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Re-Thinking Social Media:  What It Is, and Why Use It

by Eric Hellman

Welcome to a new, ongoing topic called "Social Media and Working in an Online World."

Now, before you run screaming into the night... say to yourself "that’s not for me!" - or click away thinking, I’ve heard it all before...
let me share a few insights that have helped me change my own thinking.

I don't use most social media very effectively; in fact, I often try to avoid it. And I suspect some of you may be the same.

Yet here's the paradox: All of us are already using it regularly, in one form or another.
Emails (and mass emails) are one type of social media. This bulletin board/forum is another. Almost everyone also has a Facebook page, a Twitter account or a LinkedIn page, though most of them don't use them much and certainly not very well. The world keeps telling us that we "should." But for whatever reason, we are resisting, feeling blocked, or haven't found a good "why" for doing so. (Sound familiar?) 

That by the way, describes me perfectly. Actually, it's more than that; a part of me “hates” social media. The term triggers something inside that jars, shakes and rattles my chains. When I look at how it's used to market/sell to people, and how much ego gets expressed through it, a part of me turns off. (Yes, I’ve clearly judged it... [wink] )

Recently, I decided to heal my thoughts toward it, and ‘unpack’ what social media really is. And that’s how this series came about. My goal is to help "spiritual people" - well actually, anyone - see social media differently, understand how it can serve them, and use it with more ease and comfort.

IF that sounds like something that might be useful to you, then here's your "Mission-IMPOSSIBLE":

1) Read the Re-introduction to Social Media (below) that helped me to think about it differently. 

2) Then (when you're ready) take a glance at Growing My Spirituality and Work on the Web, a personal article written by Anna Bowness-Park. Anna is a social media veteran, having used it for over 10 years. (I've asked her to share her experiences with it because of what she's accomplished, and the sensitive ways she sees it. She'll also be a regular contributor to this series as well.) 

Hope you find these helpful.
Please let us know, or share your experiences, by using "Reply" below...

And let's start having some fun with this stuff! 


A Re-Introduction to Social Media  
(aka Social Media Kindergarten)

When we start using something new, it's helpful to:
   a) have a good reason to do so;
   b) find a way we can use it easily; 
   c) get some results we want.

That way, our experience will lead us to want to do it again.

We also need to get over our initial barriers to using it. That includes being able to relate to and understand it, in a way that makes sense to us. And getting past our judgments and resistance to it. (Which of course, as spiritual people, none of us have. So I’ll omit these below... [wink]

Here are some of the reasons why many of us have held back on social media:

    a) lack of understanding about WHAT it is 
    b) no clear reason WHY to use it
    c) little understanding of HOW to use it

    d) don’t feel we have time to learn or use it
    e) all the hype about and ego expressed through it

    f) resistance to the whole idea in general (i.e. it’s all &*#*&$).

Quick Survey: Which ones have held you back?
Mentally click on one, several, all... or none of the above. 
(Personally, I’m ALL of the above.)


Step One

So where do we start with re-thinking social media? Well, as the Masters say, “begin at the beginning.”

1) What does “Media” mean?
Traditionally, “media” have been the major forms of public communication in our lives: that is, essentially newspapers, radio, TV. Because of their cost, these media have been operated by companies that could afford to run them. As a result, these companies became the "broadcasters" of information into our lives – with little input from us. They were "one-way" forms of communication.

2) What does “Social Media” mean?
With the arrival of the Internet, the ability to communicate "publicly" has shifted dramatically -- so that now, anyone can do it. Therefore, to me, the term “social” means two things: personal, and relationship. “Social media” are the ways that you and I (and everyone) can now communicate with each other, our friends, even people we don't know, around the world -- and create grow some kind of 'relationship' while doing so. (Stay with me...)

3) What are the “tools” of Social Media?
The purpose of a tool is simply to help us accomplish something we want. A frying pan helps us cook breakfast, a saw helps cut wood. A computer helps us store information, and a cell phone helps us remember what we're supposed to be picking up at the grocery store. (Okay, that was for guys; but you get my point...)

The "tools of social media" are simply the different ways we now have to communicate publicly.
These include:

a) General tools: like the internet, emails, websites and blogs. (Yup, we’re already using them. Whew!)

b) Specific tools: like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, Pinterest, Vimeo, Mailchimp, Wix, Weebly, etc......

(Note: Take a breath here, and remember: You don’t have to use anything you don’t want to.)

4) WHY ON EARTH would we want to use these?

As a close friend in our network, Michael Locey, recently pointed out, it’s all about “clarity of purpose.” If we don’t have a clear reason for doing something, why bother?

So why use these social media tools? Here’s my simple answer:
To more easily share our ideas with others, and to receive theirs as well.

At the heart of it, that's what this is really all about. “Social media” is just a catch-all term that describes a multitude of ways (tools)... to connect with others, in order to share ideas, thoughts and feelings -- plus pictures, videos, information, insights, expertise, products, services, and experiences. Ours to them, and theirs to us.


Step Two

Now ask yourself these three questions:

a) Do I have anything I want to say, express or share? Is so, what?

b) Do I want to learn or receive anything from others? If so, what?

c) With whom -- or from whom?

For example:

- Do you want information on spirituality at work... conscious business... meditation... mindfulness... thought leaders in your field...?

- Are you starting up a new business, program, product or service? 

- Do you want to get research about something?

- Do you want to find out what communities of people are talking about the things that interest you?

- Do you want to find out how to do something – like build a shed, fix your car, meditate, market, or heal yourself?

Social media tools are simply ways to share what you are doing, what you’re interested in, what you want to find out, find people you want to know, or connect with people who may want your products, services or ideas.

Then, as Einstein said, "the rest are details." Who you want to connect with, what social media tools will help you do this, and how to use them... are just the details. And in future articles, we'll explore all of these.

And that's it. You just passed Kindergarten.

Gold stars.png 

A final couple of thoughts...

When I began working in the environmental field, 40 years ago, one of the seminal books was called “Small Is Beautiful” by a pioneer named E.F. Schumacher. Two of his core principles were: find the tool/technology that best fits your use (e.g. don’t use chainsaw to cut butter); and don’t use something you don’t need – because you’ll waste energy and resources, time and money.

For me, similar principles apply to all technology, including social media:

  a) Don’t be pushed into it because others tell you that you should.
  b) Find what fits for and serves you.
  c) Use the ones you want to, and which resonate for you.
  d) Let go the rest (without guilt/self judgment).
  e) Be open to new ones coming along... that, with a little understanding, will be something you wouldn’t want to live without.

Remember what it was like when you started using a computer. (This assumes you’re over 35 or 40. If you aren’t, you probably grew up with them – and have something to teach the rest of us.)

When computers were introduced, most of us resisted them at first. But some caring people suggested reasons why we’d want to use one: It’s a typewriter replacement. An easy way to do spreadsheets. A great way to stay in touch with your relatives. Or a cool way to store recipes...

Whatever caught your attention, at some point you flipped and said: YES! Of course I want that!

And now we can barely live without them.

Consider taking the same approach with social media tools. Think about what you want to do, and why you want to do it. And in future articles, we'll help you find a tool to help you do it.



Take some time to go and play... meditate... walk in nature... or tickle yourself (or someone you love). 

And when you're ready... 

Take a look at
 Anna Bowness-Park's article on how she got started, and how social media helped her FLY in her work!


If you have experiences with social media and the Web that you'd like to share...
or questions about how to use specific tools,
please click on Reply (below) and let us know - or email us at:

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