I have a small list of political reporters that I follow on Twitter. I avoid political coverage on mainstream media at all costs since I know most of it is propaganda, but I follow a few trusted sources for actual political news. One of the reporters I follow is a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan. She tweets almost daily about their exploits, the home runs, the clutch wins, everything. I haven’t watched a pro baseball game in probably 20 years, and know nothing about the league. But from her tweets alone, I assumed the Cardinals must be one of the best teams. Yesterday she tweeted that the team had fired their manager.
For years, I was a big Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan. I promoted him on all my social media accounts, including here and even on my podcast. Last year after a frustrating race in a frustrating season, I left a rare critical tweet about Dale, which earned my first and only response from him:
You can always unfollow Mack. I enjoy what I do. Most days.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) April 2, 2017
To be fair, I took his advice. The whole episode reminded me of this scene from A Christmas Story, and I had pretty much the same reaction that Ralphie did:
Years ago, I was added to a private group on Facebook for frequent business travelers. At first, the group was incredible, several professional travelers sharing advice and tips on how to make business travel more convenient and efficient. I loved it, and the advice of the group led to my making several travel-related purchases (Social Media ROI). Unfortunately, the group quickly devolved into a game of social media one-upmanship as people began to use the group to brag about their first class travel or the upgrades and perks they were getting. The utility and value of the group decreased as the bragging increased.
A few weeks ago I was watching a particular Twitch streamer who constantly creates YouTube videos of his game-playing, which are very popular, mainly because of how well he plays in the videos. This particular streamer had just completed a game where he didn’t perform very well, and one of his followers asked him if he would be posting that game to YouTube later. “Hell no!”, he replied. “I didn’t get enough kills!”
There’s a common thread running through all these stories. The promise of social media was always in its ability to connect everyone to everyone. Everyone gets the chance to have a voice and we all get to see the world as it really is.
Social media has delivered spectacularly as a way to foster connections, and it has failed miserably as a way to show the world, and our lives, as they really are. To be fair, much of the sharing problem is of our own making. We are trained to only share our ‘highlights’ on social media. We brag about our ‘wins’ and never mention our ‘losses’. Every moment is viewed through the lens of “will this make a good picture on IG?’ instead of simply living IN the moment.
The problem with the ‘perfection’ of social media is that it’s too easy to compare yourself to a completely warped view of other people’s lives. I especially worry about the impact this can have on teenagers and millenials. In fact, many studies now suggest there could be a link between the rise of social media usage and the stark increase in teenage suicides over the last decade or so.
Ironically, when social media first began to take off on a widespread scale about 10 years ago, one of the unwritten ‘rules’ for brands using social media was ‘be authentic’. It seems like that’s a great rule for the rest of us to follow as well.