Top 5 Reasons to be Yourself on Social Media (even if you’re an asshole)

If you follow me on Twitter, you might know that I re-watched High Fidelity this weekend. Aside from my life being at least 200% different from John Cusack’s character on that movie, we’re a lot alike. Still, I love the Top 5 lists. Or Barry Jive and the Uptown Five.

You can tell the stories you’re passionate about. Everybody’s good at a couple of things. Usually these align with the things that they’re interested in. I’m good at design, business, cycling and barbeque. I’m interested in lots of other things too. And those are usually the things I’m interested in talking about.

When I got accepted at NSCAD, they used to make you take this english test to prove you could write well enough to handle the tough art history essays. Having been a french immersion student, I flunked this one pretty hardcore. But it’s no wonder. The first question was: “If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?”

Well, how the hell should I know?! I went there to learn about art! And design! And photography! I’ve never wanted to be an animal, much less write an essay about becoming one.

I have no interest in that kind of foolishness. Which makes coming up with an acceptable essay on the spot damn near impossible for me. So, I sat through an entire semester of a remedial english class, learned absolutely nothing, but I was able to write an essay that fit the criteria at the end of it. I’m sure they were still thinking, there’s no way this guy can write well enough to pass. But once I got into the actual art history classes, I LOVED it. It was fascinating to me. I could retrace the lineage of the things that truly interested me to ancient Roman Art. Greek Architecture. The Renaissance. 20th century modernism! Holy shit, I was in heaven. I wrote essay after essay, scoring nothing less than an A-. All this to say that if you tell the stories you’re interested in, they’re going to be better than the ones you know nothing about. They don’t tell writers to write about what they know for no reason. It works, and it’s a lot more interesting to read stuff written by someone passionate about the topic.

The best thing about social media is that it’s actually really hard to fake it. It used to be relatively easy to pull the wool over someone’s eyes if you were a fast talker and had a couple of ‘facts’ to back yourself up. Because there was no one there with an alternate viewpoint or other experience. Now though, there’s literally dozens of people hoping, just WAITING to show that they know more than someone else and they’ll take any opportunity to prove it.

It makes it a hell of a lot easier when you meet people. It’s a lot easier to stick to a schtick when that schtick is who you really are. Can you imagine trying to be nice on the internet when you’re an asshole in real life? It would be exhausting! This way, people know exactly what they’re getting when they meet you.

At the same time, you can use your influence to help shape things the way you want to.

Think about this for a second: there’s no question that the thing that finally brought Mayor Kelly down was Tim Bousquet’s article about the Thibeault estate. I think the constant social media barrage about how utterly useless he is and how his actions around the concert scandal, Occupy eviction and everything else showed the general public how inept he is also helped to force his hand and withdraw from the election. Seriously, your voice has power and social media helps spread your opinion. I see this as a small victory for those in this city tired of his antics. And it’s a big victory for social media too. We have more power than we know, and social media is a great way to mobilize people who think in a similar way. So, your interests help you to locate others in a similar community with a similar opinion.

A friend of mine who owns a small business called me recently because he was thinking of going into politics and wanted to meet for lunch. I thought it was actually pretty funny when he said that he wanted to get my opinion on his position on issues before I blasted him on Twitter. To me, that says that those in the political arena, at least on a municipal and provincial level have begun to understand that there are real people out there with real ideas and we’re tired of their crap. Another great reason to speak your mind on Twitter–you can help shape the political process.

It’s better than posting inspirational quotes. Scratch that. It’s better than reading inspirational quotes. Seriously, if I wanted to read that stuff, I’d go and buy Chicken Soup for the Bitter Designer’s Soul. Or watch Oprah.

That’s not to say that you should just be mean all the time either. I read an interesting post the other day about how you should look for opportunities to gives kudo to people when they deserve it because that sort of positive reinforcement isn’t often forthcoming. I probably got that link off of some stupid inspirational quote tweet, but it’s still true. I’m nothing if not complex. Or was that confused? Anyway.

Everybody loves to receive a compliment, especially if it’s genuine. So don’t say it if you don’t mean it. If I’ve got the time to tell someone they’re awesome or have made something cool, I try to take the time. Especially if it’s a competitor. Getting a personal DM or email from your competition has to be some kind of unnerving. Or nice. Either way, it’s a win!

It’s a hell of a lot more interesting than talking about social media itself. On social media. Too meta for me. This was cool four years ago when it was very much a new thing. But Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare are so baked into our daily lives that I think it’s no longer useful or interesting to talk about the tools any longer. Sure you can do this when something new comes out or Facebook buys Instagram. But, my personal policy is to unfollow anyone who talks about Klout.

I remember when Twitter was still relatively new in Halifax. My entire social circle changed in the period of about six months. I went from hating networking events to loving them. I don’t know about you, but there’s a depth to most people that you can’t access in the mingle session before a $200/plate networking dinner. This means that you either end up being that creepy guy that shoved himself into the middle of everyone’s conversation, or you don’t know anyone, thereby making the rubber chicken the best part of the event. And that’s just sad. Whereas, you can easily use social media to get to know people so that when you finally do meet them in real life, you can dive right into the good stuff. The connections will be deeper, more meaningful and interesting.

You’ll get the clients, employees and friends you want. Or at least the ones who will see a fit from a personality perspective. Abe Lincoln said “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like”. And you can do better work if you like the people you’re working for.

That alone makes it worthwhile.

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