A few Thoughts on Social Media.

Yesterday I received the sweetest text message from one of my (writing this made me realize for the first time how possessive this sounds. Ugh. They are not my RAs but are each amazing individuals. I don’t own them. Oh my gosh!) the RAs on my staff saying that she needed to block me on Twitter. She went on to explain to me that it was nothing against me or the way I used Twitter, but rather that she uses Twitter as a personal space and that she didn’t want to mix work and personal life on this platform – especially given that she was connected with her boss.

This exchange led to the realization that social media is deeply personal and that everyone uses social differently. While, I think that I’ve known this all along, it took this conversation with a staff member to really put things into perspective for me.

Here’s what I’m thinking.

We live in a world that is constantly connected. Pretty much everyone has some sort of internet/social media presence – In my personal opinion everyone should. The way of the world is changing and if you don’t have a digital presence you’re going to be left behind. You don’t have to be posting and sharing constantly, but rather simply have an understanding of the popular technology and platforms being used and the benefits and costs associated with them.

Social media serves the purpose of connecting one another. It was created so that communities could be built. Given that it was meant for relationship building and connections, it makes sense that social media is deeply personal. Why wouldn’t it be?

I believe that social should be deeply personal. I think that for social media to serve its purpose, you must use it authentically. This requires personalization, intimacy, and shared trust in other users.

Everyone uses social media differently. Some people only use one platform. Some people use all the platforms. Some people lie somewhere in the middle of that spectrum – like me! Some people use different accounts in different ways. I’ll use myself as an example.

I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and obviously, WordPress. I use each of these platforms very intentionally – and I created each account with the purpose of using them intentionally and positively. I will never post/share/say something on social that I wouldn’t do or say in person, or wouldn’t be willing to back up/support if questioned by someone who saw it online.

I use Facebook very irregularly. I check it once a day – if that. I’ve had a very on-and-off relationship with Facebook since I created it when I was a freshman in high school and was hiding my profile from my parents. I didn’t really use Facebook because I didn’t have a smartphone or WiFi at the time…but I felt I had to have one to fit in at school…what a joke. I started being pretty active on Facebook in college – sharing photos, posting status updates, sharing things my friends had posted, joining groups, etc. This continued until my junior and senior year. I deleted Facebook for over a year because I just needed to take a break from the negativity, focus on school, and disconnect for a while. Since reactivating my account after college graduation, I now use Facebook just to share these blog posts and the occasional news article or happening from an organization that I follow. I pretty much just have Facebook to ensure my family members that I’m still alive.

I use Twitter very professionally. I created my Twitter account my senior year of college because I was in a social media communications class and at the time only had an Instagram account. We focused on digital and media literacy in this course and what it means to be a user of new media. When I created this account, I told myself I would only use it to connect with others positively and professionally. I have stuck to that. I share glimpses of myself, my personality, but also use this platform to connect with Higher Education, Communication and Public Relations professionals, musicians, and companies and organizations that I love. I participate in Twitter Chats regularly and follow news and current trends on this platform.

Instagram is the most personal of my profiles. I think photo sharing is a great way to be deeply personal and authentic – perfect for my intentional use of social. I use this platform to share my adventures with you all and to be more fun, lighthearted, and carefree than on my other profiles. You will see my personality shine through photos of my educational/professional endeavors, coffee dates, random runs around lakes or fields, hikes through the wilderness, and other completely random musings.

Lastly, LinkedIn is a very business professional profile. I created this account my senior year while I was on the job/grad school search. I now try to keep this profile updated as an online resume of sorts, but don’t do much sharing or posting on here. I connect with people I meet on Twitter, at conferences, through work, and socially, but I connect with people on this account more to keep a constant flow of circles and networks growing than anything else.

Obviously, y’all know how I use my blog. It’s basically just a space to share my ever constant flow of thoughts and ramblings…but also because I really love writing and I hope to share snippets of my life with others so that it may make waves in their life in some way. Hopefully that’s happening to some of you.

That’s my social media presence in a nutshell. Was it personal enough for you? Do you think that my profiles capture what I just shared with you? I hope so, because that is my intent. I really want to use my accounts to be personal and share my life experiences with others so that you get to know me in a deeper, more meaningful way. That being said, I also acknowledge the fact that others use social in far different ways and that is perfectly fine. Who am I to judge what someone else posts on social? Because I don’t have a clue what their life is like and what they’re experiencing. Why would I judge a stupid fricken social media post? After all, if they’re being personal, authentic, and can back up something that they post, I think they’re doing social media right.

All of my social media accounts are unprotected, meaning anyone can follow me at any time. I do this purposefully. I want people to connect with me. I want people to feel comfortable connecting with me. I want people – like future employers and students both – to see that I don’t have anything to hide or be ashamed of posting and if they have questions about something that I have posted on social that they believe is questionable, it is my hopes that they challenge me on it and bring it up in conversation.

Another thing that I want to point out about this awesome text message is that it made me realize that I am very transparent with my (ugh I did it again…) staff and students about social media use – especially when it comes to following me and other professionals.

I tell students that they can follow me on social, but that I am hesitant to follow back. I also tell them, that if I do happen to follow them back or their account is open and I see something that is questionable or concerning that I will have a conversation with them about it. I challenge any student or staff member that follows me to be conscious of the fact that I may or may not follow them back and that they need to be aware of the things that they post because of this. I encourage students to think about what they’re posting/sharing/creating and how it may impact the people who may see it. I remind students that perception is far greater than reality when it comes to social media and that social only shows certain viewpoints of life and we can’t get so caught up in that.

I realized from this text message that I am having these conversations about social all the time, but it took a simple text message from someone on my staff to make me think about the importance and relevance of self-care and self-preservation in this connected world.

Social media is crazy and can be destructive if not used properly. That’s why I think it is so important that we are thinking critically about social and how we use it. It’s also why I am so impressed by this RA and her willingness to confront me and express her concern for our connection on Twitter.

Someone that I care deeply and genuinely about and work with every day isn’t comfortable connecting with me on a certain platform because she knows herself well enough to know that the way she uses this channel is not an appropriate way of connecting with me. That is so cool! I’m really proud of her for that. I think we all should be thinking about this when connecting with others on social. We must be thinking about the messages that we are conveying to the world online.

Think about it y’all. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts and perspectives on this. Feel free to reach out!