Guest Post :: I have a love/hate relationship with social media. But I have figured out how using social media leads toward my own purposes and toward making the world a better place. Here is my story…
I went to a university that was one of the first to get Facebook. I did not join the platform right away. I needed to focus on my studies. My junior year I was a resident assistant in the dorms so I joined to spy on the residents of my floor. It worked pretty well to keep tabs on them. If I did not see them for a while I could simply go to their profile page and look at their recent posts. It made my job a lot easier.
I have been on Facebook ever since. When we started our business, I signed up for Twitter. Then later I joined Instagram. I also have Snapchat. At some point I pretty much opted out of using Facebook and Twitter except for my business. I put some personal things on Instagram and Snapchat but not much. Turns out my Snapchat is mostly about my cat.
I think it is really ironic that I joined Facebook to spy on people. That is exactly what these platforms are used for today. Now I am not a conspiracy theorist and I am not talking about the NSA. I am talking about Facebook (and other social media platforms) and its ability to take the data you put into it and make tons and tons of money from businesses large and small. This is both good and bad.
- It is YOUR data that Facebook is using to make money. I saw a meme several years back, “If you’re not paying for something, you’re the product being sold.” I do not like to think of any person being a product to be sold. Yet that is what advertising and marketing is all about, using social media or otherwise, right? I would have to be against all marketing and advertising if I was going to be against using social media marketing and advertising.
- The data we end up putting into Facebook is more often than not an idealized version of ourselves. The data is skewed. Our friends get depressed seeing only our happiest thoughts posted. Can you imagine future generations mining this data and comparing it to their own experience? Talk about a blow to our grandchildren’s self-confidence.
- Paid advertising using social media platforms helps level the marketing playing field between big business and small business. A small business can see success with as little as $5 a day.
- Facebook has several policies to “protect the user experience” and make sure that advertisers provide value. Literally, they give value-providing ads higher ranking than those that do not provide value.
- Mark Zuckerberg is using at least some of the marketing and advertising dollars to make a difference in the world. See his foundation’s own Facebook page for details. Check it out.
- Plus, who are we kidding, all these advertising dollars keep social media platforms free for users. That’s a HUGELY good reason for most people.
So where do I stand on using social media? I’ve come to the conclusion that it is an unfortunate necessity. There are worse things that collect way more data (hint: your phone listens to you all the time). There are better ways to connect with people like in person and on the phone. But more importantly, it boils down to how the users use the medium they are given.
Here’s what I mean…
Have you ever thought about this? The place where you post on Facebook is called a “wall.” I sometimes wonder if Facebook builds more walls between us than it tears down. It is not Facebook’s fault. It is truly up to us what we post. Are the posts bricks or windows? Do our walls look more like pre-manufactured, weather-proof siding or like we live in a glass house?
Facebook and all social media platforms have the power to change the world – to lift people up or to tear them down… to spread good news or to create mass hysteria. It is true for all the words we speak but especially for the ones we type into our computers and thereby go into the record for all time. These words have power. To quote Spiderman’s uncle, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
My dad taught me, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Maybe that’s why I do not post much on Facebook very much anymore…
But it goes way, way beyond posting. Social media is truly transformative to the world when it alters our offline behavior. To experience the real power of social media we HAVE to take the conversations offline. Here are 5 examples:
- We meet a potential business client or vendor on Twitter and tweet back and forth a little and then grab a cup of coffee.
- We find out about a rally or volunteer opportunity with our favorite cause and then actually go and participate in what they are doing.
- We stay in touch with a friend or family member who lives far away and then send them a real, handwritten card to encourage them when the going gets tough.
- We meet a teacher of something we want to learn and we sign up for their course. Even if that course is online, we figure out ways to talk on the phone or connect in a more personal way.
- Now, moms meet a lot of people offline. There are other parents, kids’ teachers and coaches, a whole support network of babysitters, nannies, play date locations, carpool drivers, and so many more! I heard about two moms who are doing something really great to take that support network and make it more accessible to other moms, you guessed it, online via an app. Here’s more about them from one of my favorite podcasts.
The possibilities are endless here.
Comment and share your thoughts. How have you used social media to make a positive difference in the world? Tell me your stories.
Amanda Neely is co-founder and co-owner of Overflow Coffee Bar, L3C. Amanda and her husband opened Overflow Coffee Bar in 2011 as a social enterprise focused on achieving a social mission prior to making a profit. Amanda is a knowledgeable entrepreneur with experience in creatively solving the challenges inherent to growing and starting a business. Amanda loves to share her experiential knowledge as a certified life and business coach through overflowyourpossibility.com.