If you've ever sat up in bed wondering why you're not as popular as someone else online, why someone younger has more followers/friends/connections/subscribers than you do, and feeling like you're not making much of an impact worldwide, chances are many others face the same anxiety too. For example, YouTube celebrities pop up from time to time, and yet we're not in the video-making tribe -- at least we're too busy to do so, aren't we? The chase to become heard is in itself exhausting, and yet we keep being jealous of the Joneses who could do so anyway.
Here are a few comparisons to make you feel better if you want to be heard, yet find many things getting in the way:
1) The need for updated information vs. the preference for permanence
Most social media networkers run to and fro to catch wind of the latest information, then report them back. That's fine if you're a journalist because for you, timely information matters. However, for the majority, we prefer things not to change so much. When we're young, we don't feel like an expert; when we're older, we fear that we can't catch up with the learning curve.
One reason I love mathematics is that a result, once proven, will never be changed. The drawback of loving things that don't change, though, is that we need to have a stockpile of unchangeable information to pique others' interest, and so we still have to keep on learning things. That also means that we have to be an expert in that field in the first place, and we know how hard it is to be an expert.
2) Using social media mindlessly vs. mindfully
Social media tends to be a source of frustration: should we deem it procrastination-inducing, or should it actually be an information mining source? It goes both ways, depending on whether you use it mindlessly or mindfully.
Mindless use of social media means that you go there to perhaps relieve yourself of an itch to satisfy your curiosity about the happenings of people and causes you follow, and post things to your liking. Yet most of us are not the celebrities who could garner tons of likes and favourites whenever they post. They already have a following because their proper work already has some value.
Our problem stems from us not being mindful enough to generate that sort of buzz and excite other people ourselves. Surveying other high-follower accounts, we find that whenever they devote to providing information and opinions, people follow. We must be very deliberate in our quest for mastery -- and this, again, is not for those who believe that things unfold naturally and meditate on "Que Sera Sera" when things don't go their way.
3) Follower count anxiety vs. satisfaction in solid connections
Another perk that comes with social networking is that we tend to compare ourselves with people who are wildly popular or are super-connectors. We feel like we don't measure up to them and we are not influential enough. We can do better than others, so why can't we get the attention we crave so much? The problem is that we don't do anything to make up for our inadequacy because we tell ourselves we're too busy, we have other things to do, we're not an expert in anything, and the list of reasons go on.
If we're that serious about our popularity, ought we not think instead about other people, answering their questions, relieving their fears, sharing their information and so on, and make full use of social media to give those answers? That's how people pay attention. You were never what they want in the first place -- it's the information you provide that give you those coveted counts.
If our own busy lives matter more to us, then we need to let go and lie low. When you're down and low, it won't be your followers who's going to stand by you. It will be your closest friends and family who'd get you through. If you're satisfied with their companionship, why bother getting admiration from people whose fandom only serves to boost your ego? We don't even know if we've influenced them in any way.
Therefore, this is the law that governs internet popularity: we must be deliberate to offer information that can serve other people, whet their appetites, satisfy their curiosity, and keep them informed, inspired and entertained in order to survive in the social media jungle. Otherwise we're hindered from making the difference we want to see in the world.
Just as Rudyard Kipling penned "The Law of the Jungle", the law of social networking is similar:
the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.
If you are serious about making an impact online, stop saying you're busy, face your learning fears, and share good information today.
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