It gives us tools and opportunities we have never had before. When else, in the history of the world, could I have acquired a client in Salt Lake City, Utah, without leaving my office in North Carolina? When else could I have met a high-end New York City fitness instructor and invited them to be on our Entrepreneur Perspectives podcast, again without leaving my office? Yes, long-distance communication of one kind or another has been with us a long time, but never with the speed and power we have now. Social media basically puts anyone, anywhere in the entire world, in the same room at the same cocktail party, mixing and mingling. Mail, telephone, radio, none of that gives us the tools for social networking and communication that social media platforms do.
And yet, most of my friends and colleagues spend most of their time complaining about social media—and for good reason.
There are privacy and security concerns. There are complaints that this or that platform is too full of politics—or too full of cat videos and pictures of food and not enough politics! There is increasing research out there showing the negative effects that too much screen-time can have on our social lives and our happiness. It’s enough to make you want to get off social media…if you want to stop meeting new people and stop growing your business.
These tools are too valuable for most of us to give up, yet the chaos and difficulty of social media are all very real. What to do?
The solution is all about controlling your feed, making deliberate decisions about how you use this technology, about what you let in to your feed and what you let go out.
The mechanics vary from one platform to another, whether you unfollow, unfriend, block, or whatever else. Facebook, for example, gives you the option of limiting who can see which of your posts, so you can share pictures of your kids with your parents and close friends, but not the entire world.
The point is to make deliberate decisions about how you engage with these tools. Decide first how you want to use each platform and each account, with what privacy settings. If an account is private, and purely social, you don’t want it clogged up with business concerns—coming in or going out. And if you use an account for business, you probably shouldn’t post about anything you don’t want your boss or clients to see (though, remember, depending on your privacy settings and what your friends and followers choose to share, anything you post could eventually get back to your boss, anyway).
So much for what you send out.
It’s a good idea to keep your feed coming in on task, too. If you don’t like cat videos and pictures of food, don’t follow people who post those things. Follow people who provide the kind of content you want. It’s ok to be ruthless about this—if social media doesn’t make your life better, what good is it? There are other ways to stay in touch with people besides reading through piles of posts you don’t even want.
If you control your feed—coming in and going out—then social media platforms can be the tools you need them to be, giving you access to the information and networking opportunities you need.
Control your feed. Don’t let your feed control you.