If you’re about to spring clean your apartment, or — let’s be real — you’re in bed with a mug of wine, binge-watching crap on Netflix, thinking about hiring some service to spring clean your hovel… chillax, baby, no one’s judging you. HOWEVER, if you’re feeling anxious about the smells and spoors, yet meanwhile your all-too-public social media continues to gather mold and/or issues, I’d suggest that you should first change your priorities.
How likely is it that anyone’s going to wake up on your filthy, hole-ridden sheets or notice that your day begins witha double vodka and Redbull in your “World’s Best Grandpa” mug? Pretty unlikely. But anytime I’m bored, I can visit your Facebook page and see you posting tacky selfies. I can witness your lonely bathroom antics on Instagram. I can be appalled by you listing “eating pizza” or “pole-dancing” as a “skill” on your “professional” LinkedIn account.
Listen, spring cleaning is an actual thing, so whether you’re in the midst of a dead-end job search or you’re just starting to think that 2015 might be a good year to actually experience what it means to wake up in the morning and LOVE your job (it’s pretty awesome, btw) or finally getting serious about grad school or selling your Great American Young Adult manuscript, at some point, you’re going to need to use your social media to promote, instead of actively block, your goals.
Before you look at me like I’m the asshole for believing in the validity of your goals, shut up. Seriously. Why are you so quick to dismiss your ambitions as sleazy or criminal or simply undeserving? Whether or not you want to save the world, or just enjoy your life… what’s wrong with that? Whether you want to find the cure for cancer, “just” be a paralegal or “just” take all those unproduced screenplays from under your bed and get them out in the world… what’s wrong with that? Why are you so quick to disdain yourself and your ambitions?
Here are 6 ways to spring clean your social media presence:
1. Stop following people who just cater to your insecurities.
If they’re not bringing anything positive, insightful or fun to your door, they’re wasting your time — i.e. you’re allowing them to waste your time — and you don’t have time to waste. When I was starting my business, I learned an enormous amount from the social media of people who seemed to have an almost innate instinct for turning gold to shit online. But some of what I learned from those morons was to distrust myself and to fear becoming an idiot like them.
I used to know a woman whose website was a virtual “Scared Straight” compendium of everything you should never do online. Her social media presence was almost preternaturally fascinating for all the spelling mistakes, the arrogance, the bizarre… well, were they choices? Do unconscious arrogant morons make choices? (I worked in TV news for years; I should know this.) I’d wake up at 3 a.m., covered in sweat thinking, does she not understand that most people in North America don’t need translation services of Dinka-to-English? Does she understand what Dinka is, for f**k’s sake? (You think I’m exaggerating. You are incorrect.) I was so mortified by her “website” that when people suggested I upgrade my own blogger self-made web presence, instead of thinking, Oh, that’s a good idea, I could research some successful websites, and look up designers and create a budget, I’d think of this (cough cough) “friend” and nothing would happen. Or, rather, what happened is that I wasted another three years of my life on that nitwit’s issues. Eventually, I broke the hold of her stupidity, and eventually I was able to upgrade my website, meet designers I trusted and kumbaya my lord, kumbaya, after working with three different designers and countless upgrades, I have a website I adore. But think of the years I wasted. You do not have time to waste.
2. Follow the smart people
As you clean up your various news feeds, check out whom the smart people you follow are following. Yes, some people you admire will surprise you by how many parody Kardashian accounts they follow. But some of these people will also open you up to worlds and people and opportunities you didn’t previously know about, because you were too busy falling on your own sword regarding various nemesis’ accounts. I don’t allow myself to have a nemesis because I personally will be damned if I give anyone that much power over my emotions. Again, I don’t have time to waste. I’m running a business, not a hobby, so if you’re not smart or interesting, good luck, Kid.
3. Know why you’re online
If you’re online to promote your legal practice, or alternatively, to get all the latest kickboxing news, each interest should lead you to a different profile. True, you can do both with one profile, but you should be able to articulate your overall concern, and then have a profile that an intelligent stranger would appreciate and understand. If you don’t wish to take the time and responsibility to articulate your goals, hey, do you also believe in magic? Is magic going to do the hard work of transforming your train-wreck of a social media presence into something that will allow you to identify and achieve your goals? If so, awesome. I am jealous because on my planet, I am constantly reminded that the only magic that exists is the magic I create but hey, what the hell do I know, right? Your magical planet sounds genuinely awesome.
Sit down and think about it. Why are you online? Whom are you trying to connect with/impress and why? Why should these people be interested in you? Yes, Hippy, people should value you because you are also a person, but, for example, if you’re a recent law school grad, trying to network with other attorneys and get a job, yet your profile is full of Rick Ross videos and “veiled” comments about smoking up and blowjobs… oh. Tell me how that works out for you. But tell me in my next life when I’m reincarnated as a cat and have plenty of downtime.
Better to identify your ideal audience and their interests. How do you want them to see you? What do you have in common? What specific skills, interests and education do you have to offer? How can you use what you already have to differentiate yourself and interest other people and gain more skills and experience and contacts? Are you following your law school and alumni association and joining in the conversation? With your goals in mind, start revising your online social media presence. This is a process. Ask your smart, trusted friends and colleagues to look at your social media accounts and give their honest opinion. If they didn’t know you, if they just met you online, how you would come across? Don’t ask if these people “like” you, ask if they think you are professionally relevant.
4. Create a strategy
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, so understand that you can clean up your social media, you can have the most amazing goals… but if you don’t take repeated, focused steps to build those goals, or if you, for example, get on Twitter once a month, or decide that there’s no point in ever using Facebook again, because only two people liked your stunning new profile photo, welp, as my father used to say, “Carlota, I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed. I thought you knew better.”
If you’re trying to change your professional life in some way, and you spend the money and time to get gorgeous head shots, or you hire a professional writer to burnish your profiles, but you do not commit to creating a long-term strategy based on your goals… might as well flush that money and ambition down the toilet. Changing your life, i.e. your perspective, does not happen overnight. It takes a plan of repeated, intelligent steps. You’re going to have to commit. If you’re leery of posting stuff on your business Facebook page, for example, because you think you’re a fraud, trust me, you’re not alone. Every smart person feels like a fraud at the beginning, and then, over time, through the process of commitment and learning from your mistakes, through hard choices and hard work, you become what it is you need. Go get started.
Create a strategy based on what you think you can do TODAY, RIGHT NOW, and go do it. Tomorrow do a little bit more. The day after, yes, do even more. It will get easier. If nothing else, go look at the social media of the people and brands you admire and consider what you can emulate based on the resources and ability you have right now. Go create a folder in Google docs or Microsoft Word, and start assembling six weeks’ worth of ideas. Before you tell me all the reasons this won’t work, hey, save it. I know it works. I’ve lived it. And while you’re busy telling yourself all the reasons you’ll fail, that irritating girl from your sorority will be busting her ass. And when, next year, she’s getting attention and opportunities, hey, don’t give me that look, Missy. I’m the one who told you to get started and create a strategy.
5. Be honest with yourself
If your online business is faltering, is that really because there’s no market for whatever you’re selling? Or is it because you insist on interjecting your political/religious views into your commerce and turning people off? Do you, for example, think social media sucks… or is it that you just don’t understand Twitter and feel too insecure to cop to that and take a free class at your local library? I guess you can blame everyone else, since certainly that’s easier than taking any type of personal responsibility, but I’d argue that your self-delusion is going to get very tedious very quickly. I certainly don’t think my social media presence is perfect. I don’t think anything I do is perfect, but then again, I think perfection is a huge waste of time. When I get the chance to learn something, I see it as a blessing, not proof that I’m a schmuck. At the end of the day, I’m a woman with a business, not a hobby and I have zero time to waste. The more I improve my online business, the more people I can help. It took me years of mistakes, of shame, of guilt, to understand that lesson.
6. You’re only human, and this is only social media, for f**k’s sake
At the end of the day, it is just social media. If you truly want to burst into tears and vomit every time you go on Facebook, or Twitter… hey, Sunshine, maybe this, right now, isn’t for you. And that’s OK. Life goes on. There are many people in the world NOT on Twitter. For example, people who are pregnant, taking cruises, writing poetry, getting laid, feeding the hungry, acting in dinner theater, living lives they love and happy as a pig in sh*t. Life’s hard, why would you torture yourself? Maybe the very best thing you can do for yourself in 2015 is to shut down your Facebook page and go for a long walk. Go tell your mom you love her and buy her a drink. Go rescue some cats. Rescue yourself.
I personally didn’t join Facebook till about 2008. I wasn’t ready and I don’t regret it. I now use Facebook all the time, but trust me, there are also plenty of days when I’m enjoying myself and feel no need to ruin my fun with the soul-sucking morass of fear, loneliness and insecurity that is, all-too-frequently, social media.
I trust my gut. You should as well. I became an entrepreneur in 2008 with a very limited “budget,” as in b*tch, I was b-r-o-k-e! Social media was all I had, and so I used it to change the course of my life. On the other hand, there are plenty of people running successful businesses and/or lives without the faintest blush of social media. My way was right for me, I hope your way is right for you.
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