By Penny Power OBE
Many discussions around the risks of social media often hone in on business reputation and conversations regarding your brand, but not nearly enough is centered on the emotional wellbeing and mental health of entrepreneurs on the receiving end of unsolicited advice.
The feedback that you come across online can knock you sideways as you realise that despite achieving in your own way, somehow you are no longer doing enough or being enough.
Here I reveal how to build your emotional resilience to avoid being pulled into the negative conversations that can take place online and how to become the leader of your own life.
The past ten years have seen many of us become more and more dependent on social media; the impact it has on our daily lives is extraordinary. At best it reduces loneliness and provides a feeling of being worthy to others – at worst, it makes us feel small, isolated and lacking.
I have witnessed the transformation in communication in business. When I launched Ecademy, it was the first business social network in the world. This was followed by LinkedIn in 2002; by this point, Ecademy had been trailblazing ‘friendship in business’ for four years.
I remember the evangelistic energy I had to have; all my talks, writing and advice focused on helping business people realise that in a social world, who you are as a person is more important than what you are. I could observe the hundreds of thousands of members in our community and the way they blogged, shared and cared. I was able to see those that naturally wanted to be friends and support others as well as those that were in it for themselves and own personal gain.
Now, sixteen years on, most business owners can’t imagine life without Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as part of their business strategy, similar to how corporate employees feel about LinkedIn. Still slightly polarised, these four social networks are an incredible resource.
During in 2018, we have seen the headlines and the impact of these networks on the mental health of teenagers. The addictive nature of social media, the dependency on the ‘likes’ for validation and the dopamine fix they get when rewarded with attention. This is all great when the attention is positive and comes in the quantity that is hoped for, but what about the negative?
My interest is in the self-employed, the business owner, the entrepreneur and even the employed – the working adult. How are they coping with this substantial invasion in their lives? Not born into it, the majority have adapted their skills to use these platforms, as well as adapting their mindset to it.
In my Loneliness Study that I conducted on Facebook, 82 per cent of the participants said they had, or were experiencing, loneliness. When I questioned further, encouraged conversation and arranged face-to-face interviews with many of them, I discovered that their dependence on social media was actually damaging their emotional and mental health.
I can place the damage into five categories:
Finding the balance of victim or hero:
When making a post on social media for advice, often people share a vulnerability, if you do this you need to make sure you do not become disempowered by the sympathy people sometimes like to give, empathy and constructive support and advice is usually what we all seek, so wording your post in a strong way can help to reduce the victim management by some.
Compare and despair:
This is watching the amazing lives of others; well-chosen moments by others that show the best of their lives, and the comparison with the moment you are in. Why didn’t I win an award? Why didn’t I go to that event? Why am I not as successful, or as beautiful, or why do I lack? The reality is that you are comparing your 360degree knowledge of yourself and all your vulnerabilities, with the one dimension in front of you.
Sharing something about your life and then being given advice you didn’t ask for. “…by the way Penny, perhaps you should do XYZ.” These are well-meaning people that make your head spin as that was not the course you were on. Now you pivot, twist and turn and try to keep up with everyone else and their amazing strategies.
Addiction to validation:
The need for self-worth moments – seeing how many people like, share or comment on something that is important to you. You are constantly checking that what you have to say matters.
Output of results:
This is the failure to realise that social networking and media is about marketing and driving your brand, and not about conversation of likes to sales. Few people can build a brand that funnels into direct sales from the social sites. Advertising on these sites can work, but the most important things is to ensure you don’t damage your brand by selling all the time in your social feeds – ego is very easily spotted and avoided online. Disguised bragging and self-promotion are very different to engaging with ‘business friends’. All the self-promotional effort can leave others questioning their commercial value, when actually, they need to design and know how to sell, how to drive conversations to create transactions, and not the other way around.
The best tip I can give, that counters all of these issues above is: “Be in control of what who you are and what you want out of life – be the leader of your own life and business;” don’t ricochet from one idea you see online to another, stand in your own space and believe in what you are building in your life. Make sure you see people face to face in some way, every day – visit a coffee shop, go networking, talk to people in the supermarket, spread your smile and kindness and engage in a deeper way than the shallow ‘share and like’. Social media has a place in all our lives – make sure it is a positive one. Finally, remember that how you are feeling is how we are all feeling, so don’t sympathise; empathise – don’t just click like; add a comment, chat and be a friend. That will be the best way to manage your emotional wellbeing and for you to feel connected.
About the author:
Penny started leading conversations in business wellness in 1998 when she Founded the world’s first business online community, Ecademy. She has been a business owner, speaker and writer for 20 years. She was awarded her OBE by the Queen in January 2014 for her contribution to Entrepreneurship in the Social Digital World. Penny’s latest book, Business is Personal launches in 2019. In the book, Penny discusses the importance of us holding onto our own beliefs and definition of the life we want to lead and live, in a world of ‘comparing and despairing’ that has been created by the overuse and dependence on social media. Penny boldly opens up about the trials of her own life and the observations she has of the way we are all being sucked into believing we lack, rather than having the confidence in our own values, skills and dreams. Penny is keen to ensure that business start-ups, self-employed, business owners and employed people are also guided and supported in a world of communication that not only impacts the mental health of teenagers, but very much impacts working adults.