Archive for Social Networking

6 Keys to Maintaining a Healthy Dose of Narcissism on Social Media

This week I was invited to be on Huffington Post Live show to talk about narcissism on the web on a segment called “Obsessed with Ourselves.” The producers found me because of a blog post I wrote in 2009 titled “Why Narcissism is Necessary on Twitter.”

I had almost forgotten about the post but being on the segment and also preparing for it gave me some time to return to the subject with some fresh thoughts and perspective.

So the question was posed to us: What’s this obsession with ourselves all about? 

Narcissim isn’t new. Social media just makes it easier.

We now literally carry the web with us in our pockets now and have access to tools that allow us to broadcast our lives 24 hours a day.

Social media is simply a tool to share the story of your life in real time with the world (or whoever follows you). And  free admission to the watch the ongoing movie (or story) of other people’s lives: who they are, what they are like and what they are doing or seeing.

For me it’s about self expression for myself as well as being a spectator of other people’s lives. (It’s also about business and information and knowledge too as I leverage these tools to connect and engage with partners and customers.)

But I DO want those I follow to tweet things they are doing, to post photos of them and their lives on Instagram … and to tell me all about their latest adventure on Facebook or where they are eating on Foursquare (although I rarely use it).

I’m genuinely interested in them or else I wouldn’t follow them. And that’s one of the key points I wanted to draw up in the discussion about our obsession with social media … it’s opt-in!

It’s not mandatory that you follow anyone. It’s not mandatory. At any point you can choose to mute them, or unfollow them.

If I get uninterested in someone … that’s what I do. I simply turn off the noise.

We were also asked: Can it go too far?

Absolutely! As the saying goes … everything, in moderation.

We can overshare. We can become too self-indulgent, too self-absorbed. But your audience votes by following or unfollowing you and engaging or ignoring you.

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

And let’s face it … no one wants to be around a Me Monster, let alone follow them online!

So with all of this in all this in mind, I wanted to share some thoughts on how to approach social media without going overboard drawn from my own life.  

6 Keys to Maintaining a Healthy Dose of Narcissism on Social Media

  1. Practice Sensible, Reasoned Self Expression — Yes, I censor myself. A preacher once said that if we knew everything you thought, we wouldn’t let you in the doors. And if you knew everything in my heart, you wouldn’t come. But I share the things I care most about online for others to know about. It’s a means of self expression. Sometimes I just need to say it, even if nobody cares. At times it’s a sort of therapy … to get things off my chest. But for the overwhelming other times, it’s simply sharing my values, philosophies, principles, thoughts, opinions and feelings with others. Some agree, some might disagree. Some care, many problby don’t. But I choose to put those things out in the world for others. Just like art though, it can offend at times. So I seek to make art that people will enjoy, find interesting or be challenged by. I’ve been guilty of ranting and being ugly online, but I always, always regret it. No one wants to see our warts.
  2. Balance My Offline and Online Life — I seek a healthy balance between my “online” life and offline. Moderation in all things. Excess leads to abuse, obsession, addiction. When I neglect my personal relationships because of it, I realize I need to make changes. Thus, I clock out every day and sometimes for days … and go off the grid every day. Balance is healthy.
  3. Establish Clear Boundaries — I’m selective about what I share. There are lines I don’t cross. There are things I don’t do. Like sharing the location of my house. I don’t share personal intimate stuff that I don’t have permission to share. Oversharing is often self-defeating if you really want people to follow and be interested in you by the way.
  4. Don’t Judge My Self Worth By It — Sure, I want 30 likes on every photo I post of my son, Caloway, but I definitely don’t base my self worth (or his) on it. But if I stopped getting them, I’d simply keep texting them to my parents who want to see every picture of him. I also have a healthy perspective about myself. I’m not delusional to think everybody on earth cares about me or my thoughts or pictures. I base my own self worth on who I am, not what the crowd thinks.
  5. Be Genuinely Interested in Others Too — I always seek to be genuinely interested in other people too. Because I know I exist in the world with many other interesting people … and want to know about them and the story of their lives, what they believe in. Without mutual interest, it is mere vanity … and I’d be alone in a mirror because no one would care. (For friends in business or just in life who have kids … I’m going to like every photo they post of their kids and ask for more!)
  6. Remember, People and Relationships ALWAYS Come First — The knock on social media is that is weakens or replaces personal, face to face relationships. I disagree. It can of course, but it should be a means to DEEPEN them. By following people online I get a glimpse into their lives I probably never would have known. A richer, fuller one. Seeing a pic of the ballgame he went to last night (and I didn’t know he even likes sports), or what someone is reading on their Kindle or listening to on Spotify.

What do you think? How do you achieve balance in your offline and online world? How do you seek to put people and relationships first?

Social Media Means Staying Connected

This video was shot in January in Boston while James Dalman and I were at WordCamp Boston.

We were being tourists and visiting Harvard University and all the while hundreds of miles away from “home,” we were staying connected to thousands of people via social media, in particular Twitter.

Social media has been flamed for disconnecting people, which it can … but it also CONNECTS us in so many great ways. Like my bud Brad Ulrich says, “Twitter cuts out the small talk.” Using Twitter we’re keeping up BETTER with each other more than ever.

This story illustrates that I think:

Ask Questions, Start Conversations

I tweeted this status update yesterday and got such great response to it that I wanted to post the conversation that ensued here:

It’s sad that I use my blog reader maybe once a week now & Twitter everyday almost like a reader – how often do you use your reader?

Here’s just some of the awesome responses aka @replies I got:

benehrlich: I use my RSS reader every day. Though I should probably read some more worthwhile stuff.

about a day ago

chrisjean: I never used RSS. It demanded too much attention. I always felt it was an unproductive timesuck.

about a day ago

adbrad: about 250 posts a day. Every day.

about a day ago

rzen: not to mention regularly throughout the day

about a day ago

rzen: I stopped checking my ggl rdr months ago. Twitter, though, is the last thing I check before bed & the 1st thing in the a.m.

about a day ago

kimparsell: I very rarely open my feed reader anymore. Usually find all the good stuff right here on Twitter via the ppl I follow.

about a day ago

rbhavesh: been 2 months since i opened google reader. RSS is dead?

about a day ago

granata: Twitter will never replace my feed reader.

about a day ago

jasondlee: I use my reader a LOT still.

about a day ago

CraigTuller: I still use Reader every morning to get the latest news, etc. Twitter just doesn&#39t provide everything.

about a day ago

conorpegypt: I haven&#39t opened my reader in months. If an article is any good people will share it on Twitter.

about a day ago

corymiller303: It&#39s sad that I use my blog reader maybe once a week now & Twitter everyday almost like a reader – how often do you use your reader?

about a day ago

What did I learn from this conversation?

  • Ask more questions in tweets … people want to participate in the conversation.
  • Sometimes the best stuff is unplanned … be more compulsive about asking questions … I was reading my RSS feed subscriptions on my iPhone when the question or thought came to mind.
  • Engage in the conversation back … this is called, yes, being interactive. I tried to respond to all the people who took the time to answer my question. I loved that and hope the people I did realized I valued their answers.
  • Conversations build community … I was just thrilled to be in conversations with people who felt it was as relevant as me.
  • I learned a lot … about the question and how people use RSS.


Simply put:

Ask questions.

Start conversations.

Let others have the microphone.

Interact with them.

Learn and grow.

Have fun doing it!


Why Narcissism Is Necessary on Twitter

I’ve been using Twitter actively for over a year now. Initially I started using it because I saw its potential benefits for my business. But after a couple of months, I started to absolutely love it. It became a means of expression for quick thoughts, photos, links, whatever, that wouldn’t normally be a blog post.

And I’ve heard from a couple of people I highly respect that there is a tendency for narcissism on Twitter – that there is a tendency to make it ONLY about you.

But as I began to reflect on that, I realized I WANT those I follow to be narcissistic via Twitter.

I follow people because I want to know ALL about them and their lives and thoughts.

I want to know if they are in the Atlanta airport. I want to see photos of everything they do. I click on Twitpics all the time for people I’m not even interested in just to see what other people are like. I love photos! I think many other people do too.

Why? Because I feel connected to them in some way.

This includes business people.

I follow every relevant business person because I want to know what they are up to, if they have a new product coming out, or links to things they share.

I follow all our team on Twitter.

I do this because I’m genuinely interested in their lives. I want to know what movies they are seeing. I want to talk trash with them. I want to know about their adventures.

A good friend of mine said that “Twitter cuts out the small talk.” I love that!

Recently, one of my partners walked into our office and asked Matt if he was still in a good mood. Matt was a little shocked. But my partner follows Matt on Twitter and knew he had just tweeted about being in a great mood.

I’ve been at conferences and someone will come up and introduce themselves to me and they’ll start right in about something I’ve shared via Twitter.

If they follow me, they probably follow those on our team. And they probably know the TV shows I watch, that I have two Yorkies that are our kids. They probably know I had been to Vegas recently.

And when we meet in person for the first time, it’s probably like connecting with friends you haven’t seen in a long time but keep up with in a passive way. I love those experiences, because we can indeed skip all that small talk and talk like we see each other every day. For me, this all helps further deepen a relationship we’ve built online through Twitter.

So I’m all for narcissism on Twitter … and if I don’t care about you, then I’ll unfollow. Just like you’ll do to me!

Approaching Twitter Like a Blog

Twitter has been described as a microblogging service for a LONG time, but that aspect really set in with me this week.

For a while, I’ve considered it good therapy. I get to express and share what I want, when I want — from photos, links, quotes and thoughts. And I have to admit I enjoy that.

I like getting responses to posting photos of our dogs, or asking for software or plugin recommendations and getting 10 responses in 10 minutes.

When I first signed up for Twitter, I let my account sit for almost 8 months before I actively used it. Then after getting linked on some WordPress developer lists, and finding I had a large number of people following me, I realized I needed to start engaging those people with it.

(Anyone that signs up to get any kind of notifications — whether email, feed or Twitter — of what you do or talk about is EXTREMELY valuable.)

So after a couple of months of tweeting actively, I started to actually like it. A lot.

I switched from taking a strictly business and reserved approach, to sharing anything I wanted. It was something with my blogs that I wanted to do — in fact, I’ve always reserved this blog for doing whatever I want, when I want. For other blogs, I tried to stay focused on a topic.

So this week, I started thinking about my Twitter account like a blog. These people have asked to get notifications from me and I want to be responsible with that trust.

So I asked myself, why do my Twitter followers follow me, and get updates from me?

If Twitter is a blog, what’s my blog topic? How can I engage them more? How can I be more relevant to them?

I can segment three groups on Twitter for me personally ….

  • Greater WordPress community — these people know I lead a WordPress theme company and I’m attached to topics in the bigger WP community since I’ve been involved with it for over 4 years now; I think these initial people followed me after I was linked in big Twitter WordPress developer lists
  • Our customer community — I’ve met a number of our customers who follow our entire team on Twitter; they like to know when we trash talk each other, or what things we’re working on, or even where are. These are THE most important followers on Twitter for me. I love to engage our customers through Twitter. The beauty of this was illustrated when we were at a WordCamp and two ladies came up to us and introduced themselves and said they’ve been following us on Twitter. I love that! Those are real connections built through social media.
  • Personal friends — these are people I typically see (in persona) throughout the week. Our banter is usually irrelevant to the other groups, but I also think engaging my friends on Twitter, and when the other groups see that, it makes me a real person — something I’ve tried to demonstrate in our recent videos. I laugh because a number of these people follow my tweets about business or WordPress and say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I like to read them.” What’s interesting is that the majority of people I know use Twitter for personal use only. They have about 100 followers, sometimes protect their updates, and just use it to stay in touch with their buddies when they’re at the mall, or whatever. If I’m being  honest, I’m jealous of this. I’ve almost thought about starting a new Twitter account just to talk about anything I want without regard to who might un-follow me.

So those are the types of things I’ve been thinking about … but thinking of it like a blog, with an audience and subscribers who have real topics and interest in mind, is helping me frame the next stage of how I use Twitter.

What about you?