The other day, I was having a conversation with a client and made the comment that someone is never too old to be a mentee and never to young to be a mentor. Then I said, “That would make a good tweet,” and tweet I did with some positive response.
After giving this some more thought, I began to ponder how strange our world is these days. Our conversations and our actions become less about connecting with someone and more about fodder for tweets, blog posts and videos. We put ourselves on display in the name of connection and engagement. But is our online presence really more about our image and vanity?
Our addiction to sharing has created a whole generation of “image mongers,” where every interaction, every meeting, every meal, every vacation is either an opportunity to unburden ourselves or to tell the world how wonderful we are, exposing us to support and love, as well as trolling.
Stuck in the Prism of ME
When we post the pictures of our trip to the tropics while our friends and colleagues are shivering in the cold weather we left behind, we tell ourselves that we are just sharing our lives. In our professional lives, when we post self-congratulatory content about the client we won or the presentation we nailed, are we delivering information or content that is useful to others? Or are we simply satisfying egos? Of course, businesses need to build their brands and connect with their clients and customers. Social media is a good way to do this. But too often our “conversations” are stuck in the “Prism of Me,” droning on about what matters to us without stopping to consider whether it matters to anyone else.
And when we share moments for business or pleasure that include our colleagues, clients, friends or family, do we know whether they want to be part of our feed? Would they want the world to know what we are posting post about them?
Social media is inescapable. Even if you aren’t a participant, those in your orbit are. And it won’t become less intrusive, despite the outrage generated by the Facebook data-sharing scandal. In fact, most people consider an absence of privacy an acceptable fact of 21st-century life.
That is, however, no excuse for image mongering. Here is how NOT to be an image monger:
- Next time you post something, ask whether you’re providing useful information, or a new insight or way to think about something. Even if you get 1,000 likes and a hefty number of shares, it may not mean you’ve engaged with anyone who will remember past the next few seconds.
- Think about your audience. Can you give them a suggestion that will make their work or life easier or better? Can you make them laugh or tell them about an event or share some content that might be of interest? Apply the Prism of Value, where you focus on what you are adding to the conversation or what challenges you are removing to your engagement with others.
- Be authentic. Don’t post to puff yourself up. Post to reveal who you are and what you think so you can forge connections.
- Be vulnerable. When talking about a success, also talk about the doubts along the way. But don’t go overboard on the sharing. Respect your own privacy.
What is the worst example of image mongering you’ve seen recently?
Liz Wainger is a communications expert with a mission to help people understand and be understood by others. She is the author of The Prism of Value: Convince, Connect and Influence When It Matters Most, due out later this year. Want more tips–follow me on Twitter @lizwainger or check out the rest of my website www.waingergroup.com.