I have a love/hate relationship with social media but I have figured out how to use it toward my own purposes. Here is my story…

I went to a university that was one of the first to get Facebook. I did not join right away. I needed to focus on my studies. My junior year I was a resident assistant in the dorms so I joined to spy on the residents of my floor. It worked pretty well to keep tabs on them.

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I have been on Facebook ever since. When we started our business, I signed up for Twitter. Then later I joined Instagram. I also have Snapchat. At some point I pretty much opted out of using Facebook and Twitter except for my business. I put some personal things on Instagram and Snapchat but not much.

I think it is really ironic that I joined Facebook to spy on people. That is exactly what these platforms are used for today. Now I am not a conspiracy theorist and I’m not talking about the NSA. I’m talking about Facebook (and other social media platforms) and its ability to take the data you put into it and make tons and tons of money from businesses large and small. This is both good and bad.

 

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Bad reasons

  •  It is YOUR data that Facebook is using to make money. I saw a meme several years back, “If you’re not paying for something, you’re the product being sold.” I do not like to think of any person being a product to be sold. Yet that is what advertising marketing is all about social media or otherwise, right? I would have to be against all marketing and advertising if I was going to be against social media marketing and advertising.

  • The data we end up putting into Facebook is more often than not an idealized version of ourselves. The data is skewed. Our friends get depressed seeing only our happiest thoughts posted. Can you imagine future generations mining this data and comparing it to their own experience? Talk about a blow to someone’s confidence.

Good reasons

  • Paid advertising on social media platforms helps level the marketing playing field between big business and small business. A small business can see success with as little as $5 a day.

  •  Facebook has several policies to “protect the user experience” and make sure that advertisers provide value. Literally, they give value-providing ads higher ranking than those that do not provide value.

  • Mark Zuckerberg is using at least some of that money to change the world. See his foundation’s own Facebook for details. Check it out.

  • Plus, who are we kidding, all these advertising dollars keep social media platforms free for users. That’s a HUGELY good reason for most people.

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So where do I stand on social media? I’ve come to the conclusion that it is an unfortunate necessity. There are worse things that collect way more data (hint: your phone listens to you all the time). There are better ways to connect with people like in person and on the phone. But more importantly, it boils down to how the users use the medium they are given.

Here’s what I mean…

It’s kind of funny that the place where you post is called a “wall” in Facebook. I sometimes wonder if Facebook builds more walls between us than it tears down. It is not Facebook’s fault. It is truly up to us what we post.

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Facebook and all social media platforms have the power to change the world – to lift people up or to tear them down. To spread good news or to create mass hysteria. It is true for all the words we speak but especially for the ones we type into our computers and thereby go into the record for all time. These words have power. To quote Spiderman’s uncle, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

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My dad taught me, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Maybe that’s why I do not post much on Facebook very much anymore… 🙂

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But it goes way, way beyond posting. Social media is truly transformative to the world when it alters our offline behavior. To experience the real power of social media we HAVE to take the conversations offline. Here are some examples:

  •  We meet a potential business client or vendor on Twitter and tweet back and forth a little and then grab a cup of coffee.

  • We find out about a rally or volunteer opportunity with our favorite cause and then actually go and be part of what they are doing.

  • We stay in touch with a friend or family member who lives far away and then send them a real, handwritten card to encourage them when the going gets tough.

  • We meet a teacher of something we want to learn and we sign up for their course. Even if that course is online, we figure out ways to talk on the phone or connect in a more personal way.

The possibilities are endless here.

Comment and share your thoughts. How have you used social media to make a positive difference in the world. Tell me your stories.