Do Our Relationships with Social Media Say More Than We Think?

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on

I seem to have developed the habit of personifying social media outlets.

That may sound a bit off. But trust me, it’s not the first time I’ve engaged in this strategy. As a consultant, I’ve always thought of organizations as having a distinct vibe or personality, separate from the clients that I meet. (Some are depressed. Others frenetic.) Over the years, I’ve developed a strong propensity to craft stories out of disjointed facts, observations and conversations. It may be a bad habit. Yet, it helps me makes sense of things at the start of a project, when there are one million details to consider.

This habit seems to have extended to social media. To be quite honest, I usually find Facebook tedious and bit needy. Instagram often feels fickle & hyped up on pretty places (which I truly enjoy, btw) & success-oriented quotes. LinkedIn nearly always feels focused & fair (I have more than my share of followers over there, so I am likely biased.). Twitter feels balanced on most days; a bit like my memory of my high school cafeteria at lunchtime, except for the realm of politics. You are clearly aware that all of the groups are present, but no one really cares if they hang out near you.

My assessment of a social media definitely impacts my willingness to enter into a relationship with them. My patience can be worn thin, just as I would feel when ready to leave a noisy party.

These days, I’m only willing to invest my time and trouble where I feel loosely accepted. I’ll scale back, if I have a clear and present sense that the algorithm is on a path to “ostracize” me. (I’m a proud sort.) I’ve also learned some hard lessons. When re-starting on Instagram, I re-shared a random photo of an old structure in London and the photographer reported me to the powers that be. This unfolded even though I had clearly attributed her, took the photo down immediately & tendered an apology. Turns out she was somewhat of a big deal over there. I explained that my articles are often shared without my direct permission, but if attributed I’m usually ok with it. But, alas this was her foul to call. The onus was on me.

Lesson learned: Don’t share great photos on Instagram? Well, I now know that Instagram is a business for many — and I whole-hardheartedly respect that.

If a coaching client were to ask me about this topic, I know how I would respond: Spend time where you feel uplifted. If something feels wrong, stay away. Build your personal brand where you feel aligned with the “vibe” & you can express yourself.

By now, you’re likely getting the sense that my relationships with social media bear a resemblance a Rorschach assessment. I concur. It is entirely possible that social media has re-ignited my teenage insecurities & I am projecting.

On the other hand, it may simply be a lack of stimulation during the marathon that is this pandemic.

I’m unsure.

You make the call.

Have you ever personified social media?

Share your experiences.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who focuses on empowering work through the development of a strong foundation. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

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