Social media may have been around for the better part of two decades, but society is still learning the effects such technology has on our mental health. For emerging entrepreneurs, social media is a double-edged sword. Now more than ever before, we can start conversations and share our wins and successes, but we can also waste time chasing meaningless attention. At worst, we can suffer feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.
So what’s the best approach? How can entrepreneurs utilise social media for their business, without risking their mental health? The answer might sound simple, but it’s far from easy. We have to build a more resilient mindset. Here’s how.
Don’t play by social media’s rules
At its most basic level, social media can be viewed as a game. In fact, several social media developers have admitted to ‘gamifying’ their user experience. They want people to get involved and to stick around for as long as possible. It means more money for them through advertising. In turn, you gain a chance at winning social media’s main prize: attention.
Whether users want to admit it or not, gaining attention is the number one objective when it comes to social media. It’s a quest to be the loudest speaker in the conversation, and the most common method of dominating that conversation is by selling users a story.
It’s much the same with other media platforms too. Even newspapers survive by selling us stories that’ll hog our attention. Yet while most of us understand that news organisations are trying to sell us a story that supports an agenda, society seems to forget this aspect when using social media.
In reality, most social media posts are just trying to sell a story too – a story that’ll help achieve a certain goal, even if it’s just an ego boost. But rather than chasing this pointless thrill, the most successful entrepreneurs always remember: the game of social media is a carnivalesque ruse. There are very few real winners.
Instead, the healthiest way to view social media is as a device. Whilst successful entrepreneurs use it to start conversations and share their updates, they know that attracting attention for its own end will do nothing for their business. After all, what’s the point in going viral if you don’t have the product or service to back it up? What’s the point in being heard if you’ve nothing substantial to say?
“The Mona Lisa has a huge social media presence. Her picture is everywhere. But she doesn’t tweet. She’s big on social media because she’s an icon, but she’s not an icon because she’s big on social media.” – Seth Godin
Don’t compare yourself to others
By always striving to get noticed amongst the noise, entrepreneurs often start comparing their success with other social media users. This can be very bad news, especially for their business. By comparing your own achievements against someone with a louder social media presence, you’re not only falling for the ruse of gamification, you’re risking your own happiness too.
After all, how easy is it to take to Instagram and start beating yourself up? Every time we refresh our feeds, we’ll find yet another user who seems more successful than us. We start wondering how we can reach their level and what we can do to compete. We forget that their post was a contribution to the game of grabbing the most attention.
By getting sucked in and comparing yourself to others, you lose. You start squandering your energy and attention on metrics that don’t matter to your business. You might even be tempted to compete by making your own flashy statements. But even if these tactics earn you a modicum of attention, that attention most often proves fleeting.
Instead, successful entrepreneurs stay sane on social media by disregarding others’ outlandish affectations. They let their own work do the talking. What’s more, they seek to learn far more than they seek to show off.
Don’t waste your time with negativity
The healthiest way to promote ourselves on social media is to remember we only have so much time to achieve our goals. So why do so many people waste their energy getting caught up in negativity?
The answer is simple: it’s a lot easier to destroy than it is to create. It’s easier to tear something down instead of building something from the ground up.
We’ve all seen haters and trolls online and wondered how that person came to be so negative. The answer is simple: they’re people who’ve lost the game of social media. Their attention has been won and they’ve become jealous of the fantasy image that’s been portrayed to them. They forget that social media is a device and they start seeking ways to insult the person who has managed to provoke their interest. In short, these people want to make themselves feel better.
Have you ever seen a truly inspirational business figure wasting time arguing in a YouTube comments section? There’s a reason why. They value their time, and they only spend it on their goals.
“Online I see people committing ‘social media suicide’ all the time by one of two ways. Firstly by responding to all criticism, meaning you’re never going to find time to complete important milestones of your own, and by responding to things that don’t warrant a response.”- Tim Ferriss
Maintaining a successful social media mindset
If you’ve ever felt inadequate in response to another’s success, chances are you’ve become swept up in the gamification of social media. By focussing on social media as a device or a tool, entrepreneurs and business owners can stop being followers and start proving themselves as someone worthy of being followed.
With so much content created every day, even the most outrageous or funniest of posts are often forgotten in an instant. So why spend time creating content that just adds to the noise? Why go after ego-boosts, and why fall for the stories others try to sell you?
Instead, invest in your own work instead, and when it comes to social media, seek to learn and to engage. Seek to start conversations that interest and inspire you. Start looking at people who are addicted to Twitter wars with pity. After all, you’ve got better things to be doing. You’ve got work to do.