social media

My "Amazing" Life: The Accidental Lie of Social Media

Social Media is making a lot of us sad. That's a trend I've had an intuitive sense about for some time, but a study released in August put data behind it.  I couldn't help but think of Brené Brown's excellent work on shame and vulnerability as I read various summaries and ultimately the original work. People hide those things we fear will separate us from others and that drives us to share the very best parts of our lives via social media. Others see these idealized versions of life and their own shame is amplified as they compare themselves to a life that doesn't exist.

From this springs a culture of envy, bitterness, sadness, loneliness, and cynicism. Even genuine posts regarding significant life events can be viewed with cynical detachment, as illustrated by this comic from The Oatmeal. Cynicism and deconstruction can be useful, but I'd rather think about steps we can take to make people less sad by our attempts to share our life experience.



This week I'm going to use a hashtag a lot in my social posts: #myamazinglife. None of these posts are going to be glamorous. I'm going to share the sorts of things we usually hide from people. This is not a cry for help–I'm quite happy with my life and who I am. Instead, this is an intentional counter to the posturing we all do naturally. This is an experiment to see what happens when our social media projections more accurately represent our full life experience. 

My first post will be about my old, run-down car. One of the back doors won't open because I've locked my keys in my car so often the lock is broken. Do you get the idea? I'd love for you to join me. Here's how:

  1. Write a post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social platforms about something that is embarrassing, mundane, routine, or uninteresting about your life.
  2. Add #myamazinglife to the post. 

I can't wait to hear about your amazing life. 


Friday Mailbag

Friday Mailbag

Welcome to the first Friday Mailbag. This is a new thing where I answer questions submitted on the "Ask Mike" page. If you've got a question about technology or the intersection of science and faith, submit a question and I'll answer it in a future column.

The first question submitted was from my friend Ryan who asked, "I am curious about what you use to aggregate your social media, though. You used Buffer for awhile, but don't seem to anymore. How do you keep up with your Facebook, web page, and whatever other social internetting you do?"

I have a really complex social media strategy: I share things I like. For a while, I tried to pick things other people would like, and that was terrible. I am awful at knowing what other people will like. When I decided to just share the things I think are amazing, insightful, funny, affirming, or profound people started liking/sharing/favoriting much more. Inevitably, the posts I think will get a lot of traction do nothing at all, and the posts that I think no one will be interested in get tens of thousands of views or more.

I have a full time job, but people tend to interact the most during business hours. So, I still use Buffer to share content. Buffer makes it really easy to just add things you like to a list and then have it shared automatically on your social profiles over time. I tend to do liking, commenting, and other interaction on my lunch break or other break times. I don't use Buffer if I just have a thought or something really timely. In that case I post the old fashioned way.

That's a pretty scatter-shot strategy, but it works. I think the fact that I don't over plan anything is why it works.

Our next question is from an anonymous reader.

"Mike, I recently read your AT LEAST, EVEN IF axioms posted by Michael Gungor in his blog. In short, I am wondering if there was a typo.

"Prayer is AT LEAST a form of mediation...."

Is that supposed to say mediation or meditation? If meditation, it seems a fair claim to make. If mediation, how is prayer necessarily at least mediation, and mediation of what sort?

Also, by saying prayer ""can connect us to God,"" what does that mean? (I am keeping in mind that you have defined God as at least the natural forces that created and that sustain the universe -- how can we know that prayer connects us to that?)

Thank you!"

You caught a typo. The axiom should read "Prayer is AT LEAST a form of meditation that encourages the development of healthy brain tissue, lowers stress and can connect us to God. EVEN IF that is a comprehensive definition of prayer, the health and emotional benefits of prayer justify the discipline."

Meditation, not mediation. Some people believe prayer can involve mediation, but that's beyond the scope of the axiom. The second part of your question is how prayer can connect us to "the natural forces that created and sustain the Universe," but that ignores the really critical second part of the axiom: "as experienced via a pychosocial construct rooted in evolved neurologic features in humans."

My axioms are designed for people who find the arguments of naturalism compelling. Science is based on methodological physicalism, and the empirical approach to truth doesn't leave a lot of room for the immaterial or the supernatural. For someone like me, that standard of evaluating claims is very destructive toward religious faith.

In order to have a relationship with God that survives my own doubt, I had to arrive at an understanding of God that could survive my own skepticism. I allow for the idea that God can be much more than my basic definition, hence AT LEAST.

Back to your question. We can prove scientifically that the experience humans have with God is distinct from fantasy. Religious transcendence is associated with seizure like activity in the left hemisphere of the brain. When Christians talk to God, the same part of the brain that is active when talking to a friend is active during prayer. EVEN IF God is just something in the human brain, prayer connects us to that construct in a powerful way.

For those who believe God is much more than my basic understanding, these axioms allow a person who is scientifically minded to pursue God through religious community, prayer and study of the scriptures. In that case, God can reveal more than empiricism can prove to an individual.

It's not for everyone. There are happy, well adjusted atheists and secularists. Likewise, many believers don't struggle with this kind of existential doubt. Even so, I've had dozens of face-to-face conversations and thousands of messages from people who find themselves torn by science and faith. For many of us, this way of approaching God preserves community and allows us to hold onto the faith that is vital to how we relate to the world.

This is MyNyte

These three guys had an idea.  There are so many social networks that let you tell your social graph where you've been, and what you did.  Then, there was a new crop of social networks and apps that let you share where you are now via a check-in.  None of these networks made it easy to use your social graph to decide what you were doing next.

Facebook can let everyone you know find out how great last night was.  Foursquare pioneered the idea of sharing presence as it happened, and encouraged people to flock to each other.  The simple fact was that getting a group together to go out was a pain.  It was a ball of texting, calling, emailing, Facebooking and just generally herding cats.  There has to be a better way, right?

Why can't you use your social graph to organize everyone easily?  Further more, how do you know what place is worth hitting tonight?  No one wants to show up to an empty club.  What about those people in your social graph who you just don't want to be around, like ex-girlfriends or guys who are just a little too interested?  Why can't your social graph help you avoid them?

Enter MyNyte.  The idea is so simple, and yet very powerful.  Building an Entourage and assigning Wingmen take the pain out of organizing a small or large group.  Bumps allow MyNyte users to say when they are planning to attend, on their way to, at or leaving a venue–which lets groups of friends move together with a single action.  When that data is aggregated across all of MyNyte, we'll be able to see what venues will be busy before it happens.  That's right, there's now a future's market for night life and the currency is Plans.  Finally, the Frenemy feature will alert you when your activity will intersect with someone who you'd really rather not be bothered with.

Those three guys talked to this guy.  Out of that meeting the idea turned into a company, and my crew was brought in to help.  I became a part of Team MyNyte.

What a team it is!

It's not the first time I've worked on an iOS app.  It's not the first time I've been a part of ground breaking technology.  It's not the first time I've worked in social networking.  It's not the first time I've helped build dynamic, scalable infrastructure to support lots of users.  It's not the first time I've worked with several large, independent code bases that form a single project and mission.

It is the first time I've done all of these things at once while working with people who are the best in the world at what they do.

MyNyte is available for the world to use now.  There's an iPhone app, and a website made just for mobile devices like Android phones.

The long road to launch is just the beginning.  We've got teething pains, bug fixes and a product roadmap that stretches far beyond the horizon.

It's a journey I'm happy to be a part of.

New TV Spot from Aflac

Aflac has a new TV spot designed to create understanding about who they are and what they do beyond having a Duck for a spokesperson.  These commercials start airing on 1/11, but the Aflac Duck has posted the first one on his Facebook and Twitter feeds to share with his supporters before the rest of the world.  I think it's very much worth a look.

As a matter of disclosure, my company works with Aflac in a marketing capacity, and I personally work on the account as well.

Follow Me, Friend Me, Love Me.

I saw a link today on Twitter to a tool called Klout.  Klout is a cute and interesting Twitter analytics tool that graphs your profile activity onto a 4 quadrant graph.  By measuring your total audience and engagement, they place you in one of four categories: casual, connector, climber or persona.  It's a novel and valid way to measure the activity of a given Twitter account.

What concerns me is there is an inherent bias in the textual descriptions that it's important to move to "higher" categories.  The implicit statement is that everyone should aspire to have more followers and more engagement.  I see this over and over in different tools, and I see it discussed among social media professionals and marketers.  It's complete hogwash.

Most people using social media are not marketers.  They don't really care about gaining large numbers of friends or followers.  They want to connect with friends, family and people with similar interests.  They share information about their lives and the things the love.  They don't look for analytics on their profile.

They shouldn't.

I'm a professional social media marketer.  I derive my income from designing and executing social marketing strategies for major brands.  My social media accounts are not a test lab for my work.  I only accept friend requests from people I know on Facebook, and I only send invites to people I know well.  On Twitter, I follow people I know and people who make me laugh.  My goals for my personal profiles are to connect with those who I know and love, not to promote myself.  I believe the work I do for my clients is far more impressive than any follower count I could ever achieve.

That said, if you are a potential customer or partner for one of the brands I represent, you can bet that I'm doing everything I can to reach out to you in a non-intrusive way via company profiles or advertising.  I want brand profiles to reach the largest relevant audience and to engage as many members of that audience as possible.  Companies and people have completely different goals in social media.

It's important that we marketers, new media gurus and brands don't lose site of who is creating a revolution in social media--regular people.