Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about social media. He shared that he’s staying away because it is full of noise, distractions and conversations that doesn’t stimulate him.
Yet, he also knows that as an entrepreneur, it would benefit him to participate. He said to me in exasperation, “But people have been telling me, but if I don’t participate, I am missing out a lot, and they keep encouraging me to ‘get my word out’. The thing is, if their way of doing it is as such, I want nothing of it!”
I could sense his frustrations, I feel the same way too. In the past, I used to enjoy reading posts and sharing from my friends. However, nowadays I am getting more and more annoyed with my news feeds, among those that get my goat are:
- Ads by Speakers / Trainers
- Constant Self-promotion
- 1 line quotes that are too general, and does not reflect adequate thought
The social media is an echo chamber of content, some of them are really insightful and useful, and a lot of it is noise. It does annoy me to the extent that I have wanted to stay away and simply delete all my accounts.
What We Can Learn about Social Media from Macro-Economics
That was until recently, I had an insight that has changed my method of social media participation. We tend to treat social media participation as one concept. We either participate, and do so like others are, shouting from the rooftop. Or to disengage and stay away. However, that’s looking at the situation as either black or white.
It doesn’t have to be.
I know that I have little control over what others share, but I know what I have control of. I borrow a simple concept from economics. In macroeconomics, we have two major groups of people, consumers and producers. Consumers pay a price for enjoying the use of products and services, while producers provide products and services in exchange for money.
The way we participate in social media can also be divided into two ways:
Consumption is what you take in from other people’s newsfeed, how you process what they say, what meaning you ascribe to it, the emotions you feel as a result of taking them in.
The logic is simple. If you want only portable water, either you invest in a better filter, or a better purifier. If you constantly receive others’ highlights with a feeling of envy and a reminder of why your life doesn’t look so interesting by comparison, then you have to either better curate what you allow to capture your attention, or how to better react to them. If you’re irritated by the shares of some people, but you do not want to “unfriend” them, then just simply use the “unfollow” function to stop receiving their newsfeeds.
Just as in Economic terms, a consumer is one who pays the price for consuming something. In social media, the price you pay for overconsumption on junk is wasted time, negative emotions and even getting suck into the malaise that doesn’t inspire you.
If you are indiscriminate about the food that you eat, and just take in whatever junk you can get your hands on, it wouldn’t be long before you develop an illness, or at least a bad stomach. If that were the case, why shouldn’t we take our social media diet just as seriously?
You have full sovereignty over your consumption, exercise it wisely.
Production is what you write, create, curate and share with others. From an economics perspective, producers are those who add value to the economy, and therefore you shall be rewarded. The question is how do you view this reward? Consider this question very carefully.
Is the reward getting likes and comments?
If this is the case, you may be trapped by the dopamine rush from getting likes and comments. Researchers have found that the dopamine (which has been called the “reward molecule”) people get from getting a like or comment on Facebook is what’s getting people hooked on constantly checking for notifications.
Dopamine is responsible for reward-driven behavior and pleasure seeking. Every type of reward seeking behavior that has been studied increases the level of dopamine transmission in the brain.
If however, the reward you gain is not tied to the dopamine from social approval, but from personal growth, then it makes more sense for you to produce more on social media. For example, you may have 2 ideas for a book you’re writing, you can share both ideas and see which one gets more engagement, and the quality of the engagement. You must be thinking how is this dissimilar to getting social approval? Here is the distinction. Social approval is getting the message, “My share is liked, so I am liked!” while in this situation, you’re saying “I already know what I am sharing is important, I just want to know which one is more important to my target readers, and how are they important.”
Just like consumption, we have sovereignty over what we want to produce on our timelines and how we want to tell our stories. For me, social media is an extension of who I am in cyberspace. It’s a channel for self-expression, to be courageous to share my inner thoughts and feelings. As I do that, my self-confidence and courage grow. The hormone that comes from self-expression is serotonin (known as “The Confidence Molecule”). Higher serotonin leads people to put themselves in situations that will bolster self-esteem, increase feelings of worthiness and create a sense of belonging.
I aim to use social media to add value to people who follow me there. Adding value could be sharing an educational insight, or just something that makes people laugh and uplift their spirits. As my good friend and social media expert, Andrea Edwards shared in this post, social media is also a giving and serving tool, we can use it to join the Giving Economy and spread love. As I do this, a second hormone (known as the “Bonding Molecule”) is released. Oxytocin is a hormone directly linked to human bonding and increasing trust and loyalty.
A Platform for Your Voice or Just Noise?
If you are disillusioned with what you’ve been reading, then you can be the change you want to see in the world, and make the effort to post something that people will relish reading and thank you for. Be a person who reads widely, and live life to the fullest. Then you may share the highlights and takeaways from your life with people online, a positive emotion shared is a positive emotion multiplied! However, do remember that not everyone is going to like what you share, it’s impossible to please everyone. However, those who resonate with your posts will engage with you. Viewed in this light, exercising your sovereignty is an empowering and delightful exercise indeed!