Today’s psychology-based article digs into why I act the way I do in social situations. It was an eye-opener for me to write (and rewrite), and I hope it inspires you to think about your own social coping strategies as well!
Editing and link-fixing have brought this cautionary blog post about social media up to par–check it out and see what you think!
Isn’t it odd that back in January of this year I wondered about the usefulness of Twitter, and my ability to use it to promote this little blog of mine? Now I can’t imagine my blog without it, thanks to some auto-tweet WordPress plugins that help me keep my Twitter stream updated.
However, even though I’m using Twitter for this blog officially, I fully admit to still being a Twitter newb, even after managing several Twitter accounts for my various sites. I know I’m nowhere close to being as adept with social media as some of my fellow bloggers. But I have learned a few unspoken rules of the Twitter community, which I think have incredible value for us bloggers.
#1: Follow People, and You Will Be Followed
We all like to receive praise for our work, as I referred to in my comments article last week. Following another person’s Twitter is a digital pat on the back for them, and it may lead to them following you back if they find your blog (and its Twitter feed) interesting.
Now, when I say “follow people,” I don’t mean just follow random people willy-nilly. Follow fellow bloggers, people who are doing what you’re doing, as well as other websites that cover the same basic topic(s) as your blog does. (For instance, my Crooked Glasses Twitter follows Twitter accounts that cover all of the various subject matters I write about, as well as several fellow bloggers.) This is part of building a Twitter following that’s legitimate and networked together–once you follow them and they potentially follow you, you have a connection you can build on.
I didn’t realize this for myself until I began my work with the Save City of Heroes movement on Twitter, and began to follow a bunch of people with my City of Heroes site account (@skiesoveratlas). When I first began using the @skiesoveratlas account, I had thought, “Well, if people like my site, they’ll just follow, right?” WRONG! I had to get my name out there first, had to follow people and let them know I was there. Once I started following the people who were active in the #SaveCoH movement, lo and behold, I began to see people following me, too, and liking what I had to say.
But just following other people is the first step. There’s another step, too:
#2: Retweeting = A Necessary and Helpful Courtesy for Fellow Bloggers
I’ll admit, this is something I don’t do well on my Crooked Glasses Twitter account, because I cannot have constant access to Twitter (dialup internet at home, and no money for a smartphone). But a strong retweeting presence on your own Twitter stream can help your blogging cause in two ways:
#1: Gets the retweeted party’s name out to your followers, giving them more site traffic
#2: Builds your connection with them and gets them interested in what you’re doing, too
As I said before, we all like getting praised for our efforts, and retweeting is another form of digital praise. (I know I get warm fuzzies from seeing that someone has liked something of mine well enough to retweet it, anyway. :P) When you retweet, you are saying, in effect, “I like what you said so much that I’m sharing it to my followers, too.” With that simple click, you show your solidarity of opinion with them, and you connect to them more effectively.
Retweeting blog posts and articles by fellow bloggers can also boost their popularity. I know I can credit retweets as the biggest reason I have any followers on Twitter–I certainly haven’t done my part to retweet anybody else on my Crooked Glasses account, but other people have liked what I’ve said enough to retweet what I’m doing. Thanks to other people being more on-the-ball with social media, I’m doing well, too. That’s part of how Twitter works for bloggers–we all build each other up, just with a click of the “Retweet” button.
With that realization, which has just come to me over the past two weeks, I think it’s well past time to start retweeting and giving back to the community which has helped me so much…even if I have to battle 15-minute load times on Twitter (which is a sad reality)!
One important thing to remember about retweeting, though: it’s not just about retweeting everything the people you follow say, as you’ll see below:
#3: Your Twitter Feed is a Curated Topic List for Your Users
A personal Twitter account is very different from a website/blog’s Twitter. On a personal Twitter, you can pretty much retweet at will; on a site’s Twitter, you must be more circumspect, more selective.
For instance, my blog’s Twitter has attracted a large number of Christian websites and blogs because I write weekly about reading Scripture and otherwise living a Christian life. If I were to suddenly retweet a whole bunch of anti-Christian sentiments, tweets riddled with curse words and offensive opinions, etc., how Christian would that seem? I’d lose those followers in a heartbeat, and for good reason: my Christianity would be in doubt.
We as bloggers have to remember our site’s image, its “brand,” if you will, when we retweet. Our site’s Twitter feed functions as not only promotion for our work, but official endorsements for other people’s work through retweeting. If we retweet something that doesn’t work with our “brand,” people lose confidence in us, and we begin to lose community interest, like in my example above. So, when we retweet, we need to make sure that what we’ve retweeted is in line with what our site’s about. That way, we don’t confuse our followers.
And, by retweeting selectively, we also create a “curated” Twitter feed and build trust in our credibility. When I retweet something through my blog’s Twitter, I want people to think, “Wow, if Crooked Glasses retweeted it, it MUST be good!” Not only do I want to build a strong community through my retweets, but I also want to draw people’s attention to what is legitimately wonderful content that ought to be enjoyed. I will be a much better advertiser for someone else’s work (as well as my own) if I’m seen as a keen judge of worth and reliability.
Through following other bloggers and retweeting especially great content they’ve made, you can actually build a strong, legitimate Twitter following for yourself. Once you connect with other bloggers and website owners through social media, showing interest in what they’re doing, they will likely be interested in what you’re doing, too, and the cycle of positive influence will continue!
I remember when I first began web design, personal blogs were all the rage. Yes, yes, I know, imagine me sitting in a rocker with a blanket over my knees if you wish, but I was kickin’ around the Web in the early 2000s and saw it with my own screen.
Back then, blogs had a more longform, intimate style of writing. They were how you shared your life stories and thoughts with others, mimicking the diaries so many of us likely kept–except that these “diaries” were online, and viewable by many people. Not only that, you could be an anonymous writer if you wished.
But now, the era of the “personal” blog seems to have waned. Blogs are now more for site updates, and maybe a little project tracking–they are more about topics than about lives. My own is a rare multi-topic blog, but not one of those topics is my life (and you’re much better off reading something that isn’t about my life, I assure you 😛 ). Personal blogs just aren’t as important to us anymore.
Why? I believe the answer lies in two words: “social networks.”
How Social Networks = Easier Personal Blogging
Believe it or not, early blog websites, like Diaryland, Blogger, Livejournal, and so many others, were some of the first social network sites. They allowed bloggers to talk to each other in ways that were system-constructed, with comments on blog posts and the like. So the Internet foundations of functioning social networks were already laid when networks that focused on shorter-form writing (such as FriendFeed, Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter) came along.
But these days, each of us likely writes several short textual bursts about our life in one day. We don’t all have to be gifted writers to write about our lives anymore; we don’t have to catalog what we did all day in a single, long blog entry. We can simply write about the interesting stuff that happens to us, as it happens, and not have to work it into a grand thematic short story of our day.
Why I Largely Ditched Personal Blogging for Social Media
As a creative writer who inexplicably hated keeping diaries and writing personal blogs (because my life is just that boring), I gravitated to the social network. Why? Because the social network didn’t make me JUST blog about myself to be considered “active.” I could comment on other people’s life events, like their pictures, play a few games, share a few links–all on one website. Just like big-box stores like Walmart capitalize on having “all you need at one store,” social networks like Facebook capitalize on sharing “all of your life on one site.”
But I realize that with the ease and ubiquitous nature of social networks came the inevitable waning of more “personalized” blogs. I gradually quit writing on my own Livejournal about my life after a while of being on Facebook, with this simple reasoning: “why write about my day on a personal blog, when I’ve already written a status message or two about it on Facebook and shared it with friends?”
I can imagine that many other Internet users have thought the same way, about whatever social network they prefer to visit and post on. Social networking makes it easier to post about your life, and takes less time than a blog.
There’s a Big “But” Here
Not everyone has stopped doing personal blogs, though. In fact, the number of small blogs and free blog websites has only risen in response to social networks, even though less people visit or make personal blogs these days. This trend, linked to the sheer number of topic blogs being produced, gives me hope that people aren’t completely getting away from “real” writing and longer article-driven blogs in favor of quick tweets and likes.
Though much of the Internet’s attention has been drawn away from this longform, diary-style life narrative, there still seems to be a call for it among individual users. Perhaps the demise of the personal blog is inevitable and in process, as it appears…or perhaps a new generation of Internet users will gravitate back to it.
We all cope with society in various ways. Some of us use our smartphones to avoid conversations with strangers; some of us prefer the Internet to face-to-face communications. We are individuals roaming through a sea of more individuals, and most of us actively try to avoid threats and pass the time as peacefully as possible.
I’m certainly one of those who avoids conflict and threats as much as possible. I don’t like to be in or near fights; conflict makes me VERY uncomfortable. Thus, I find myself using certain coping strategies to make myself a non-threatening individual, to dissuade people from trying to harm me, and to maintain friendships. These are not entirely selfless strategies; I often do these things to keep my own sanity (or what I have left of it) more than anything.
Below are the social strategies I find myself using all the time, to maintain my social role as a “helper” and a non-threat.
#1: Saying “sorry” all the time
I’ve done this for so long that it’s become an instinct. Any time anything happens, whether it’s really my fault or not, I end up saying “sorry,” either to express regret or to express compassion. The slightly twisted reasoning behind it: if I say “sorry” enough, people might understand that I commiserate with them, and thus are more inclined to see me in a positive light later on.
#2: Being helpful
If I help someone, I boost them up–as well as boosting my own feelings of self-worth. Helping that person may also lead to them having a positive memory of me, making them less likely to harm me or act against me in the future.
#3: Being emotional
Though it seems counter-intuitive, this is also a coping strategy. I had to dig a while in my consciousness for this reasoning, but from what I’ve been able to gather, becoming overly emotional means that others are moved to help me calm down, forgetting for a moment their own gripes with each other. (I have actually done this quite often in situations where a group needs to pull together to make it through–I somehow express the stress of the rest of the group, and we end up becoming a more solid unit as a result.)
#4: Forgiving quickly (or at least saying that I have)
If I forgive quickly, I am perceived as somehow a “better” person–though I confess sometimes that I can’t forgive as easily as the words spring to my mouth. (That’s a hard thing to realize about myself.)
#5: Staying quiet when I have a minor complaint
I don’t like to make a “big scene” and will stay quiet rather than being assertive. Reason: I don’t want to be seen as a nag or as a bothersome person.
What I’ve Learned from Exploring My Coping Strategies
All of the above strategies focus around others seeing me as someone they want to be around, someone they want to help, and someone that they look on with favor. This is related heavily to my experience of severe loneliness early in my school life, which shaped me more than I wish to admit. My way of dealing with threats, usually in the form of another person who is more aggressive, is to make sure they do not perceive me as a similar threat. Only then can I have some semblance of peace, since I have maintained harmonious relationships with them.
Coping strategies are the unconscious tricks we all use to maneuver in society, but sometimes they don’t always function the way we intend. One reason I posted this is because I have to dig into why I act the way I do in order to change the malfunctioning strategies–for certain, I can’t go around the workplace crying every time I feel threatened!
Learning about our inner emotional workings is a freeing and somewhat disturbing experience, one that has helped me get a better handle on who I am and who I am becoming. Try it for yourself–what’s really making you act the way you do in certain social situations? You might just learn something really interesting about yourself in the process!
Have an idea for a hilarious joke to post on Facebook? Maybe a prank comment on one of your friends’ statuses? How about a note detailing all the crazy things you and a bunch of friends got into on Saturday night?
Instead, how about not clicking “Post” just yet, and instead rereading what you wrote?
Why Reread? Because It Could Save You a Lot of Pain
Rereading won’t take long. Just for a few seconds, think about how your parents will understand this post, or how your boss will take it. If it’s a joke or prank on a friend, think about how this friend might interpret your words. Is it as funny? Does it make sense to post it now? And, most important of all, would you be comfortable with a potential employer, new friends, or a future significant other seeing this five or six years from now?
The reason I bring this up is because a lot of things get posted on Facebook these days that really shouldn’t be broadcasted. Though writing statuses or notes on Facebook seems harmless, sometimes thoughtless words can get you fired or spark fights (like the Facebook fight over a boy which resulted in a girl’s death).
If You Didn’t Reread Before Posting, You Can Still Delete
We all have things out there on the Internet that represent who we WERE, not who we ARE now–especially if you’ve had an online presence for a long time. But if we don’t delete things that no longer represent who we are, they don’t just vanish into the digital mist; they’re still archived somewhere, and someone may well access it one day much later when it’s embarrassing (or even incriminating) rather than funny or cool.
This is one reason I’ve gone about the Internet deleting and cleaning up my very old profiles. I’ve changed and grown up a lot since I first started using the Internet; I used to curse a lot, for instance. Now that I’m older and more professionally-minded, I don’t want bosses or new friends coming across things I posted that no longer fit my personality, my hopes and dreams, or my ambitions. (I am aware that archives of my old stuff may still exist somewhere on the Internet, but at least my deletions will make it much harder to retrieve.)
So now, before I post anything on the Internet, even blog posts like this one, I stop and think, “Could this possibly get me in trouble someday? Could someone take this the wrong way? How does this reflect on me as a person?” This keeps me from posting a lot of (usually frustrated) statuses that wouldn’t serve any good purpose anyway, and it also keeps me from accidentally offending anyone, which could easily come back to bite me in an uncomfortable bodily region later.
Since so much of our lives are on the Internet these days (even our work and family lives), it’s important to think carefully before posting anything online. This doesn’t mean that we live “fake” lives on social media, but that we just think as much about what we type as what we say in person.