Social Media’s Bad Side: How to Avoid Social Pressure on Social Media
Sometimes we feel a pressure – a type of social pressure – that we just have to be on social media and on all of the platforms, or we are not in business.
And the more likes and followers we have, the bigger and better our business is. Social media has grown to such an extent that we have come to measure our business’s value – and sadly our own personal worth too – by the amount of attention we get online.
We are caught in the delusion that as along as we are busy on social media, we are “marketing” ourselves and we are “working hard”. I believe this is a trap that many small business owners fall into. It is a trap that keeps us away from the most essential aspects of running a business: selling. Without making actual sales where our goods or services are exchanged for money, that is, without conducting real business with our customers, we are just stuck in the busy-ness of today’s virtual social media world.
Business or Busy-ness?
To say “I’m so busy, I can’t go on holiday / I can’t join you for drinks/ I’m working late again tonight” has become a social badge to be worn with pride.
How often do we reply to a friend enquiring about how we are, with “I’m so busy!” as if it’s an honourable and admirable state of existence. Tim Kreider, in his New York Times opinion piece, expressed this state of human affairs well:
“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”
We’ve learnt to feel that if we’re not busy, then something is wrong with us and our lives, in this always-on, always-watching world of today. We’ve defined our value by our doing, and we’ve gotten the concepts of “working hard” and “working smart” mixed up.
Social Media’s Dark Side
The dark side of social media is becoming more and move evident, in that we feel a pressure to post only about the best sides of ourselves, as proof which demonstrates our achievements and busy-ness.
This is followed by us becoming addicted to our screens. We put up a post and for the next few hours obsessively keep checking it, to get the next small dopamine hit from a new like or comment, some external validation of – again – our busy-ness and hence our value.
We keep watching other people’s posts too, envious of all their “perfect looking” lives that we are voyeuristically watching and comparing ourselves to. We are left feeling that we lack, that we are worse than, that we are not good enough.
Fake and Depressing
The reality of people’s lives, like the days that are mostly plain and boring, the many failures, the exhaustion people feel of trying to keep up with the impossible glitzy (and mostly curated) lifestyles of the “friends” they follow on Facebook and Instagram, are not being shared.
This constant social pressure to perform and prove our wonderfulness, is taking its toll. Psychologists are now helping their patients deal with conditions they call “Facebook Depression” and “Facebook Addiction Disorder” or “F.A.D.” These psychological conditions from our overuse of social media and utter reliance on the short term kicks we feel from a meagre few “likes” online, are leading to many social issues in our teenagers’ lives – and our own.
Are There Any Benefits?
Let’s be clear and balanced though and acknowledge that the “social” of social media has its benefits too. I hear this often, about how we do enjoy being able to connect with friends online who we don’t see much of in real life, and thereby maintain our relationships with them. We do gain value from following thought leaders in areas we want to learn more about. We can find customers online that lead to sales and money in the bank.
My point is more that we need to engage with social media with a keen awareness of its benefits and its pitfalls. This will allow us to navigate it with more savvy and intention, so that we come out healthy and happy on the other end.
We need to choose to tread more on the beneficial side, and not to fall down the slippery slope of social pressure that this form of media subtly indulges in.
Tips for Social Media Use in Business
Here are some tips to help us master the social pressure of social media, so that we are more likely to set ourselves up for true – not fake – success.
1. Other vs Self Esteem
We can learn to understand the difference between “other esteem” and “self esteem” so that we don’t fall into the traps of social media.
Other esteem is where we give the power to others to control our self worth. We end up feeling that we are living for them, for their approval, for being liked so much that we have “low” self esteem without this. We don’t esteem ourselves- we let others do that.
However, if we learn to esteem ourselves, we can choose to live with True Self Esteem. This is the concept I refer to when I talk about unconditional self-worth; and it is the choice we have about how we esteem ourselves.
It’s where we choose to see ourselves as human beings full of worth and value, here on earth to add our value to the world in our unique ways, to leave it just a little better off. We choose this way of esteeming ourselves, rather than the conditional way where we only become a being of worth if our doing meets certain external (and often unachievable!) conditions.
As Brené Brown puts it, we should keep our worthiness for love and belonging, which is our birthright, off the table. When it is off the table, or out of social media, we can focus just on dealing with the activities of doing business, and our esteem stays intact.
When we have this distinction, we will be more likely to not fall into the trap of using social media to boost our self esteem. This helps us too to not take things personally, which supports us to be open to listening to our customers more in order to serve them better, and to also being more authentic in our own expressions.
2. Be Intentional With Your Use of Social Media
Remember we are in our businesses because we have value to add to our customers. They have a need, and we have a solution to their need. We are asking for something in return for helping them to solve their problem.
Being intentional here means to remember what the point is of our business, and make sure that we use social media in a way that helps us to achieve that intention, rather than letting social media use us.
Let’s not let social media become a distraction where we fall under the false impression that if we get more likes, we are actually achieving our business goals. Let us rather choose to focus on what gets real results in the real world.
Another aspect here is choosing the right platform for our business. We don’t need to be on all the social media platforms just because everyone else is on them.
If you read anything out there about how to use social media for your business, the starting point is deciding which social media platform is most suited for your business.
How we decide which platform is best for our business, is we have to know our customers and then work out where they are online when they are looking for our help. Are they more likely to be on LinkedIn, or on Facebook? Perhaps they are more of the Instagram crowd, or they use Google search mostly? Maybe they are not even online at all?
When we know which platform our customers use, then we can focus our marketing efforts to master the most effective medium, and get results that work for us.
3. Be Intentional with Your Posts
We need to also check our purpose behind posting something. Is it part of our conscious and well thought through strategy to educate and engage with our prospects and customers? Or is it to make us feel better by getting some attention from others, for our daily dose of “other esteem” and to keep up with the pretense of appearing “crazy busy” and therefore important?
To use our time wisely, we should be posting with the purpose of adding value and sharing our knowledge of the problem our business is solving. And when we focus on this- sharing our value with others and being of service – then it is easier to share our personalities and true selves. And it’s these kinds of authentic and true posts that actually lead to the better quality engagement, and help to develop trust with our prospects, which is more likely to result in sales.
4. Know Your Limits
When we catch ourselves in a moment of obsessing over our phones and wishing for more social media ‘likes’, then we need to check if we are letting the social pressure of social media own us. The more useful strategy is for us to own social media as a tool for our business
The moment we don’t feel in control, we may have given up our power or had it taken away, and then that thing owns us.
Setting limits to how often we check social media, to how often we will post and being intentional about our posts as we’ve discussed, will go a long way to us owning these platforms as tools, and staying in charge of and on track with our marketing objectives.
5. Test and Check ROI
If we have a strong, True Self Esteem, and are using social media as tools to help us add our value to the world, then it becomes important too that we test if our strategies are actually getting us the results we want.
To do this we need to be clear on what those results actually should be. Are our metrics just “number of likes” or is it more useful to track “conversion rates”, for example?
Checking the return on our investment of time, energy and money in social media is important because it helps us to do the sanity check of if we are using these mediums wisely and productively.
Our metrics will tell us if we’ve fallen into that trap of false busy-ness where we are not actually impacting our bottom line, but rather focusing on getting enough of those endorphin hits that we feel we must be doing ok, when actually we’re not.
6. Be Brave
The difference that makes all the difference here is to be brave enough to take an honest look at our use of social media and the results we are getting, to then own up to if we fell into the trap of its social pressure.
To use social media effectively for our businesses, we need to ensure that it is the right path for us and for our business, and that it will give us the actual results that all the hype about social media promises.
I believe that when we can see the dark and light sides of social media, we can then engage in it with more choice and insight. We are then more likely to not only use it successfully, but also have fun while adding value.
Telana is a Courage Coach and author, helping people to be brave and shine, and live a life they love. She coaches executives, individuals and entrepreneurs to have conversations that count by finding their authentic ways of communicating and expressing themselves and their inner potentials. She specialises in true self-esteem, controlling emotions, overcoming self-consciousness and the fear of failure, handling conflict, fear of confrontation and developing relationships. She is fascinated by consciousness evolution and goes on adventures to push her boundaries and preconceptions. She is also a possibility believer and is currently turning one matchstick into an office, to help start ups overcome the fear of failure.