The Side of Social Media No One Talks About

Social Media. Yes, it’s all the rage at the moment. But could this just be (…gasp!) a fad? Will we still be tweeting in 2015? Will Facebook and LinkedIn still be popular five, four, or even two years from now? Or will we have moved on to something else altogether? Aside from the compromised security issues and other well-documented misuses associated with some of these sites, there are other problematic aspects to social media right now that no one seems to mention.

When you’re in business, it is expected that you must be outgoing, friendly, extroverted and socially well-connected. Hence, the success of social media sites.

However, not all of us in business are naturally that way. There are some of us who struggle with shyness, stage fright, fear of public speaking and the burden of contending with the competition. For those of us with such attributes, we too have social media sites, where we can pretend to be everything we are not. Outgoing, friendly, extroverted and socially well-connected.

The trouble erupts when we confront the inevitable, shall I call it, “insult” – the 50-50 chance that someone will reject our invitation to connect, ignore our request for a professional recommendation, or worse, say something negative about us in a tweet or blog comment.

Just as in life, normal thinking adults are supposed to have the ability to shrug off such incidents as meaningless and move on to more important things. Sticks and stones, etc.

I, unfortunately, happen to be a person who takes everything to heart. Ridiculous as it sounds, my “feelings” get hurt easily and I dwell on why someone wouldn’t want to be my “friend,” though I am naturally reclusive.

But I must admit, I am as guilty as the next guy in doling out my own social media insults. Every time someone with whom I have done business invites me to connect on LinkedIn, I have to weigh whether connecting is a smart move for my other business relationships. If the new invitation is from a vendor, I try to keep such sources more discreet in case my clients decide to shop around for better pricing while snooping around on my LinkedIn page. And, if I connect with one vendor, mustn’t I connect with all vendors, some of whom I may not choose to continue using for a variety of reasons?

I have noticed that there is an option on LinkedIn, as there is on Facebook and Twitter, where you can sever the ties of your connection, follower or “friendship” which I imagine must be the ultimate insult (having not yet borne that burden personally)!

I recently invited a client of mine to connect on LinkedIn only to immediately regret and agonize over what now seemed to be our questionable relationship for the eternally long week it took her to respond. While I was giddy with relief when she finally accepted, I re-examined the whole episode as possibly a risk to an otherwise stable business relationship. With that experience fresh in my mind, I wondered whether social media is all it’s cracked up to be. For me, in examining her other connections, many of whom are my competition, it becomes an issue of worrying about the permanence of my value to her…but I guess that’s a constant when you’re in business. It’s just so much more threatening when it is so blatantly visible. I suppose I should be honored to be in such impressive company.

One of my attorney clients recently asked me to set him up on LinkedIn, which I had done for him on other professional networking sites. To start with, this involved uploading his properly sized and cropped photo, presenting his entire career of accomplishments in the appropriate category templates and choosing the correct preferences for his public persona. While the average person is expected to do these things for himself, someone with limited computer skills, awareness and time can find this to be a daunting challenge. Even for me, it sometimes takes a little trial and error to get things to display properly. In any case, I confirmed that the whole thing was set up, briefly explained what LinkedIn was all about and invited him to connect with me for his first connection. He sent me back an email which said “ok” and that was the last I’ve heard from him. I am not worried about our relationship which goes back some twenty years. Rather, I chalk this up to his not “getting” LinkedIn…as many of my other clients also don’t “get” Twitter or Facebook.

And I can’t say I blame them. I recently declined becoming friends with someone on Facebook, as I always do, for fear something we might say could end up tarnishing my personal Google results which I have worked so hard to keep positive in every way for business reasons. Since these Facebook invitations often end up in my Spam filter, if I weren’t such a vigilant email reviewer, I would otherwise miss them. So, I usually don’t go out of my way to respond, neither “accepting” nor “ignoring.” But if the invitation is from someone significant in my life, I try to send an email explaining my stance so there is no offense taken.

But what a world we now live in! Having to take precious time to politely decline or guiltily ignore invitations from any number of social websites where time spent usually ranks as time wasted for the most part. For all the hours I’ve spent crafting clever tweets on one of several Twitter accounts I started, the most I can show for it is a paltry number of “followers” who are obviously after me to buy something from them. Yes, I realize that many savvy Twitterers resort to purchasing programs or services which provide thousands of followers to avoid the embarrassment of having only 22 followers, for example, all of which are nothing more than spam or porn!

I do recognize the benefits of a good LinkedIn presence, however, which has served me well and is one of the strongest search results for my name on Google. That is a good thing, as are strong Twitter links as well, which I explain to my clients who may not understand SEO (search engine optimization) fully.

My attitude reminds me of something a fellow investor said to me during the boom at the turn of the century, that selling items from your sock drawer hardly constituted a good future for eBay. Here we are more than a decade later with eBay one of the major forces in the Internet universe. All that tells me is that anything is possible. “Hey, you never know!”

Yet, I still shun Facebook for my business entirely although I receive a constant barrage of invitations and reminders from them. And I realize the whole world is on Facebook and it is equally powerful in Google search results. I just don’t feel comfortable with it breathing down my neck, coveting my email accounts and trying to trick me into divulging some personal secret I may not care to share in my Google results for the remainder of my existence.

Okay, if it’s still around in a couple of years, there’s a good chance I will have joined the crowd by then. But until that happens…I will remain cautiously judicious. My time is too valuable at the moment.

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