Updated: Feb 15
In this post I'll show you a strategy for using social media in a way that won't lead to jealousy, insecurity, and hesitation.
As a Digital Content Strategist, much of what I talk about is the benefits the internet can provide.
But the internet can be a scary place if you're not in touch with reality.
Let's get real about the potential downsides, and how they can affect us as Internet Artisans, entrepreneurs, and humans in general.
This is a concept I've had to teach myself several times throughout my life:
Comparison is the Thief of Joy
The first time I realized this was when I was still in school, grinding through my courses without any idea what I was going to use my degree for.
In my mind, I was up against the clock, and all I wanted to do was get to graduation and get on par with everyone posting their "life updates" on Facebook.
I'm talking about the:
"Hi all, just wanted to check in and let everyone know that I recently graduated from _____ university with a degree in _____ and I'll be taking my talents to this company in this city and I'm SO excited to explore my passion further etc."
First of all, nobody asked... second of all, these posts are literally copy and pasted from one account to another.
Don't hate me if you've posted something similar.
It's a trend which we tend to follow blindly, and we're all looking for some sort of validation for the four years and thousands of dollars spent.
But at the time, my rushed, nervous, & confused mind was consumed with these posts.
The same goes for the posts that somebody made the Dean's List, got awarded a research grant, etc.
Don't get me wrong, those are all big accomplishments that are worthy of being proud of.
But for me, they were toxic. (Even though I had no desire to make the Dean's List or get awarded a research grant.)
I knew I wasn't going to use my degree to do what actually made me happy, but I still felt so much pressure to finish it.
I was comparing myself to others who were much more serious about school and the industry they had studied (at least they seemed to be).
On top of that, I had friends at big universities that looked like they were having more fun and were much more comfortable with their life trajectory than I was.
Then toss in the carefree posts from people that come from old money that already had careers set up for them when they graduated.
It made me miserable.
Every time I opened Instagram I saw someone that seemed to be doing better than me.
And it got to a point where I had to completely unplug from social media for a few weeks.
I disabled my Facebook, deleted the Instagram app from my phone, and completely deleted my Twitter.
After the first few days, even though I was constantly stopping myself from re-downloading everything, I quickly realized how detrimental it was for me to consume myself in the lives of others.
My worries were still there, but rather than spending all my time dwelling on them and being jealous of others, I started asking myself what I could do to alleviate some of the stress.
Once I did that, and reflected for a bit, the worries seemed a lot more normal for someone my age, and the obstacles became much smaller in my head.
I asked myself (maybe with a little nudge from my Dad) what I could do to start padding my resume while still in school.
That's when I landed my first writing job, which was a pretty small feat... but it was a step in the right direction.
And taking one step in the right direction felt a lot better than scrolling through social media and comparing myself to others.
That was the first time I learned the lesson that comparison could be the death of me.
And then I forgot that lesson. Quickly.
The next battle with comparison came when I graduated the following year.
The Lost Graduate
I'm not sure if it was the fear of paying the bills, saying goodbye to friends, or knowing that 4 hours of class/day was no longer going to be my only responsibility —
But when I graduated, I was terrified.
Which is actually very normal. And I'm not just talking about people who've graduated from college.
You could be a highschool graduate, highschool dropout, 30-something year old who just got laid off from their first big job, entrepreneur who just sold out of their first business...
What I'm talking about is any point in life when you realize that what you've been doing for the past few years is coming to an end.
When everything is going to change, and you need to open up the next chapter.
At some point, we're all lost graduates.
In my case, I knew I had finished school and I needed to find a full-time job.
It seemed like everyone I knew was either in a position or interviewing at several companies, putting their degree to use.
And I was right back in the same place, comparing myself to others.
Judging by the look of things on social media, I needed to:
Find a cubicle to sit at 40+ hours/week
Get active on LinkedIn
Establish a go-to place downtown for happy hour
Start wearing loafers
The pressure was on.
I thought my life as I knew it was over.
No more ski weekends in the mountains, no more day drinking, no more parties.
(Little did I know that you still do all these things when you're in the workforce. It's just not called day drinking... it's "boozy brunch".)
But at the time I was 100% lost, wanting to pursue writing but telling myself I needed to do the one thing I had no desire to do:
Leverage my degree for an entry level position that would start a 40 year climb up the corporate ladder.
Fortunately, I managed to stay focused with my writing job (despite the panic I was feeling at the time), which turned into a promotion and an 8 month contract in a web-writing/web-development position.
This gave me a buffer that I intended to use to delay my panic which I ultimately would've returned to in full force, had I not taught myself to stop comparing again.
This time, the lesson came about when I assumed all of my bills, paid them, and surprisingly had money left over.
I had budgeted everything out before, so I should've known I would be okay.
But I had an irrational fear that some random expenses would come out of nowhere and I'd start assuming credit card debt.
(Probably because of my paranoid high school money management teacher who tried to scare us with thousands of Dave Ramsey videos.)
But once I settled down and realized how affordable life is as a single 20-something year old, I started to recognize that I had been so worried and "lost" because I had been comparing again.
Here's what happened:
A few of my friends had landed solid finance jobs right out of school and I was sure they were crushing it.
Meanwhile I was making an hourly wage in higher education, an industry that notoriously doesn't pay its employees very much (ironic considering how much they charge for tuition).
And I was playing the social media game again.
I started seeing the accounts of the uber rich people, flaunting their wealth and lavish lifestyles.
I saw celebrities, professional athletes, influencers, promoters, literally anyone with money.
And my brain automatically associated that with the idea that everyone was making more/doing better than me.
This was an absurd belief to have, especially at a time in life where anyone can make exponential jumps in salary while others are working for free at firms knowing it'll pay out in the future.
Not to mention a large amount of people I knew that were still looking for jobs, not even earning yet.
But it didn't matter, because my mind blocked it out.
It was a very believable, dangerous trap I had fallen in, and I had to once again step back from social media to get back in touch with reality.
And I've done that several times since.
Which brings me to the reason for this post:
If you're looking to build your business or brand online, you have to be aware of your relationship with the internet.
There's certain platforms that you're going to need to use in order to reach full potential, but you can't let them stifle your dreams, motivation, and self esteem.
Social Media: The Necessary Evil
We refer to our current era in multiple ways: The Digital Age, The Information Age, The New Media Age, etc.
Whatever you call it, you've felt it's effects.
I know that I'm constantly talking about the power of the internet and the platforms built on top of it — but with power comes potential destruction.
My intention with this post is to address this predicament we find ourselves in as content producers and publishers.
Particularly with social media, you can get lost in the opinions, approval, and success of others.
We know that the best way to market ourselves and our content is through social channels.
But as soon as you open each app you're met with politics, self-absorption, and worst of all: people who look like they're doing better than you.
For most of us, nothing causes more stress than seeing other people in the position you want to be in.
First of all, you should understand that flashing money, jewelry, cars, & hotel rooms is a tactic used to develop authority.
And most of the time it's not real. (Especially in music videos.)
But sometimes you see people with overnight success, people that've gone viral and made millions, people with incredible timing who just happened to get rich quick.
This happens, and there's no way you can predict it, so I wouldn't spend much time trying to emulate it.
More importantly, if this frustrates you (and I know the feeling), you gotta remove jealousy from your life.
The best way to do this is to look at the list of people/accounts you follow.
Recognize that everyone you follow is putting thoughts in your head.
What's your motivation behind following someone? What thoughts are they projecting with their posts?
Social media is awesome for expanding your reach, building communities around your brand, and having conversations with your users/potential clients.
But it's also a place that can be extremely overwhelming.
The same way I found myself jealous of people making the Dean's List (something I hadn't ever really desired), you can develop jealousy in other brands that will ultimately derail you from your own desires.
I'm a UX writer and Content Strategist... so why do I sometimes find myself wanting to create stupid videos that go viral on YouTube and Tik Tok?
Why do I find myself wanting to buy a studio set up and make music?
What does that have to do with marketing?
I has nothing to do with my brand, and it has everything to do with the people I follow that make these things look like easy, get-rich-quick schemes.
While it's important to recognize I'm entertained by those things, and it's perfectly fine to enjoy consuming that content, it's not my lane.
It's not my business. And it's not my idea of success.
You can have your personal social accounts and do what you want with them (as long as you're able to step back and not consume yourself with what others are doing)...
But if you want to effectively use social media to your advantage as a business owner, you should have a completely separate business account.
And you should:
Give Your Account a Content Diet
Content Diet is actually a term that my brother introduced me to while we were talking the other day. (This conversation led me to write this post).
Here's the idea: treat your social accounts like part of yourself.
Whatever you expose them to, whatever you allow them to consume, affects how they operate.
If you're following toxic people who don't offer value to their audience but instead attempt to show off or invoke jealousy, you'll find your brand doing something similar.
Too much noise is never good when you're crafting your brand, especially if it's coming from people you don't agree with or want to become.
Stay in your lane, not only with what you post but with the posts you consume.
A similar concept is talked about in the book I mentioned in my last post, The Nuclear Effect: The 6 Pillars of Building a 7+ Figure Online Business.
The author, Scott Oldford recommends that you follow 3 people:
3-5 people above you in your industry, people whose brands you respect and want to emulate
3-5 people even with you in your industry, people going through the same phase of growth that you're experiencing at this moment in time
3-5 people below you in your industry, people in the position you were in before, someone you would be able to offer advice to
While I don't think that you should only allow yourself to follow 15 people, the idea is to cut down on the content you consume.
What's more, you should make sure whatever you're consuming is relevant to your brand and business.
Go through the list of people you follow, one-by-one, and ask yourself how they're relevant to your goals.
How are these people helping you to do the things you want to do?
I think you'll find that the overwhelming majority of people/accounts aren't really offering that much true value.
The best part of all of this: you quickly realize how little of competition you face as someone who provides true value.
The Take Away
The internet can be a very toxic place, if you allow it to be.
It's also the most powerful tool in the world for business growth, if you allow it to be.
Cut down on who you follow and who you let influence your life.
Focus on yourself, your brand, your business.
Find a handful of great sources of knowledge and information, interact with the communities you build around your brand.
But most importantly: the majority of time you spend on social media should be spent crafting your own content. Content that provides value.
Do this, and then let social media be your salesman.
Don't let it sell you on a lifestyle that different than the one you live.
Learn to love your own struggle.