Social (Media) Distancing
My approach to maintaining individuality and resisting group-think among the best networks in the world.
To start off, I love Social Media. It's easily one of the most powerful tools of our generation, and it creates so much opportunity to connect with people. Like many others, I use these services for multiple purposes. Some for friends and family, some for work connections, and others for following the "who's who" in my industry. It's easy to become captivated by the wealth of potential connections at your fingertips. But if we're not careful, it can be just as easy to follow the pack. In this post, I want to focus on my experience in following the "who's who," and how we can distance ourselves from the content in order to maintain our individuality.
Over the past year or so, I've been curating my Twitter feed to match my interests and career path. I followed some of the most popular people in the industry and the thought-leaders who constantly shared their wisdom. At first, this helped accelerate my career. I was continuously up-to-date on everything. I knew about all of the industry announcements, rumors, theses, trends, etc way before they became common conversation. I was able to translate this into launching new projects at work, and I gained a reputation for being both "in the know" and "innovation-focused." But until recently, I was unaware of how being so "online," especially during a period of shelter-in-place, was also diminishing my ability to think for myself.
In a recent example on my feed, I saw seemingly everyone who I followed engaging on the same topic. They were discussing how the new round of funding that a startup had just received was ~an outrage~. I myself knew essentially nothing about this topic, but I wanted to have a say. I had seen enough consensus, that I eventually found myself thinking "yeah, this is crazy." But as I went to type, I realized that this wasn't my opinion at all. I didn't even have an opinion on the topic. Rather than 1) figuring out if this was something I should even care about, and 2) using my own point-of-view to form an opinion, I instead fell into group-think. I wasn't thinking for myself, and my thoughts were skewed by the opinions of the people who I followed. It was a perfect example of a pack mentality, and online, the upset pack is the loudest.
Throughout my career, I've prided myself on maintaining individuality within a large organization (post for another day), but on social media this was becoming untrue for me. Whether it came to reading or positing, I was falling into the pack. So, I had to find a way to adapt.
To take a page from the physical world, we should learn to practice "social media distancing." We can create a theoretical six-foot layer between ourselves and our social feeds, then use this distance as a mechanism to freely scroll by anything without thinking twice and limit how much we let in to impact us. At the same time, we can build our own awareness of when we're being pulled into a group-think mentality, and learn how to resist it in the future. We should appreciate the expert content and opinion for what it is, but we should also never let it impact who we are, or what we think. I can't pretend to have a perfect working solution yet, but I feel like this approach is a step in the right direction.
If you saw a bit of yourself in my experience above, I hope that this serves as a starting point. It's so easy to fall into group-think, and social media can accelerate this without us even realizing it. The power is unparalleled, anyone in the world is just a follow or an @ away, but we need to be cognizant of how much we let in to impact our way of thinking. We've all gotten to where we are because of who we uniquely are, and being online shouldn't change that.