More social media choices reveal different reflections of ourselves—is the picture always clear?
Some futurists predict that one day, we may not feel so compelled to post, update, check in and share as much as we do today.
But right now, the irresistible drive to publish what we’re doing, thinking and experiencing—and the social media platforms to do it on—seem to be getting more prolific by the minute. You also may have noticed your audiences are getting pickier to boot. Now, you pretty much need something new, interesting and unique to say, show or share on each social media channel you adopt (much to the chagrin of those who use handy little apps to simply spew the same thing across all their digital profiles).
This is a good thing for better, more fitting content, but it’s also causing users to have an identity crisis of sorts. The conflict is no longer just about whether to friend an old flame on Facebook. Oh no. The dilemmas of these new offerings draw out and surface the multiple dimensions and personalities that can be found within ourselves, forcing us to decide whether the reflection that social media mirrors back is an accurate one. Consider just some of the soul-searching the average social media user now has to ponder:
- Should I let my personal and professional life mingle on Facebook and just how awkward could it get?
- How and what do I focus on in conversations I have with my Google+ circles? Should I share with everybody?
- Will my obsessions with unicorns and knitting be best featured on Pinterest?
- Is Tumblr going to be about my serious professional self or completely focused on my cat?
- Do I want to share my fondness for fried foods on Instagram?
- What will my coworkers think when they see I’m the mayor of Spartacus on Foursquare?
- Will my friends listen to my Spotify playlist and believe I’m hopelessly behind the times?
Here are a few suggestions to help you organize and manage your somewhat split social media personalities:
Partition out of respect, not because you have something to hide
Ok, so you mainly tweet about your profession via Twitter. Given that, it makes sense that the photos of your cat you upload on Instagram may not interest your Twitter followers. Therefore, separating the two is probably a good idea. But the idea is to look at it from your audiences’ point of view and spare them things they may not find interesting, not to try to hide anything from certain people out of fear or embarrassment about what they might see. With that in mind, however . . .
. . . If you’re worried your mother, boss, spouse, etc., might see something, it’s probably best not to share it.
Common sense rules here. It really doesn’t matter how protected you think your circles are, or how well you’ve blocked select content from certain groups of friends, someone can still easily quote you or take something you’ve said and share it with others. With social getting more searchable, and open APIs, it’s pretty foolhardy to believe online activity will always be protected from view and won’t pop up in a search somewhere at some time. Which gets us to the next point . . .
. . . Don’t be so rigid about building those walls
This may seem contradictory to the first point, but keep in mind that the most interesting folks and brands on social don’t always stick to the party line—randomness of conversation, sharing something that may not be strictly in the wheelhouse of what you mainly focus on—is simply part of the culture. So if you want to share that particularly adorable picture of your cat in the bathtub via Twitter, even if it’s outside the things you typically talk about there, do it. Just don’t do it all the time (again, respect for your connections always reigns). That said . . .
. . . It’s ok to sit on the sidelines
Just because you’re using a channel, you don’t always have to swim with the fish. Sometimes, you can sit on the banks and enjoy the stream. For example, amazing photos are shared via Instagram every day. If you don’t feel like putting your photos out there for everyone to judge, it’s perfectly acceptable to join Instagram simply for the viewing pleasure of seeing what others are posting. Finally, as with everything else in life . . .
. . . Decide what’s right for you
Social media is awesome for people who like to discover and explore. But not everyone is comfortable revealing so much online. That’s smart, and it makes sense to be protective and cautious. Figure out what works for you and don’t feel pressured to participate just because everyone’s doing it and it’s the hot new thing. This also goes to the point of sheer practicality. Unless it’s your job, let’s face it, managing all this stuff is incredibly time-consuming, as it takes lots of care and nurturing. Therefore, decide on your personal favorites and focus time and energy there if you’d like, vs. trying to do it all.
As you try out social media tools, what are some of the ways you use them to share different dimensions of yourself with others? What are your thoughts and suggestions for how to best manage it all?