How to Be Whom You Project to Be on Social Media
One day, I was conducting a marketing strategy session with the board of an organization at their offices.
The meeting finished, and the attendees filed out. But, I forgot I had left my Chassidic hat on a chair, and came back a minute or so later to retrieve it.
I’m in the conference room—and suddenly, I see “Big Biceps” approach.
Big Biceps, as I call him, was one of the organization's employees. He struck me as someone whom, to put it lightly, I would not treasure meeting in the middle of the night in a dark alley. He was big, he was strong, and I got the distinct feeling that he wasn’t my cup of tea.
He was not invited to the meeting. And other then a quick hello, I hadn’t felt any reason to spend any time with him. (And I liked it better that way!)
Trying to leave the conference room with my black velvet “rabbi hat” perched firmly on my head, Big Biceps blocked my way. “I know a lot about marketing,” he growled. “My brother-in-law is the head of marketing for [very famous financial institution].” As if that somehow qualified him.
“So what are your plans for this place? Tell me what you are planning to change!”
(He was about to be fired for theft, which I already knew but he did not. That was among the reasons he was not invited to the meeting. He even was one of the discussion points on the agenda.)
I didn’t have much choice but to make polite conversation for three minutes or so, until one of the executives came by “looking” for me. I was then able to gladly and gracefully disappear.
A month later, a distant relative of mine told me that she was being introduced to this same man. Having seen a violent, scary side to Big Biceps, I told her, “He’s not for you.”
My advice was ignored. (I called my mother to ask her what to do and she said, “Issamar, if she’s in love, there’s nothing you can say or do that will change her mind.”) So, as a friend—and to show that I was not upset at not being listened to and only meant well, I went directly from a seminar I was giving, going out of my way to attend the wedding.
The new Mrs. Biceps was “newlywed ecstatic.” Her social-media accounts were full of comments about just how deliriously happy she was now. Facebook status changed to engaged, then married, and all, from near and far, everyone was celebrating her newfound happiness along with her.
One year later, I met Mrs. Biceps by chance. And I told her I owed her an apology. I felt bad, given all her joys on Facebook, that I had told her not to go out with her husband in the first place.
Suddenly, she interrupted me. “Tell me what you saw in him then that you didn’t like," she said.
I was taken aback. “Look, I’m trying to apologize, why would I open a can of worms like that," I said. "Why would you want to get into that now?”
“Because last week the police came and took him away” she told me. “We are now getting divorced.”
That bombshell hadn’t made it onto her Facebook statuses, relationship setting, Twitter feed, nor anywhere else in the public sphere. And if she had removed “married” as her relationship status, she hadn’t updated everyone with a “The former Mrs. Biceps” status update.
Social media for her, for us, and for the people we deal with, is a photoshopped version of our real lives, wrinkles removed, highlighting the positives and major life events, while discreetly leaving out as much as possible the things we’d rather not share with the world.
On the flip side, this shows us in the best possible light. And your online presence can be used to actually bring out, in real life, a more enhanced you.
Let me share a short example:
A decade ago, I had a meeting with a mid-level executive at a major airline. We had met online, via LinkedIn, and we were finally meeting in person.
My LinkedIn profile showed some of my accomplishments, the clientele I worked with, and that I spoke at a major conference not long before. What my profile did not say was that on a one-to-one level, I was shy and reserved. This would be my first one-on-one meeting with an executive of that kind.
When we met, I couldn’t act shy. I had to act the part, to portray in real life the kind of persona that was expected of someone with a LinkedIn profile like mine. So, I did the best I could to overcome my inner shyness, and “be the change” that I had put out there as myself. And connect with him on a personal level I did!
Over time, I realized that I was becoming, in real life, more and more into the online persona that described me. And today, roughly a decade later, that exec would be considered small fry compared to where I stand today.
I find the “double decker” social media steroids to be a fascinating discovery. You can become in real life the persona you project online, and you can understand much about the upside of a person’s life from posts on social media, and the negative side from the absence of same posts. And these two angles can really help a person with their inner game and outer game to become more productive, more successful, and achieve a better understanding of the human condition.