Social Media: From Disgust To Inspiration And Everything Inbetween

Digital citizenship.  I used to teach it to third graders.  They could rattle off the below corresponding poster in my class without looking.

Before you post…

  • Is it True?
  • Is it Helpful?
  • Is it Inspiring?
  • Is it Necessary?
  • Is it Kind?


Then I’d add…

  • An estimated 70% of hiring managers will screen hires using social media accounts.
  • Referrals lead to jobs five times more than a simple resume.
  • You are 57% less likely to be interviewed by a job recruiter if you can’t be found online.
  • 70% of communication is nonverbal.

Pretty intense information for some elementary students.  But it’s never too early to start thinking about digital footprints!

The Rule I Didn’t Talk About

As a highly sensitive old-timey person navigating the internet, I’ve developed something for myself called the “eye-roll rule.”  I use it to keep my social media scene clean and in-check. Maybe you’ll get some use out of it too. It’s pretty simple.

If a person’s posts inspire…

  • One eye roll - I assume they are having a bad day.
  • Two eye rolls - I assume they are having a hard week.
  • Three eye rolls - Maybe they are in the midst of a crisis?  I trust they will handle themselves better in a few months.
  • Four eye rolls - I pause.  I study the situation closely.  Why am I so annoyed?  Do the posts trigger something I can change?  Is there something I need to work on?
  • Five eye rolls - I assume they are stuck like that.

This rule rarely needs to be deployed, but it is useful in dire situations.  (An eye roll is not as benign as it sounds.  It signifies unrestrained and uncontainable contempt.  In fact, a famous relationship study used eye rolls as the defining metric to see how long marriages would last.)

Dodging the Echo Chamber of My Dreams

Social media has the potential to introduce confusion to some pretty high-quality relationships.

Maybe, in some situations, it has simply helped to speed up inevitable fallouts?  If people are able to reveal who they are in a quick and condensed fashion, you can easily see who you jibe with (and you don’t) a lot faster.  (Hooray!)  This could be a pretty great thing for socializing, assisting you to build up a fitting tribe of sounding boards far quicker than any of our ancestors in the past. 

However, in such an online situation, aware people are growing increasingly wary of echo chambers.  An echo chamber is when you only encounter opinions similar to your own, reinforcing the sneaky inductive reasoning glitch of confirmation bias. 

Luckily for me, I have everyone in my immediate family of origin readily available to offer the opposite viewpoint on almost every belief I have, so don’t worry about me!  I’m taken care of.  You’ll only see me shaking my metaphorical finger disapprovingly at living life in a bubble.

(Echo chambers don’t do anything for creativity by the way.  Diversity aids originality far more than homogenous conditions.  Recent research even shows better financial performance among employees at companies with diverse age, gender, and race).

Please Expand (Don’t Explode) My Mind

Because I’ve so carefully cultivated divine discord in my outer world, I come to social media for a couple of specific reasons...

  • Unique information
  • Inspiration with entertainment
  • Actionable advice
  • Learning about my community
  • Worldly feelings of awe while interacting with people from around the planet
  • Discovering the cool businesses of 41 million self-employed Americans...

...But I’ll have to survive an election season first.

Remember that time when Trump was asked his opinion about white nationalist David Duke liking him and he said, “People like me across the board.  Everybody likes me.”

(Don’t worry. I won’t mention Trump again… although I’m sure he would be flattered.)

And last time I checked, nobody likes everybody.   

The vigor with which your supporters (be they your step-mom, cousin, or the NRA) support you, does not suddenly turn others into the “ever-elusive” everybody. 

In other words, let’s not confuse intensity with frequency (and vice-versa) while gauging how we come off to people online.

The Eyes of Others

I love being in the position to act as my first worst critic by navigating my work through the alter-ego of the person who I think will like it least.  

In order to navigate writing this very piece you are reading right now, I’ve tried holding two different pillar people in my mind while reading my work through their eyes. 

(I try to make sure these two pillar people are incredibly different from one another. I have literally gone through my work multiple times at this point trying to assess it’s usefulness using their points of view.)

Was I born with a glitch in my brain?  Possibly.

But we all naturally do this with people we are closest to in life.  We evaluate our decisions through their eyes.  (If you create artistic works, it is highly suggested you take a more conscious approach to this and play around with it.  It’s also important to assess who you let into your headspace.  Only about five important viewpoints can fit before you go a little bonkers).

Give Me Different Eyes!

For me personally, I started judging my work through “personalized others” unconsciously when I first started writing songs.  Especially as a young artist, I would pretend to hear my music for the first time as a specific set of people that occupied my mind (sometimes respected teachers from my past or people I worked with who were older than me).  

It got confusing.  I couldn’t stop myself from doing it when I heard my own songs.  Not unlike recent social media studies saying we are being shaped by what we think other people want to hear, I kind of lost myself in the very task where I went to find myself.  

Once I became aware of this, I eventually had to take a break from writing (and social media) in order to reorient what was driving my headspace. Then I found I could write what I wanted again (without concern for whose eyes found it or not).

Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

At this moment, I can think of...

  • A set of people who will find this article too snarky or too judgemental for their taste. 
  • A set of people will find it too intellectual (or have no idea what I was talking about).
  • A set of people who will want to adopt me.

And I consider all of this to be a good thing.  (My future self is probably in the first set of people.) And myself right now knows I have to keep going.  

It's good to remember, for every “like” we receive, we may have inspired five eye-rolls.  Until they find a way to measure such a response from reserved people, we’re all kind of on our own.  (And if you want, you can just assume everybody likes you!)

Have you consciously criticized your own work (or social media posts) from the point of view of others?  What did you find?

Also, I’ve never been on Twitter during an election season before. Any advice about how to handle it?

Statistics from the book Taking the Work Out of Networking by Karen Wickre

4 Replies to “Social Media: From Disgust To Inspiration And Everything Inbetween”

  1. I consider myself a highly sensitive person as well who sometimes needs breaks from social media. Especially in moments that make it harder for me to move my thoughts away from something that made me feel frustrated, angry or confused.

    Even if I don’t participate, my mind has trouble moving on and can generate some anxiety. As such, I think that eye roll rule is absolutely fabulous and can be helpful to help get my thoughts to move on.

    I like that there are different dialogues on my feed and don’t want to mute all things I disagree with at the risk of missing some valuable info that can help my mind grow to understand different things. As you said, there is so much value in dodging that echo chamber. However, different social media platforms have different objectives for me. I think there would be value in becoming more mindful about these objectives.

    Finally, I tend to only read my posts in a very judgmental voice on the day I prepare to schedule them, I mostly attribute it to the imposter syndrome. Perhaps adding a few different set of voices could be useful in helping me grow as a writer?

    Thanks for generating these reflections!

    1. Everything you articulate here really resonates with me. Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment. Sometimes I’m not sure why I’m anxious and the simple reality is I need time to myself. TRUE time to myself (not just physical space). No one else’s thoughts interfering at all (online or off). Like you, social has specific objectives for me. For example, I don’t make time to have private accounts in addition to accounts for the blog. I would personally feel really burnt out then. It’s simply too much processing. If you have more reflections on imposter syndrome (when you’ve clearly accomplished so much), I would love to hear them. Maybe you have a post in the works?

  2. i find memes worthless and lazy. it tells me you didn’t have enough energy to type something. that’s why i can hardly look at the facebook machine any more. i really just want to see my friends’ vacations pictures and what their kids are up to lately. i can’t even figure out how to use it to promote the blog. i was kicked off reddit for something i posted months ago so that humorless cesspool is out. i signed up for instant-gram but have no cell phone so i can’t even put photos there.

    it’s probably for the best.

    1. Sounds like you have some strong opinions about social media Freddy! It’s hard to get them out there without dancing with the devil though! (I always wonder if any posts criticizing social media are annoying and if people just think – “Well…get off it then! I love it!” To each their own. I view it as a tool now – a tool that can be used for good or to drive yourself insane. Much like any invention. Best wishes as you tackle the beast.

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