Social Media: The Way Forward

I’ve been hitting the sauce pretty hard every single day for the past decade. The social media sauce, that is. It’s been a huge part of my career and life. I’m grateful to have had a front row perspective and hands-on participation with some of the biggest events, campaigns and personalities that have shaped the space. After 10’s of thousands of hours, I’m fatigued.

I’m not just fatigued but I’m also addicted. Fun combo, eh? Add to that mix a shot of frustration about what we as humans and marketers have done to the virtual land of opportunity.

Now what?

After a social media detox and vacation for the mind, I’m committing to some personal shifts in how I use social media in order to do my part in taking better care of the virtual land. We spend a great deal of time in the virtual world and we need to protect it just as we must do with our physical environment. Look around online, at any given moment and you’ll see litter spreading through the interwebs and contaminating the cloud.

So what happened when I went cold turkey, took some time off the sauce and conducted this social media cleanse?

Confessions from my Social Media Cleanse:

At first there was a physiological response. Sweaty palms, feeling of anxiety, natural tendency to want to scroll down the rabbit hole to avoid FOMO. So if there’s any question on whether or not I’m addicted, there’s your answer.

I wondered, okay worried, about what the social media algorithms would think of this disappearance. Would momentum and ‘social currency’ be lost? I decided the upside of the experiment was greater than losing some social juice. The result? It’s taking awhile to rev the engines back up on certain platforms. (AKA – Instagram likes photos of my cute dog Ruby Sue.) Fascinating. This would not have even been a consideration in 2008.

I had to remove all social apps from my phone because right out of the gate of my cleanse, without even intending to, I mindlessly opened up a certain social app of choice and proceeded to scroll down the you know what. This happened once. It was the only time I fell off the wagon. Promise.

After 24 hours or so into this cleanse I felt like my mind was on vacation even though I was still working, sans social. I intentionally scheduled this cleanse during a “regular” work week to see what the impact would be under normal circumstances.

I caught myself taking less photos of what I was doing because I knew I wouldn’t be posting them anywhere. Imagine that! One day during the detox, I went on a hike and saw some incredible once-in-a-lifetime sights. I was present. I was okay with simply being where my feet were. Absorbing the real world vs. thinking about the virtual world.

I discovered more time in my day. I listened more carefully during conversation and found myself appreciating the little things. The world seemed to slow down. It was lovely.

Without scientific evidence, I’d be willing to say I lived more authentically and my self-confidence gained a boost due to the lack of comparison and craving to impress the virtual world.

The detox was an injection of reality and clarity of mind. I highly recommend the experience to anyone feeling fatigued, addicted, pressured or annoyed by social media. If you don’t fall into one of those buckets, call me. You’re officially the social media Buddha and I’d like to have you on my podcast.

During this timeout, I thought about why I fell in love with social media to begin with. I love the democratization of being able to connect and communicate with anyone at anytime, the lack of geographic boundaries, the excitement that comes with knowing we’re only bound by the speed of technology and limited by our own imaginations.

And the fact that with a click of a button, social media can help someone save a stranger’s life from across the globe!? THAT is why I fell in love social media.  This space is magic. We can scale the act of helping one another and the act of good if we choose. Everything can be accelerated. Which sometimes poses the problem.

Yet, currently we’re drowning in the sea of sameness with all the content calendars, trolls, algorithm BS, ad spam, bullying, hate, virtual litter, pay-to-play structure, comparison and highlight reels. Has social media jumped the shark? Can we un-jump it to create Happier Days?

We spend such a great deal of time in the virtual world that we must take care of the space. The only people who can turn this ship around are you and me. I’m starting by implementing some new guidelines for myself. It’s an experiment, an organic list and a place to start.

My New Social Media Guidelines:

TimeBox The Sauce. Be more intentional and disciplined about how much time I use social media so I can be more impactful and effective when I’m using the space. How? I’ve deleted apps from my phone with the exception of Instagram because there isn’t a web-based version. I’ll be checking for messages and replies 2-3x a day vs. robotically refreshing 100x a day without realizing. Side note: It’s been helpful to ban technology from my bedroom. Create no-fly zones. I bought myself an old school alarm clock which discourages hitting snooze due to the awful, archaic alarm sound.

Audit The Social Circle. I’m starting to audit which accounts I follow. If they’re no longer serving me and they’re not aligned with my new guidelines, then later skater. My new vision for social includes removing clutter and distraction in order to create space for what’s important. It’s like cleaning house. Filter Question: “Would you want to engage with this person in the real world?” If the answer is no then politely press unfollow.

Real Life > Highlight Reel. We tend to only show our highlight reels on social media. The beautiful, perfectly edited, Photoshopped lives that we pretend to lead. It’s human nature to do this and who wants to post their messy real life? Well, there’s a need for balance. I’m not promising you’re never going to see another sunset or photo of my awesome puppy but expect to see more valuable real-life situations vs. the good old highlight reel that glitters like Hollywood. This helps with our natural tendency to compare ourselves to one another too. Toxic. I also see more value in us sharing stories about what we’re learning vs. canned inspirational quotes and clichés. That’s great if you “fell seven times and got up eight” but HOW did you get up? Why did you fall? Tell me your story and please stop quoting yourself.

Leverage Social Media’s Superpowers for Good. The space can be magical and offer huge benefits when we use it with specific intentions. Positivity can spread just as quickly as negativity. Leverage the damn algorithms, make them work for you! (Okay, see now I’m starting to cuss. Better wrap this up.) The opportunities are endless. This doesn’t necessarily mean tweeting about a charity (although there’s nothing wrong with that!) what I’m talking about is simply helping out and adding value to the space. It’s scalable. It’s contagious. Posting “I have a few extra minutes, can I help anyone?” or commenting back to someone with value are the quickest way to put yourself in a good mood and do your part in turning this ship around.

I don’t claim to be a social media Pollyanna but I do believe we need to clean up our act online. Imagine if these guidelines were adopted by more individuals and brands. It’s 2017 and it’s a beautiful thing that we can change the world by clicking buttons.