40,000 Tweets: Social media, introversion and mental health

I was surprised to see yesterday that I was on the cusp of posting my 40,000th tweet. That is not really an achievement as such: all it really means is that I post a lot. What it did get me thinking about though is role that social media, principally twitter, has had on my journey dealing with mental illness.

Fundamentally I am an introverted person and that fact, coupled with suffering from depression and anxiety, has lead me to, often, keep what was / is going on with my health to my self rather than opening up about it.

Social media has helped me open up about my struggles: it is that simple. Twitter is a medium, I have found, that allows one, on the one hand, to engage with people I would never have had had the opportunity to talk to who are also going through the same things as me and, on the other hand, avoids the stress that I, as an introvert, go through when meeting and talking to new people whilst still allowing me to talk.

I am forever grateful for having the ability to interact on social media and talk about my health issues on that medium. I can also not express how thankful I am for the small core of followers on social media who I have who are regular supporters and enter into conversations about all matter of things: this small crew (you know who you are) have played a role that they will probably never know about in my treatment and in my happiness.

Social media, it must be conceded, is not for everyone. but it has worked for me. There are days when the best therapy for me is a vent on twitter and a chat with follower. It goes without saying, of course, that mechanisms for dealing with mental health are all about personal choice: twitter just happens to be one of mine.

Next up will be 50,000 tweets: I am looking forward to seeing what happens next and interacting more.

Social Media and Employment: Following the KISS principle

I often hear about holders of social media accounts preparing and drafting posts to said account that ultimately are deleterious to their employment status or social standing.  Just often as I read about errors in posting leading to the end of or severe restriction to one employment I shake my head at the stupid of those who find themselves in that position.

To me it is pretty simple: when posting to ones social media accounts really one should just “Keep It Simple Stupid”.  Obviously that bald statement requires expansion.  So here are my 5 keys to avoiding a social media stuff up that could lead to the end of your employment or a lowering of your social flag on the mast of life:

1. Who can read what you are saying? 

This is the simplest one of all: unless you have a very tightly held social media account to which you restrict access to only those who you allow to see what you write you need work on the presumption that EVERYONE can see what you are posting.  Thus: when you post something are you happy with the whole world having access to that post? If not: should you posting it?

2. If it is confidential or proprietary or likely to embarrass your employer or client = DANGER

To me this is often the area that astonishes me: I work in professional services and we spend a lot time talking to our staff about confidentiality, particularly, and often use the example of being careful about what you say about your work in the lift.  Is not social media akin to the worlds biggest lift?  It is simple but this is where most make mistakes it would seem.  The solution is also simple: other than the most generic of terms, and unless the account is a business one, apply the “Fight Club” rule: “The First Rule of Social Media is that we don’t talk about work on Social Media.”

3. If you want to mix business and social media: get two accounts … it is not that hard

Again: this is one from the shaking one’s head department.  It is so easy in this day and age to create multiple social media accounts that a simple solution for those who want to talk about their work (again mindful of confidentiality and proprietary issues) is to create a “work account” and a “private account”.  Lock the private account and be vigilant with who you add and then post to which ever account you wish depending on the context.

4. Would you be happy with what you are posting appearing in an affidavit?

This is a very lawyerly one but it rests true.  If you are about to post something that even flirts with the line of inappropriate think to yourself” “Would I like to have to give evidence about this on oath.” Now you are probably scoffing as you read thinking about this concept but if you were to be involved in a dispute and your credit as a witness was a question in issue then I am certain a controversial tweet you sent could appear in the material. Do you really want that?

5. Should be obvious but social media is meant to be fun … so abuse is no on

It never ceases to amaze me what some people will so to each other behind the safety of their computer screens or smartphones.  To me an easy way to avoid making a social media mistake that relates to what you say about someone else is to apply this maxim: “Would I say this to the person I am abusing or wish to talk about to their face.” If the answer is no then you should probably not be posting it.

I am, of course, by no means an expert and, at times, I am sure I have let the emotion of an event (hello Canberra Raiders and Chicago Cubs in defeat) get away from me and I have tweeted / tumblred a post that I have regretted.  Life without regret is not a life lived in my view but I am sure that these simple thoughts could have saved those who in the past have made a mistake on social media and have lost their job or found themselves on the end of a reprimand.

These are my own thoughts: I would be delighted to hear from readers about what they think.  Email (shumpty77@mail.com), tweet (@shumpty77) or comment below if you want to get involved.

Happy posting to social media everyone: stay safe out there!

Social Media Hiatus: interim disruption or a permanent change?

I have not checked in to any of my social media accounts since Friday. No twitter. No tumblr. No linkedin. No Google plus. And on Thursday I shut down my Facebook.

There was no one “thing” that lead to this occurring. I will confess that I had been enjoying social media less as my timeline appears to have been taken over by the political and the negative rather than the banterous discussion that I am used to. That issue though is easily fixed by unfollowing.

It has also been a very busy weekend filled with time with family and friends. And that is probably where my social media vacuum has come from: I have been having face to face interactions with friends and family that has gotten in the way of other social interactions.

You know what though: it has felt great! Now I am not saying that the interactions have been any more genuine or heartfelt because they have been face to face rather than over 140 characters. What this time away from social media has shown me though is the importance of making time to see people face to face rather than just behind the screen of a phone or computer. That is certainly a promise to myself moving forward.

Will I come back to social media is the other thought I have, certainly yesterday and this morning, had. The short answer is yes: this is only an interim disruption brought about by a confluence of events. That said, I think out of this weekend I have learned to seek deeper engagement in my interactions and that is what I will be looking for in my usage of social media.

That means more blogging and tumbling I think over and above twitter because of the greater flexibility the unlimited nature of the length of posts. Bring on deeper interactions I say: but this blog aside not just yet … I think the interim disruption (posts on this blog aside) can last just another day longer.

The Social Media trap: “is that tweet / blog about me?”

I have been pondering this blog post for a while and wondering, on the one hand, am I being stupid and, on the other hand, am I to blasé. Here is the background: in the last week on a more than one occasion something that I have either tweeted or posted in one of my blogs has been read by a follower and a friend as a personal attack on someone. I have re-read over and over the offending posts I see nothing offensive in them and other than the fact that someone has taken offence they “offending” posts are innocuous in the extreme.

My stupid thoughts are for this reason: I keep saying to myself that this is not a big deal, will be a boring blog that no one will read (not much change from the usual there) and really represents a storm in a tea cup.

My blasé thoughts are for this reason: I also keep saying to myself that this might be a bigger deal than I, or anyone else thinks, and there is a whole group of people out there worried sick about a tweet or blog post they have read on there timelines when they really shouldn’t be.

So why then am I writing about it? Well this whole issue this week has gotten me thinking about the vagaries of interpersonal communication and the fact that in the past decade to fifteen years the way we communicate has moved forward at light speed. All the while the human condition and our ability to assume, hypothesis, fantasise and wonder has not changed. As human beings we all have feelings and we are the only real controllers of said feelings.

Social media has swooped in and, coupled with SMS messaging, the time of picking up the phone and calling someone has passed by in the blink of an eye. Therein lies a problem as I see it: in textual form it is impossible to determine with 100% certainty the mood of the person, the “tone” of the message and, indeed, if the message was sent in anger. Social media only enhances the problem: suddenly one is expressing oneself in a public forum to a poultice of people one knows and does not know and none of these followers have any ability to gauge the underlying circumstances of each particular post.

We have all been guilty of this: tweeting / facebooking / SMSing when angry and saying things that we did not mean and, indeed, speaking directly ill of people. These are not the interactions I am talking about here. What I am talking about are the posts that have no intention behind them whatsoever but are read by those who read your posts in a different way. Let’s face it: everyone interprets things differently based as diverse range a qualities as mental state, effectiveness of reading and focus. If a blog one posts is read by say 100 (one day big fella!) people there could be 100 different interpretations some of which could escalate in the readers mind a negative opinion about themself, the writer and even the topic.

I have myself on occasion read a tweet / blog post and thought “is that talking about me?” I generally got a bit miffed at this and often resolved to not talk to said poster for a while. This is precisely what happened to me this week and it is just out and out wrong! The tweets I was reading and agonising over were not about me and nor were the tweets of mine that were read by others to be about them. Yet in all cases a negative impression was made of the tweet / post which lead to a reduction in the repoir between the two parties involved as well as some fairly hefty self loathing.

In all of the cases I advert to above the situation quickly resolved itself but left all parties with a clear understanding that from here on in we will actually talk to each on the phone, or in the case of someone I know only from twitter a direct message enquiry will immediately be made, before jumping to a mistaken conclusion and let our brains run wild.

There is another subset to this issue however that also requires ventilation. It arises in the context of this argument “if you are not too busy to tweet and blog, why are you too busy to reply to me?” This argument is deceptively in the same ball park as the principal problem because the reader and maker of the argument has determined that you are ignoring them because you have not yet replied. There is no simple answer to this one save that, again, surely it is easier to just pick up the phone and communicate than spend hours with negative thoughts festering about the other person’s motives.

Therein lies the principal message of this blog (crikey: I wrote a blog with a takeaway message?!?!): do not let yourself be swept up in the negative thoughts that come from reading a tweet / post that you think is about you or that makes you think that the sender is ignoring you. 99.9% of the time the posting WILL NOT BE ABOUT YOU nor will the person be actually ignoring you. If you are worried a simple enquiry should answer your internal questioning and self doubt. If you do not take that step you could find yourself, like me, unfortunately, at the end of a friendship because the negative thoughts surrounding one’s motives became too difficult to erase.

For the record, one of the two “combatants” in this weeks drama about the “social media trap” will be reading this and know that I am writing it. The other has severed communications. Aside from the use of the facts in issue this blog is not about them and, for safety, is NOT directed at anyone else.

The answer is simple, and I repeat it, NO the tweet / post is not about YOU! If you are in doubt ask the poster and I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised.