All the Sh*t You Don't See on Social Media
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I am going to make a grand assumption that is the case with most people who use the medium in any way. It fosters community. It destroys relationships. It inspires us. It forces unhealthy comparison. And the common theme in all of this is that we tend to forget that social media is not an accurate representation of our worlds.
We forget that social media, despite it not always being intentional, is a careful curation of what we choose to share.
There are two moments that I constantly reflect on that showcase this perfectly, both having to do with the way I curated my own, personal content on social media:
At a law school graduation for a close friend, his mother approached me and said that she loves to follow me on social media because I’m always at glamorous parties and she feels like she’s there. In that moment, I couldn’t actually remember the last time I had been out. But what I shared was the fun stuff…it wasn’t the hard days at work, the tears in my wine over a tumultuous relationship, the worry about paying all my bills. I remember in that moment thinking that I need to be more careful about what I share because the person I created on there was different than the person others saw.
The other time was recently, ten years after that previous interaction, when working for a local dog rescue on one of my most challenging days ever. The pandemic had hit and in the few days prior to this moment, I had lost all my clients and my uncle had passed suddenly. I had picked up a darling puppy from the shelter who had been on the euthanasia list and rushed her an hour and a half to a top vet hospital to try to save her life. She couldn’t properly go to the bathroom, leaking literal sh*t constantly. When they released her back to me after sitting for hours in a hot parking lot, I got her back to my house where I couldn’t get her out of the car willingly, poop was everywhere, and then I turned around and my dog was slumped and drooling badly. I got Poop Dog into her crate and rushed Drool Dog to the vet. While I was home waiting to hear about my dog (she was fine, apparently just the reaction of a dog stressed with the situation), covered in sh*t, in tears, I got a message saying how fun it is that I get to spend time with cute dogs all day. And I fell apart even more because, in that moment, I realized I had only been sharing the fun parts and was reminded that social media doesn’t pick up smells and the mess.
Been there? I mean, maybe not exactly there. But I bet you’ve been in a position where you feel some kind of feeling in a moment you realize someone has a perception of your life via social media that isn’t exactly accurate.
So…why are we here?
That I don’t have a direct answer on. I think a lot of it stems from social media still, in reality, still being a new element of our lives. But because it was integrated so quickly and our lives revolve so much around it, that we forget that it is a curation and a snapshot. We get so caught up in it that it feels real.
WHAT IT MEANS PERSONALLY
This affects us all on a personal level, even if we are aware of it or not.
- Comparison Trouble – Remember that what someone displays on social media is a careful curation (intentional or not), so don’t spend time worrying about what it looks like they have or how it looks like they spend or that their home is never dirty. You will ALWAYS be surprised if you see the true reality.
- Perception Issues – Be considerate about what you post because you are creating a storyline for yourself. And always be ready to remind someone that what they see is a little snapshot of a bigger picture.
- Careful of Curation – We aren’t saying that you should share the good, bad, and the ugly…but don’t be scared to be a little less polished. We can all contribute to a bit of change when it comes to how we showcase our carefully curated lives on social media. But also, be careful and be smart…people are watching.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR BUSINESS
Businesses feel this same kind of pressure, just in a different way, but it is no less important to be thoughtful.
- What You Say (Or Don’t) Is Important – People are watching closely. Make sure you are authentic but think through your words. And know that if there are things you stay quiet about, that also tells a story about you too. (*looking at you, brands who didn’t speak up about Black Lives Matter*)
- Assume a Lack of Knowledge – No one sees everything on social media, so assume that you’re speaking to an audience who doesn’t know about you as much as you are speaking to one that knows it all. That’s a delicate balance, but not doing so can lead to a lot of confusion.
- Opportunity to Tell your Story – This is your stage and you’re the star! This is your chance to tell your story authentically and creatively. Have thoughtful fun with it!
This is all a much bigger challenge than we realize on a daily basis. So check in with yourself, check in with your business, and remember that a little bit of time offline is good for the brain. But fostering an amazing, authentic community online is good for it too.