Like. Share. Follow. Repeat. Even if you’re a busy stay-at-home mom overloaded with laundry, the social media “cycle” is probably just as common as the washer’s “delicate” setting. When I was busy managing a toddler ecosystem, I longed for adult conversation. In fact, I always had a rule with my kids: In the house I would tolerate the annoying intros of kids shows. In the car, they would enjoy the sound of Jane’s Addiction. I’m not going to lie, at that time, my brain was on crafting, hot-dog tag and glitter-removal. Unfortunately, Facebook was the most convenient tool for connecting to other “adult life-forms.”
No matter how resistant you are to social media—it is here to stay. I don’t know of any business, academic or cultural demographic that does not utilize social media in some fashion. 15 years ago, a Tibetan monk using an iPhone, let alone Instagram, would have been comparable to a Bengal tiger using a laptop. Now it is a commonly used tool for posting prayers and, ironically, encouraging mindfulness.
Instagram, originally developed as an online photo album, has added many additional features allowing users to promote their businesses, blogs and personal brands. Personal branding is the new strategy for building followers in order to promote personal views, values or passions—pretty much your own “awesomeness” platform. For many, Instagram has created more opportunities for financial success far beyond updating a resume or holding an MBA. It doesn’t matter if you drive a rusty Ford and live in the sticks or drive a BMW and work in Manhattan, if you are committed almost anyone can have a popular Instagram or be successful in building a personal brand/blog.
Millennials have become the technological generation. My daughter is probably more qualified to design a social media campaign than I am, even though I have a degree in public relations. At my best, I can navigate and utilize most commonly-used programs, but I still spend countless hours learning program features and formatting.
“Facebook is for old people, Mom. It’s all about Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat,” she sarcastically reminds me. In my mind, Facebook has revolutionized social media. It has shaped communication and connection differently, but the more I look at audience analytics and effectiveness I realize she might be right. Facebook appeals to an older audience because it takes patience to watch longer videos or surf a business page. This also applies to the nurturing threads of “inspirational quotes” to comfort a divorcee or the diatribe of “haters” bitching about the administration’s racist overtones.
What’s fascinating to me about social media is its ability to mold a collective opinion, ignite motivation or shape alliances. It sounds beneficial and effective. After all, if you find people with similar passions it creates community. However, it also contributes to black-and-white thinking.
Black-and-white thinking reduces the desire for brainstorming compassionate solutions, developing emotional intelligence and eventually improving the quality and spirit of community. Those are the ingredients that make a great leader. If you can’t be receptive to dissecting opposing viewpoints or social differences other than your own, you’ll never have the ability to communicate or influence others. Without humility and understanding, what is there but self-righteousness and ego?
This year, I decided to start my own blog to encourage others to think outside the box-- try on someone else’s shoes and, ideally, stretch their willingness to read a different perspective. Writing about nutrition, trends and pop culture is fun, but it also distracts me from focusing on more important issues like personal growth. Of course, there are appropriate times to consume mindless gossip mags—like when I refresh a client’s spring highlights at the salon. However, always remember: Huffington Post selects the stories they want to highlight as “important.” After that, it’s your responsibility to decide where “Tom Brady’s growing bald spot” fits on your list of life priorities.