial/surface-level only.

       Reply
  9. Rosie @1manbandaccts

    I use social media A LOT. For me it is all about support, and about sharing the bad days as well as the up days. I may post about the bad days more in private groups but it’s still a social media platform.

    For me, it’s about all the support and engagement of the people I want to talk to, without the horrible ones getting in the way.
    Rosie @1manbandaccts´s last blog post ..How To Claim Business Photography Off Your Tax Bill

     Reply
  10. Tara

    Great post Corrina, and like so many of us I can fully identify with your teenage experiences! I absolutely get that kneejerk reaction to noticing my numbers have dropped, or someone making a comment that pokes at me ~ a kind of heartsinking, uncomfortable, embarrassed, defensive feeling. Yucky.

    At this point I try not to look too much at the numbers and focus on individual engagement, which is much more fulfilling and fortifying. Like Kamini I loathe small talk so it makes more sense to me to refocus on where I feel most comfortable and confident. I have tried to get to grips with Twitter but it seems Instagram and Facebook are better for me. It’s a constant process of checking in and tweaking.
    Tara´s last blog post ..on creative confidence and how to find yours

     Reply
    1. Corrina

      Tara – Twitter has been compared to an online cocktail party, so if that’s not your preferred terrain, great that you’re finding places that feel like a better fit.

       Reply
  11. Stephanie

    I love that you brought this up Corrina! In my efforts to build my platform and get conversations going I would frequently look at the GIANT gurus out there and see 100,000 followers and cry at my 76 likes. There is benefit in studying and learning from these experts but it is so useless to 1. Want to be them and 2. Compare your success against theirs. I decided to give up my obsession with numbers. This included counting calories, getting rid of my scale, watching my stats (obsessively), etc.
    I am consistently working and slowly and steadily building. When I let go of the numbers sure enough the engagement and success began to grow!

     Reply
  12. Mama and more aka Zaz

    Really great post and thought provoking. In a way i suppose that anyone who goes into putting their writing out there (ie blogging) or joining social media is already doing so with the desire to have feedback and following, and as you say it is so important to do so mindfully and with that empowered state of mind. Your point about finding your tribe is a really good one, and sometimes you may straddle different tribes, as long as you are not working too hard to be accepted by someone else, or to change yourself to that end.
    Mama and more aka Zaz´s last blog post ..Easy day dressing

     Reply
  13. Erica Holthausen

    I use the various platforms for very different reasons. These days, I use Twitter almost solely to take part in a few different Twitter Chats, where communities of people come together for one hour to talk about a specific topic. I’ve gotten to know some of the folks in the chat and I really appreciate their support.

    I have a Facebook page for my business and I participate in a couple of groups as well. If I don’t watch the amount of time I spend on Facebook, I can get burned out rather quickly.

    I use Instagram and Pinterest for my personal use with a little random business thrown in, and I haven’t really figured out whether I want to invest in Google+.

    To my surprise, LinkedIN has become more and more valuable for me and my business, so I’m focusing more of my efforts there and on offline initiatives. The one tool I do need to make more consistent use of is my blog. The odd thing is that I love to write, I’m just not doing it consistently . . . at least not for my own business!

     Reply
    1. Corrina

      Oh, that’s dangerous talk, Erica – you know what a blogging evangelist I am, so now I want to get my blogging hands on you ;)

      Interesting about LinkedIn – it’s not a platform I use much at all, so good for others to have a different perspective from mine and hear that you find it valuable.

       Reply
  14. Carys

    I love this blog and all your blogs – you are one amazing woman! it’s so very true. More people than not feel lost in the world of social media. When you’re running your own business (not to mention us women juggling all the other things in life, kids, cooking, shopping, partners etc) it’s vital that we find the time to engage or the people who have taken the time to follow or like us feel unloved. It might sound fickle but social media is about being just that & engaging for short amounts of time I totally get but in online marketing terms its like a friend only ever calling you for 2 minutes and then hanging up! Social Media – love it or hate it contributes to good or bad customer service. xxxx

     Reply
    1. Corrina

      Thanks, Carys – and you’re a great Twitter sharer :-)

       Reply
  15. Lure Wishes

    What a great article Corrina! I haven’t quite found my ease with social media in a business sense although I do post personally a bit. I especially like your tip about just engaging for short periods. A good solution for procrastination in my other tasks as well :)

    Thanks!
    Lure Wishes´s last blog post ..When Intuition Fails

     Reply

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