Social Media, For Better or For Worse?

IMG_0397Somewhere along the way, I got off track with social media. On the one hand, social media has great benefits including staying in touch across the miles, promoting your business and finding a new job. But there is a balance one should maintain, and I, during the last two years especially, was doing a terrible job of pulling back when I should.

My first social media account was on MySpace. I know I am dating myself! As everyone knows, MySpace was eclipsed by Facebook, which I joined in mid-2008, four years after it launched, hesitant to go where I thought only college students tread. Other social media formats followed, and it was not long before we were Tweeting, Pinning, Snap Chatting and Instagramming with people far and near.

I created a business page on Facebook, and I joined Twitter as a means of raising my business profile for my new career in image consulting. It worked. By late 2010, I was receiving business from Google searches. Pinterest swept me into its arms in 2011, and I built boards geared at educating clients and keeping myself on top of trends. I joined Instagram in 2013, mostly to maintain a presence to avoid looking like a dinosaur. One must keep up!IMG_9991

I spent a good amount of time building a following across these four platforms, in addition to my personal business website and my blog. The time I spent on social media was mostly reasonable, and it rarely eclipsed the day-to-day work required of a small business. By 2014, my business was on a roll. I was speaking at least once per quarter and working with a steady stream of personal clients. I give a lot of props to social media for this momentum.

Yet, after our move to Seattle in January 2015, I became depressed and I collapsed into social media as an escape. The mere idea of starting over in a new city drained me of all energy, and I spent more and more time immersed in a world of highlight reels.

My husband tried to talk to me about my social media use on a few occasions, and each time I became defensive. I was homesick, and I missed my friends. Seeing them on social media was my way of being with them. On a deeper level, I was angry at my husband for this big change, and retreating into social media was one way I could punish him. What I realize now is I was punishing myself by missing out on life with my family. I was often choosing social media over them. The happy moments occurring right under my nose were going unnoticed and unappreciated.

IMG_0127Social media, at first an innocent escape, became a robber in my life. It robbed me of time, motivation, confidence and joy. When I finally decided to pull my head out of my rear and examine my social media use, I realized my husband was right and I was wrong. He was not asking me to give up social media. He understands the benefit of it for my business. He was simply asking for more of me at the appropriate times.

The solution that worked for my husband and me is we drew up a schedule of when neither of us would be on social media at all. With a few slips here and there, we have stuck to it. The things I need to do for my brand marketing are easily condensed, and I am feeling much more engaged with my husband and my kids. Further, I am reading more, working out again, and doing other things that bring me happiness and fulfillment, like writing.

If you are struggling to pull back from your phone, here are a few tips:

  • Set a time schedule of when you will or won’t be on social media.
  • Keep a log of when you are on social media, and write down the reasons you are using it. Escaping occasionally into social media is fine. Escaping for several hours per day when there is important work to do is not okay.
  • Ask your partner how he/she feels about your social media use, and adjust where needed. It might enhance (or save) your relationship.
  • Remember your social media feed is not real life. If you feel you are missing out, you are. Look up from your phone and observe the world around you. Don’t miss it!

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Aligning Body Language With Your Message

twistinghairYour body language, your facial expressions and your posture are often subconscious. You are likely not aware if you play with your hair in meetings, look down during conversation or pick lint off your clothing while standing around at parties. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to assess you during your next social outing or meeting, and don’t take it personally if the feedback you receive is less than glowing. Being aware of your body language pitfalls is your first step in correcting them, right?

Correcting your posture, if needed, is your first assignment. The first three things others notice about us are our face, our hair and posture. Good posture (standing up with shoulders back yet relaxed) says I am confident, and I am paying attention. Bad posture communicates insecurity or boredom. If you are taller than most, your good posture assignment will be difficult because you have likely adopted a slouching posture as you lean over to hear what is being said or as a way of appearing shorter if your height is an area of insecurity. Stand tall and proud. Others will project up to you during conversation, and being looked up to is never a bad thing.

Next, consider your message and align your facial expression with what you are communicating. If stern expressions come naturally to you, you may find yourself delivering good or happy news while scowling. Trust me, the recipient of the good news will be confused. We are hard-wired to read someone’s face and body, believing those signals, before we take in the words we are hearing. A smile or a positive expression says you are relaxed, assured and happy. As you know, a frown communicates displeasure. Be careful your face is saying the same thing your words are!

Lastly, pay attention to your hands as you are speaking. Do you point or hold your palms down while directing others? If so, they will be hesitant to follow your direction. Why? When you point fingers, they feel like you do not value their intellectual abilities. Taking orders from someone whose palms are down feels like orders rather than direction. The right approach is of course to give direction with palms up. This makes them more open to your words and less threatened by what is being said.

These tips are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other body language pitfalls to consider, but we can address those in another piece. In the meantime, work on these areas. (My palms are up!) They are the first steps to enhancing your influence.