To share, or not to share? That is the question today, and it’s one that affects us all, as social media is becoming an increasingly pervasive part of our personal and professional lives.
For some reason, people now feel it’s necessary and relevant to share elements on their personal life on social media that you may previously have known nothing about.
It’s no longer just happening on traditionally ‘personal’ platforms like Facebook and Instagram – it now seems to be creeping into more professional spaces like LinkedIn and Twitter, where it’s increasingly common to see users posting pictures of their puppies, kids or the cakes they’ve just baked.
I know this because I’ve done it and I’ve been encouraged to do more of it – apparently followers like these kinds of personal posts – but how helpful are they?
Faced with a feed full of these kinds of posts, it can start to feel more and more like a constant barrage of other people’s news and unedited thoughts bursting into the day.
This, coupled with a number of ‘promoted posts’, adverts, and invites to play various online games, can make the whole thing feel overwhelming for some users.
I now find I have to strictly limit any kind of social media if I want to get work done, and this sadly includes the professional feeds where I do make quite useful work contacts.
Rod Liddle says in his quite provocative book Selfish Whining Monkeys, that we now believe, as a society, that what anyone has to say on any particular matter is equally valid, which of course it is not. Nevertheless, there it is each and every day in your newsfeed and mine too: everyone’s opinion on everything.
Of course we can choose to have time out from social media and do a so-called ‘digital detox’, and that can be a good thing.
For social media to be used to its full potential, we still need to think about it in terms of building relationships.
Generally speaking though, is sharing a good thing? I think it is. We now have the luxury of having any kind of information, learning and knowledge right there at our fingertips whenever we want it.
It is, after all, up to us to control the way we use social media in the workplace. The main issue I have is that all of this sharing is unfiltered, no matter how much we may try to filter it by engaging with the appropriate LinkedIn groups or at the end of relevant blog feeds.
Nowadays, if we want to find something out, we’ll Google it or let others’ reviews and opinions make our decisions for us – and this aspect of it needs to be treated with caution.
Broadcast versus engagement
The average individual consumes 34 gigabytes of content and 100,000 words of information in a single day – that’s a mind-boggling amount.
A quick scroll through Twitter, however, makes me wonder how much of that is just people promoting their own interests. How much real listening is actually going on? How much interaction/engagement is happening? I’m genuinely not sure.
As social media (and our understanding of it) matures, what’s become increasingly clear is that we need empathy to use it properly – just like when we communicate and interact face-to-face.
For social media to be used to its full potential, we still need to think about it in terms of building relationships – and be mindful of our individual ability to control how we use and filter the information it provides.
How much do you share on social media and why? Share your thoughts below.
Interested in this topic? Read Getting the best from social media for learning and development.
About Emma Sue Prince
Emma Sue is author of The Advantage – the 7 key soft skills you need to get ahead published by Pearson Business. She has designed an experiential learning workshop based on these skills: adaptability, empathy, integrity, optimism, being proactive, critical thinking and resilience and is currently licensing trainers to deliver these.
Emma Sue provides consultancy in emerging economies and travels regularly to India, Bangladesh and Tanzania advising on a range of large funded projects. She runs a free membership site – Unimenta – for practitioners working in soft skills. When not working Emma Sue runs a local gospel choir in her home town of Godalming, Surrey and is an avid baker.