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I’m not a social media expert. I don’t have tens of thousands of twitter followers. I don’t have thousands of friends on Facebook. I don’t have a blog that receives a million hits a day or even in a month. I will never use words like “guru”, “media-maven”, “social media strategist” (or any other terrible cliche you see in online profiles every where) to describe myself. I am, however, an avid social networking user. I look at social media as a medium to keep up with family, stay in touch with and make friends, and stay up to date on current events.
As a social media user, I find a great deal of information via my news feeds and time lines. I rarely bother with watching news shows now, because most of the information has been posted on twitter or Facebook before it’s been televised. Often times that’s where the news breaks first! Alternately, I enjoy sharing the information I find in the same outlets. With so much sharing of information, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish the line between sharing useful, interesting links and articles and completely spamming your friends with your personal brand of propaganda. You see, sharing information via cyberspace should be handled the same way you share face to face: Moderately and as if it were a conversation.
I want you, for a moment, to imagine if all the things you posted or did online were done face to face with another person. There’s a certain level of etiquette that, I think, is forgotten when we log in. So, as your average social media user, I thought I’d make a quick list to remind everyone to do things like keep your elbows off the table, put your napkin in your lap and sit up straight so you don’t give the internet the impression you were raised in a barn with no wifi.
1. Limit Your Links – Picture yourself at lunch with a few of your closest friends. You’re enjoying the conversation about current events, political activism, charitable organizations and the general state of affairs when someone reaches under the table and pulls out stack after stack of news paper clippings on one particular issue. This person then proceeds to pass these articles out to everyone at the table and before each person has read through the first paragraph of the first article, they are given another, then another, then another, until finally the person handing out the articles and refusing to hear any conversation is tackled to the ground and beaten to a bloody pulp with the same news papers they had been cutting up for information.
When you post link, after link, after link about the perils of shark finning in Japan you are no longer providing useful information that may sway people to your side or truly open their eyes to a worthy cause. You are spamming unsolicited propaganda which will eventually lead your friends to believe your obsession with a particular subject is worth far more to you than the people you are sharing it with.
2. Don’t Be the Village Nut – You know that crazy preacher guy at the corner of a busy intersection? The one with the weird flipboard over his shoulders shaking his bible at passersby while he shouts bible verses out of context as justification for judgement and world ending apocalyptic conspiracy theories? Well, when the limit of your social networking skills are 32,897 tweets and not a single personal response to anyone, you are that guy. It doesn’t matter if you are touting the cure for baldness or selling bottled baby laughter with a side of free puppy kisses, if you aren’t, for lack of a better phrase, engaging your online community, you are that guy. In the words of LOLcats “ur doin it wrong.”
3. The Super-Fan – You know when you go to a concert there’s always that one obsessive fan. The guy or girl who makes the music their religion. The one who yells the lyrics at everyone whenever his favorite (i.e. every) song is played. Sometimes it’s not even a single particular band, but an entire genre of music. This is the same person who wears the band T-shirt to the show. You NEVER wear the band T-shirt to the show. The super fan is an incredibly annoying mix of both of these people. This person links every single music video they have watched on youtube today for your viewing pleasure. Between links every three minutes they offer pithy commentary on why this particular band or genre of music is what you absolutely have to listen to right this very second, it will change your LIFE. Sadly this music is usually what I like to call cookie monster metal or Justin Bieber.
4. The Emoticon Updater (also known as the subtweeter and vaguebooker) – Instead of taking 30 seconds to type out an actual status update, these people just post emoticons for the sole purpose of being vague enough to warrant even vaguer responses from people already in on the emoticon and leaving the rest of us shaking our head saying “Why do I let this person’s status updates pollute my news feed?!” Your ambiguous emoticon says you have the emotional maturity of a 10 year old. You are attention seeking, but you want to drag out the tension for as long as possible so that you can astound as many people as possible with the earth shattering news behind your frownie face emoticon. You have a hang nail. OH MY GAWD NO WAY WORST DAY EVER double upside down angst emoticon!
5. The Inane Updater – Let’s just say I don’t care that you are making dinner (unless you are posting food porn, inviting me over or at least giving me the recipe to what you are cooking), I don’t care that you just pooped, I don’t care that you just flexed your glutes 247 times, I definitely don’t care that you’re bored. Your feeble attempts at making your life sound more interesting than it is doesn’t work. We all know your life is boring and you’re just updating your status every five minutes to feel relevant.
6. The Facebook Gamer – No I will not be your neighbor, your cityville friend, your jewel finding buddy or your pixel pet sitter. Stop sending me updates, stop posting the “I answered a question about you!” crap on my wall. You will be deleted. This is the digital equivalent of running up to adults and slapping stupid stickers on them. It’s funny when you’re 12 and it happens once or twice. It’s absolutely annoying when I receive 25 facebook notifications because Holly Hobby answered questions about me!
No I won’t help you waste hours of your life farming digital produce.
If you ever wonder why none of your friends talk to you online – this is why. It’s your punishment from the internet Gods.
7. Don’t Auto-DM me, Bro! – Twitter auto-DMs are the worst. Someone follows you, you check out their profile and they seem fairly interesting. There is a good mix of interaction with people, intelligent tweets, newsworthy links and a smattering of witty re-tweets. You click “Follow” and then the whole world goes to hell.
“JackJackOff has sent you a direct message – Thanks for following! Please check out my website at www.ImARagingTool.com, Like me on FB JacksAJackoff, email me at JacksHairyPalm@Gmail.com”
Yep. You’re a tool. Thanks for the instant reminder that I occasionally make poor decisions.
8. The Quoter – This person isn’t all bad. Occasionally, they have some really poignant quotes they throw out into the ether of the interwebs. Sadly, these comments would mean so much more if they hadn’t posted half a dozen similar quotes over the course of the last 5 hours. People know what Martin Luther King Jr. said, we’re aware of the profound wisdom of Buddha, most of us have read a good deal of our bibles, we aren’t friends with you because you can quote profound words spoken by other people. We want to hear your genuine, authentic thoughts. A few quotes here and there that really speak to you are great, but if all you have is quotes, that tells me you don’t think enough of yourself to share your own opinions. I know this is going to make me sound like a jerk, but if you don’t have enough self confidence to post a status update that consists of your own words forming your own opinions, I’m honestly not sure we should be friends at all.
I could probably continue this list to infinity, at least. I’m fairly certain that in the process I’d probably alienate a few, if not most, of my online friends. As I said before, I’m no social media expert, but I’m an avid social media user, and the one thing I’ve learned about being a member of online communities is that you have to be authentic. You have to be truly you. All of the personality types I’ve listed are great in moderation. We are simultaneously all and none of these people. The problem is when we go overboard in any direction.
Social networking is about making friends and genuinely connecting with people, be it personally or through your professional brand. The key word is “connecting.” We connect to our networks, we connect with our friends, we connect with our coworkers, customers, editors, publishers, brands and mentors.
When we are only shouting into the ether of cyber space instead of genuinely completing the circuit of community engagement, we’re doin’ it wrong. Be you. Once upon a time AT&T had a great idea, “Reach out and touch someone.” I know that slogan dates me, but it’s true. Social networking is a two way street. If you don’t reach out to connect with others, they won’t reach out to you.