I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a love-hate relationship with social media.
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?
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.
P.S. PASS IT ON
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© Corrina Gordon-Barnes 2014
Ten more Twitter followers doesn’t mean you’re more worthy or lovable. It’s just what happened – @CorrinaGB