At least once a week, if not once a day, you can find a headline that questions the value of “Social Media.” People inevitably complain about the vitriol of Twitter, the narcissism of Instagram, and the falsities of Facebook. Only rarely do you see any headlines that praise a social media giant.
It’s easy to see why the negative stories never end. They are, after all, true. You can find plenty of vitriol, narcissism, and falsity on any one of the major social media platforms. But, there’s an awful lot of good too. You just need to know where to look.
Teachers tweet all the time — weekends included. I’ve pondered before about the wonder of teachers sharing tips and tricks via tweets. They’re on Instagram too, sharing pictures of their classrooms, whiteboards, and hallways.
Then there are the bakers and artists, their specialties translate well on Instagram. The cooks are appearing on Facebook Live events, and the freelancers and job hunters are easily found on LinkedIn.
Take a peek at the feeds of those participating in these niche communities, and you’ll see something that is quite social, in a very meaningful way. It’s like the inherent goodness in humans sought out, found, and capitalized on the inherent goodness of the medium.
Imbedded in these smaller community posts are thoughts of respect, gratitude, and enthusiasm for being able to globally connect with people that have similar interests. It’s as if the human need to communicate and collaborate has transcended the platforms.
If your feed is focused on current events, politics, and sports — then you’re seeing the hate and braggadocio in full force and effect. If you’d prefer more kindheartedness, then my advice is to change your feed and follow people that do what you do, or enjoy what you enjoy.
The goodness of social media is in the smaller communities that focus on learning something new or doing something better. And, with the Future of Work upon us, and the need for lifelong learning being critically important, there’s never been a better time to discover the good of social media.
When we focus our attention on politicians, celebrities, or professional sports, we’re giving our attention to something in which we can have no true stake. Sure, we can cast a vote in favor of a candidate, but we don’t have any larger stake in their political career. If our favored candidate says something tomorrow that creates a cavalcade of tweets, our lives won’t change. Nothing that we do, day-in and day-out, will be any better or any worse.
Same is true for professional sports. We might be a point higher on the happiness scale because the Browns won (finally), but that happiness will likely last no longer than the start of the next game, when the feeds implode with criticism of players and coaches.
But, once you begin participating in communities in which the success of a job search really matters to people, you notice that the questions and advice on LinkedIn are genuine and sincere. Or, if you’re trying to eat at home more often, then it really matters to you that a food blogger posted an oldie but goodie from her archives — just in time for tonight’s dinner.
It is in these communities where you see and appreciate the value of the information shared. You have no desire to type in all caps or craft the next comeback. Rather, you celebrate the small victories and wonder if there is anything meaningful you can share.
Just this week, a little company named “drift” launched a new jewelry line. The company was founded by Mandy, a jewelry designer and metalsmith. I’ve never met Mandy, I only know what she’s willing to share via her Instagram accounts, 188sqft and weardrift. Mandy travels the country with her husband Kevin, their 2 dogs and 2 cats. Kevin is an app developer, and Mandy a photographer. Although now, Mandy is also the owner of a little virtual shop that sells rings, earrings, and necklaces that Mandy makes in their renovated 5th wheel.
According to her social media posts, Mandy became interested in metalsmithing after seeing a random video on Instagram. That was just 2 years ago. Since then, Mandy taught herself new skills with YouTube and Craftsy and connected with people through social media that have helped her successfully launch her first product line.
Sure, people have been owning and operating their own businesses for centuries. That is nothing new. But, think back to just 15 years ago. If you were a photographer and wanted to learn how to make jewelry, how would you begin? Start at your library? Order a book from Amazon? Maybe you could learn some basics this way, but how would you have connected with people? Look for a club of like-minded people? If you lived in a remote part of the country, or in a small rural town, those clubs likely didn’t exist.
But today, in the age of social media, it’s easier than ever to access people, get tips, learn new skills, pursue new interests, and stretch yourself. Never before has the wealth of human knowledge and experience been so accessible. It truly is an amazing time in human history. And, we too can harness that power, to our benefit. To help us learn and grow. And, to help others learn and grow too.
Tweet by tweet, post by post, video by video, we are communicating and collaborating with people we don’t know, and may never meet in person. In the process, we’re building a community, one that supports and encourages each other to take chances and expand our horizons. If we focus on finding the good in social media, we might be amazed at what we’ll find, or even what we’ll find ourselves doing. We might even find ourselves launching a new business.