Bright Matrices

Writings & musings of Mike Zavarello (a.k.a. brightmatrix), a "red mage" web developer.

Tag: personalities

My “A-ha” Moment About the “Spiral of Envy”

Today’s entry from Mark Schaefer’s {grow} blog, “Facebook, the ‘spiral of envy,’ and our Botox life,” put into succinct words precisely what has nagged and pulled at me about social media for the past two years. The crux of Mark’s essay was that we put so much gleam and shine on our online lives that it drives others into this descent into digital madness, where we constantly feel the need to one-up our friends, or we succumb to the illusion that our world is a grayer, less exciting version of what we see on Facebook, et al. One of the commenters labeled this the “Jones effect” (as in “keeping up with the Joneses”), and that’s the perfect way to describe it. It’s an dramatic arms race: our friends showcase their (so-called) awesome lives, and we feel we need to make ours more awesome as a result. No wonder folks get all bent out of joint in these realms.

This phenomenon affected me in the latter way: feeling what I was doing here was less important and less worthy than what others were saying out there. I’ve written a few times about the so-called “silent partners” in our online relationships: those folks who follow you on Twitter or friend you on Facebook, and yet never seem to either read, acknowledge, or respond to you from that point forward. I couldn’t figure it out, despite my best efforts, and I dropped my usage to the ultimate bare minimum for several months last year as a result. Now I have something I can use to identify this sensation, and it makes that much more sense.

People put so much guilt around our online relationships. You do it, and others around you do it. Don’t dare unfollow someone on Twitter or unfriend someone on Facebook lest they find out! Better to use some curated list or hide posts instead. It’s all so much unnecessary subterfuge. We need to be honest and just realize that we’re all people. We post because we want a reaction. Sometimes they’re trivial things, but we want a reaction all the same. So, it seems natural that people will decide to share things that are the pinnacle of wit, wisdom, weariness, or woe. Mark’s right: we don’t hear about the paint drying or toddler accidents; that’s the unattractive back alley side of life. But, we also need to realize that not everyone wants to hear those shards of our shiny lives, so it shouldn’t faze us if some folks tune out.

Your life is awesome. Perhaps not today, but your life is awesome. Don’t let those shiny “Botox lives” tell you otherwise.

 

There Are No Social Media Gods

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with several talented folks involved in the field of social communications. At an in-house digital communications event in Dallas last week, I enjoyed excellent conversations with Barbra Rozgonyi of WiredPRWorks and Deidre Walsh of Jive Software. Today, at a meeting of the Social Media Club of Philadelphia, I had the pleasure of connecting with SMC Philly organizer Gloria Bell, blogger Cecily Kellogg of Uppercase Woman, and author and co-founder of Zoetica, Geoff Livingston, among others. The presentations and sidebar discussions with each of these good folks were informative and inspirational for me. All of them were warm and willing to talk.

This post isn’t about name dropping, however. Each of these individuals helped to cement a new perspective for me: there are no social media gods. There are only people.

I’ve been involved in social communications for almost two years now, and I continue to feel like a relative newcomer when interfacing with folks in this circle. There are a bevy of brilliant luminaries from every industry and skillset, and it can become daunting when you see a rapid-fire set of ideas, concepts, and opinions in your social streams each day. I confess to being a bit over-enthusiastic at times (“geeking out”) when talking to these folks, but, more so, I’ve unconsciously treated some as though there were deities: masters of their domain, untouchable. I see the same patterns in others and have heard stories of backlash when expressing differing opinions to the social gods.

For us folks invested in the social space, we have to remember that we are dealing with human beings, all the time. Not just the individuals who we’re reaching out to (and helping others do the same), but each other.  That’s the “social” in social media, of course, but I get the feeling the “human” aspect is lost from time to time. Respect and professionalism are prerequisites, but we can’t be afraid to share stories, offer contrasting opinions or constructive criticism, and give praise where deserved. We each have strengths, weaknesses, and our own unique personalities, but turning social communications into a “cult of personality” is not where we need to go.

My recent interactions were positive precisely because we all treated each other like people, not figures, metrics, or influencers to be courted. I hope to see more of this as my knowledge and network grows and fewer instances of “false idols.”

So, what’s the moral? Be warm, be generous, be fair, but, most of all, be human. I will.

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