One day I was exhausted by 2 p.m. and couldn’t figure out why. I mean I felt really exhausted. I hadn’t done anything physically demanding. Did I have an emotionally or mentally taxing day?
Actually, I did. I had been on social media more than usual.
My wife and I call social media “the abyss” (technically how we refer to Instagram but can apply to social media overall). Since about 6 a.m. that morning I had been ingesting posts, pics, essays and memes about everything from race and politics to annoying sports takes. I had been retweeting, liking and commenting on almost everything that got me riled up. That night, instead of my wife and I having our usual funny or insightful conversations or venting session about work, I drove her nuts with my commentary about the social media commentaries that drove me nuts.
I began working on managing my social media engagement but something else happened. I gained more control of my interpersonal engagement, too; and in doing that, regained control of my personal brand. The script had to be flipped.
Getting sucked into the abyss was seriously jacking up my personal brand. According to Alice Walton, who covers health and psychology for Forbes, social media can be addictive, it dampens our happiness by socially isolating us, and causes jealousy among other things. That makes me think about how I have reacted to virtual gangsters, intellectuals, and anarchists. These people are experts at drawing users into irrational virtual verbal brawls.
By the way, I’m not talking about some fake “living your best life” photo set when I’m talking about your personal brand. I see personal branding as an expression of identity and value. A personal brand is that authentic place where you are able to articulate who you are and how you contribute to those around you. And it is easy to let social media pull you into a place where you lose control of your brand.
But let’s turn that emoji frown upside down!
First, use social media to help you seek out positive people and situations. There are people who actively use social media to project negativity. Take inventory of your raw feelings in that very moment a post gets under your skin and convert those feelings into rational thought. I’ve learned to use these experiences to acknowledge positive people and situations in my interpersonal interactions.
Second, only engage in thoughtful conversations and debates. Nothing screws up a personal brand like letting those virtual gangsters, intellectuals and anarchists catch you off guard. Next thing you know, you’ve posted something that will later make you wonder what you were thinking (while you wonder why people at work are treating you differently). I’ve turned being reactionary into a mental and emotional boot camp. I use that energy to grab hold of opportunities for empowering and enlightening interpersonal exchanges.
Most importantly, use negative social media to keep your light bright. When social media goes low, I go high. Regardless of the negativity we see, people want light in their lives. That motivates me to engage with folks with a smile, pleasant tone of voice, inviting eye contact, and hearty laughs.
We all know social media isn’t all bad. Social media is great for helping loved ones find each other, creating beautiful relationships, connecting people with jobs, facilitating school reunions, taking fundraising to another level, and more. It’s all in how you use it and that is my warning to avid users. Instead of allowing social media to take your personal brand into that abyss, become bigger than the moment.