Joining Twitter squares a timeless burden—the pressure to make yourself socially popular. It’s like being at an American high school, deciding whether you’re a princess, a cheerleader, a rebel, or a jock.
How will you communicate? What will you wear? What are the implications of showing up at the prom with the wrong date? It’s enough to give you social media sickness. Especially if you happen, like me, to be both a princess and a jock, depending on your mood.
For example: Over the last few days my Klout score has dropped from 61 to 58, and I’m worried about it. But I’m more worried that I’m worried about it. I feel like Molly Ringwald’s character in the 1985 high school angst movie The Breakfast Club, pictured above, smoking and insecure. And I have been toughened up somewhat as a cop reporter in New Orleans, among other things, over the last decade. So this vulnerability is surprising.
This post is both for those who know what it means to worry about one’s Klout score, and for those who are blissfully unaware yet of the phenomenon of social media sickness. But Dr. Davis (that’s me — I went to the same university as Dr. Gillian McKeith) will also be prescribing a cure for social media sickness later.
Social media is the balls. There is no denying Twitter, for example, can be powerful in many ways. Consider my friend @TaraDublinRocks, who, as I type, is approaching 10,000 retweets on a three-day-old post simply asking how far Twitter goes.
With great balls come a degree of responsibility, and consultant Mark Schaefer recently wrote about “social media sickness” on businessgrow.com, saying he was disturbed to be introduced at a conference as a special guest with over 40,000 followers on Twitter and a Klout score of 71. Never mind that he has had multiple books published and raised two lovely kids. Klout and similar sites, which measure “social proof,” and can demonstrate a return on investment for your social media time, bring us to the verge of a “truly revolutionary ability to accurately identify, connect with, and reward authentic brand advocates throughout the world we never knew existed,” Schaefer wrote. Or at the very least, Twitter can help you to get a date with someone you actually fancy to the prom.
Schaefer writes: “I am disturbed by this parallel consequence of people obsessing with a number as a legitimacy of their human worth.”
Social media is one tool for communicating, but before you can communicate, it helps to know what you want to say. It helps to know who you are. But who the hell knows who they are, before they go to high school? It’s a crucible that shapes you.
There is an eternal risk in over-communication: That you lose the integrity of your mind and being. On the other hand, for those of us with control issues, losing a degree of control over one’s brand, over one’s personality, over oneself entirely, might be a good thing. You just need to think carefully about the choices you make before you do it. And if you’re going to go social, then for God’s sake, make it a considered choice or get sick. The two options are mutually exclusive, and pretty stark. So: Dr. Davis’s prescription for social media sickness is to embrace your inner jock princess, and remember there is strength in being honest about your vulnerabilities with someone you trust.
Then all you have to do is trust everyone on the Internet.
There is absolutely no risk in this strategy.
Update, Nov. 3: There’s a nice infographic on how social networking is “destroying productivity” here.