You must read this article I found in the New York Times. After having just finished Joshua Meyrowitz’s book No Sense of Place (nerd alert!), I’ve been really interested in how today’s media market, particularly social media, emotionally and interpersonally affects us.
It seems counterproductive for a blog post from a marketing/public relations firm to be preaching about the potentially damaging effects of social media and the wrong kind of personal branding. But, I feel that it is also our duty at DFSCC to educate and guide our clients (and our readers) towards healthy relationships with social media. Knowledge is power, and if we can be upfront about the no-so-pretty aspects of personal branding, the more time we have to rule the world. Can I get an “amen”?!
Anyway, after several recent conversations with peers about this topic, I have learned a lot about how social media can easily dictate how we view ourselves and our relationships. And, consequently, I’ve had a lot of time to think about how we can prevent putting too much stock in that little number next to that little heart under that little picture on that little app.
The Social Media Monster
Again, I’m not here to undermine the awesome and powerful ramifications the world has experienced since the emergence of social media. Social media has brought us awareness, inspired innovation, facilitated tough conversations, and connected friends, old and new. Social media is not inherently bad. It is a really, really great thing. But only if we treat it for what it essentially is: an accessory for who we are, not entirely who we are.
My first encounter with the sad realities of social media was in the middle of nowhere in western Pennsylvania. I was a camp counselor to 10 precious young girls who were sitting on their bunks as we talked about self worth one July night. I did not expect the before-bed conversation to last longer than twenty minutes, so I opened with “Alright, where do y’all think you put your self worth?” Without hesitation, one of my campers piped up and said, “My social media presence.” Immediately, the nine other eleven-year-olds nodded in agreement.
My heart broke for them.
These girls, much like Clara in the NYT article, put their contentment and satisfaction with who they are at the mercy of their followers, 75% of whom they probably don’t even personally know. If a photo does not get enough likes in 15 minutes, they delete it out of embarrassment. If they want to post a selfie because they know it will get a lot of attention, they slap on an irrelevant quote from an author they’ve never heard of but found on Google to give it some justification. And they post photos of their lattes because it gives that urban, cool girl vibe, even though they truly don’t like coffee.
In particular, Instagram has become a vehicle in which we can display our pseudo-selves. We so carefully can edit and tweak a photo-and-caption-combo to give an impression of who we are. And, all too often, we are not entirely truthful out of fear of appearing worn down, disappointed, and honestly human.
The New News Feed
Since middle school, I have followed tons of bloggers. (Talk about perfect social media presence…) They have made careers out of using social media to brand themselves, and I admire them for that.
One of my favorite “media trends” that rippled through bloggers a few years ago was “The Story Behind The ‘Gram” (or something like that). Basically, the bloggers re-posted an Instagram and told the “true” story of what was going on in their lives when the photo was taken. I was in shock at some of the things I read. Jobs were lost, family members were ill, and hearts were broken while so-and-so was posing pretty in a gingham dress on a cute bike in a tropical place. These posts reminded me of the inescapable humanness we all possess, and I think this should be celebrated.
Our obsession with likes and follows and mentions has revealed a deeper issue our society is facing: we long for affirmation. But we are finding it the wrong places. Social media is so fleeting. Before you know it, the accounts on apps we’ve slaved over will fall to the next big thing. It’s the natural life cycle of today’s media.
So, I propose that we keep using social media. Use the heck out of it. Brand yourself as best you can and work hard on your websites/photos/profiles. BUT, do it for you. Let it wholeheartedly reflect you. You don’t have to outline every shortcoming or dilemma in your posts, but do not ever let your social media “success” define how you feel about yourself, or, in reference to Clara’s NYT story, define your relationships.
You, my #GirlBosses, are worth so much more than your likes. You are so full of power and ambition that cannot possibly be contained by an Instagram account. So, go ahead and post away knowing your followers are not the boss of you. YOU are the boss of you. You, after all, are a #GirlBoss.