Hopes & Dreams
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Hopes & Dreams

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Do You Have a Love/Hate Relationship with Social Media?

I have a love/hate relationship with social media, or to put it in Facebook terms, “It’s complicated.” I still enjoy Facebook as a way to keep track of events, both major and minor, in the lives of my friends and family. I enjoy seeing daily pictures of my sister’s vacation in Hawaii. It’s interesting to know that a friend from high school is into home brewing. I like seeing pictures of the sunrise in New Mexico where an old friend now lives. I liked it better when I more reliably saw the posts my friends had made, in chronological order, and without nearly the number of sponsored posts cluttering my feed.

I liked it before it became a political and marketing tool and people were still posting what they ate for dinner and the view from their hotel room.

Like most people, when it comes to Facebook, I hate the way we’ve all been played by fake news, the way the platform has even further divided our already very broken country (I live in the U.S.), and the mockery that has been made of the idea of private data. As groups of people are swarming to leave FB, others of us taking a wait and see approach. After all, for many, it part of our daily routine. According to Pew Research about 75% of all Facebook users visit the site at least once a day.

What is the substitute?

I personally have over 100 friends that I, at least vaguely, keep in touch with via Facebook. There is no other social media channel that most of my friends and family utilize. I’ve tried Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter. They all have their strengths, but none feels quite right for me, and it’s not where I can find updates on my current friends. Or at least, those who haven’t already left.

There’s another angle to my personal love/hate relationship, and it’s not just with Facebook, it’s all social media. It’s the marketing aspect. As a small business owner and author, I have consumed a wide variety of courses designed to help entrepreneurs be successful online. Some of these programs I have loved, learned a lot from, and would recommend. Others have given real, practical advice, and yet, left me feeling like I needed a shower.

Between the marketing courses, and the endless supply of free articles and advice, I am left wondering how often I am simply a pawn in someone else’s game.

The behind-the-scenes reality of internet marketing is a bit like sausage — it may be best not knowing what goes into it. For instance, there is a very popular strategy, taught by “experts,” to like/follow/otherwise show approval of as many people’s accounts as possible in order to increase your own following. While the more polite (sneakier?) marketers will phrase this as an opportunity for you to introduce yourself, others will outright tell you that the social norms of peer pressure and reciprocity will cause some people to follow you back. In other words, you are basically encouraged to spam people by liking an account you may or may not really like and have no intention of ever interacting with, in hopes that they will do the same. So, you might gain followers using this strategy, but they are essentially meaningless.

Or are they?

The theory is, more likes, and more engagement means the algorithmic gods may smile favorably upon you and show more people your posts. Maybe then you will generate some actual fans. Is the game worth it? My answer has been no, but then, I don’t have thousands, or even hundreds of followers.

That’s the free strategy for gaining followers on several platforms. For the truly serious though, there are Facebook ads where, you, me, literally anyone with a credit card, can really dive in deep and create eerily targeted ads. (Which is part of how we get so much fake news. People are getting rich from clickbait headlines, but that’s a different story.) There isn’t inherently anything wrong with the fact you can buy an ad on Facebook (other places, too, but FB is the heavy hitter). Advertising has existed in our media for a long time. What leaves me feeling happy as a marketer, but creeped out as a consumer, are two things — just how precisely targeted ads can be as to demographics and interests, and the fact that they are just part of my feed, looking like articles, not isolated in a little box off to the side somewhere.

I’d like to be able to see what my friends and family are up to without being exposed to all those ads.

What? Facebook has to make money somehow. Facebook is a free service so they can do whatever they want and I am free to stop using it?

Good points. For now, my account is still active.

See? It truly is a love/hate relationship. I want to give it up, but I hate to see it go. There is an idea out there that our lives would be fuller, happier, and saner if we all gave up social media. I tend to think it is more complex than that. Social media has its merits. While it has helped spread political lies, it has also helped organize huge social protests. It has been an instrument to spread racism, but it has also connected people from different countries and backgrounds. It has both dehumanized us and given a human face to plights we had only read about previously. Social media has given us tools to reach new extremes — both positive and negative. What remains to be seen, is can a middle ground be found and sustained, and if so, will it be a place that enough of us enjoying playing?

Be here now. You hear this advice all the time. It’s a way to improve your life, relationships and sense of well-being, but what does it mean and how do you do it? I’ve put together a short guide that will help — “Seven Tips for Living in the Moment.”

Get the guide here!

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