Anyone who knows me knows I am evangelical to the point of being a bit of a pain about the power of social media.
There is SO MUCH about social media that is truly amazing. It has transformed the world. Social media platforms enable us to connect globally. To find our tribe. To seek out and listen to conversations. To create awareness around important issues. To galvanise people into action. To build virtual communities. To empower individuals. There are so many positive effects on society from making people feel less isolated, making the world feel smaller and fostering empathy.
In July 2020, we passed a milestone where over half the world’s population is now using social media. 346 million new users have come online within the last 12 months. Platforms from FaceBook, LinkedIn, You Tube and Twitter to Instagram and TikTok vary in popularity line with demographics but continue to grow and evolve.
During 2020, social media was a lifeline for many. Many people formed new digital habits during the pandemic. As someone who spends so much of their time on social media, I was so grateful for the amazing support my virtual networks gave me professionally and personally as I navigated my way through the challenges of juggling a young family, one of whom has complex needs and requires a high level of care, whilst running my own business. LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok were an essential part of my survival toolkit for inspiration, professional development, support listening, conversation and ensuring I had a daily laugh (mainly by dressing up and lip synching to 80s songs on TikTok.)
But as much as I advocate for social media, I am all too aware of its dark influence and role it plays in society, no more so than today in fact, as we witness what is taking place in the US. It has become a powerful tool for propaganda. False news reaches many people with little effort. It can incite hatred and violence. Echo chambers. Trolling. Cyber-bullying. Social media, as I know first-hand, is highly addictive and can control your behaviour, always keeps you wanting more by giving you that dopamine hit and giving you quick validation. It is a pretty dystopian picture.
Plus social media can lead to terrible feelings of inadequacy. It has created a world where so many seem to be living their best lives with vibrant careers, amazing families, exotic holidays, luxury houses. Something I enjoyed seeing in 2020 was more authenticity on social media as we all found ourselves in this crisis together. More posting of the challenge, more vulnerability allowing us to connect more deeply. And with the state of global well-being as it is currently, we need those honest posts.
So as we navigate lockdown part VVVXXXII here in the UK, I wanted to put together some top tips on showing up online with empathy during continued lockdown times.
- Do be honest and transparent about challenge in a way that enables others to connect with and learn from you.
- Take the time, if you read something that resonates, to comment or engage. You don’t know how much that little comment might lift someone’s day right now.
- Consider that right now, we are all going through this, but situations are polarising. Some are overwhelmed with home school / work juggle. Some people are just desperate for social contact. Some are consumer with worry for their jobs / businesses. Some want the vaccine ASAP. Some are scared about the vaccine. There are global events taking place which deeply affect some of our connections. So many views and situations to be mindful and respectful of and not everyone will share yours.
- Be human. Use social media to connect, listen, engage and converse and not simply broadcast and PR. Have a laugh and don’t take yourself too seriously. Please. The world needs a laugh right now.
- Reach out to someone if they seem in distress. That message could make all the difference.
Some maybe don’ts
- Post pictures of banana bread or sourdough starter.
- Post pictures of angelic children working happily at laptops whilst you jovially speak on conference calls. This is not realistic. We only want to see the reality and carnage please. Thanks.
- Post pictures of the view over the moors from your seven bedroomed mansion in the Cotswolds with captions like “quarantine life!” as your trainees divide their living rooms with sheets to allow their Zoom calls to take place (this is actually happening!)
- Post things like “If you come out of quarantine without either a new skill, side hustle, or more knowledge” you never lacked time. You lacked discipline.”
- Show up online if you don’t feel up to it mentally.
I hope during this lockdown, you are able to use social media for its many positive benefits.
I also hope, on a more serious note given most recent events, we see more scrutiny when it comes to the regulation of social media.
Meanwhile, you can follow me for despair over home-schooling with the occasional 80s TikTok thrown in. And a bit of legal marketing stuff.