By Jeff Matas
As I talk with churches and other employers, I’m hearing that one of the first prospective employee checks they do is scan social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc… I suppose we could call this the first interview. People who do not know or use good social media manners often do not make it beyond this first interview. I don’t think most people who post think about their postings affecting their future employment opportunities, but they do. I also think they affect future friendships.
I’ve asked Indiana Ministries’ social media guru, Jeff Matas, to write an article about social media manners. I encourage you to give it a read and ask if any insights apply to you. – Doug Talley
I am going to confess something: I unfollow people on social media. There are folks whose posts reach a point where I don’t want to follow them anymore. On Twitter, I unfollow people; if I know them personally, I “mute” them so I’m still connected to them but their tweets don’t appear on my feed. Facebook has the option to “unfollow” people so their posts don’t appear on your wall; I unfollow people all the time. I have often wondered how many of my Facebook friends I have unfollowed, so I checked. I have 862 friends on Facebook, and I have unfollowed 291 of them. That’s about a 34% unfollow rate. Some of the people I unfollow are folks I really don’t know that well or at all. Maybe we have met once and I get a friend request, but I am really not friends with them. They post a lot and their posts are all over my wall in a way that is disproportionate to my knowing them, so I unfollow them. The remainder of those that I unfollow or mute are typically for the following reasons:
- They portray themselves living a life that is impossible…it’s too perfect.
It is tempting to use social media to portray the perfect life. Your kids are all cute, wonderful and always bring you joy. Your marriage is the best. You’ve married the sweetest, the hottest, best spouse in the world. But that’s not the truth. No matter how great your kids are, they are not perfect. The truth is that sometimes they drive you crazy and that’s normal! Your spouse is not perfect, and you know that. You love them, they love you, but there are times when you have to deal with marital conflict because—guess what—your marriage includes two very imperfect people. Portraying a life that doesn’t exist is not real and people can’t relate to it and will tune you out.
- They over-disclose their day-to-day struggles.
Portraying your life as perfect tunes people out, but so does over-disclosing your daily frustrations and struggles. People post about being frustrated in life, that things never work out for them. They post about not having this or struggling with that. I saw a post from someone who was self-employed complaining that their life is miserable because no one was hiring them. There is plenty of room between “my life is all unicorns and rainbows” and “my life stinks.” We need to find the healthy middle of appropriate disclosure on a public space like social media. Just because you need to tell someone you are struggling doesn’t mean you need to tell everyone. Have coffee with a friend instead of pulling out your phone.
- Their posts are filled with rage and anger.
Too many people go to social media to vent in the heat of the moment. When someone has 20 items in the express lane, we fume, take a picture of it and then post our rant on social media. While waiting to see a doctor, we post a rant about the doctor’s staff. When our emotions are unchecked, we rarely say things that we are proud of the next day. So, when you are upset, do everyone a favor and don’t post.
- They are too political.
There is nothing that gets me to unfollow or mute faster than people that use social media to promote their political views and run down those who see things differently. I’ll say more about this in a bit.
- They post “dump-and-runs.”
They post “So discouraged…” and that’s it. Nothing else. Or “Hurting so bad…” and they wait for people to respond. It’s dysfunctional, and it’s not healthy.
- They post about their relational struggles instead of dealing with people in a healthy direct way.
People will call out their spouse, their kids, their neighbors, or their coworkers on social media. When I see a post where someone is airing out their frustration with others to the world, I cringe. I hurt for the one they have very publicly and inappropriately called out.
- They humble-brag.
We humble-brag about how hard we work – “I can’t remember the last time I took an entire day off” or “enjoying much needed time with my wife #beentoolong”. We humble-brag about our goodness – “Honored to pay the Starbucks tab for the mom in the van (loaded with kids) behind me #payitforward.”
As a ministry leader, our posts on social media are a very big deal.
I do have strong political opinions, but I try to be very careful in expressing my political views. In fact, I can’t think of the last time when I posted something political on Facebook or Twitter. I resist political posts for a lot of reasons, but the primary reason is that I don’t want to limit my influence only to those that think like me. The moment I get political, I lose the privilege of being heard by those that don’t share the same political viewpoint. So, if I post about my conservative politics, my voice is immediately marginalized by those that are progressive. If I post about my progressive political views, I can’t speak to those that are conservative because they have tuned me out. It is important to be vigilant.
I’ve noticed the tweets that are “liked” by those I follow on Twitter will hit my feed. So, just liking a tweet is the same as reposting the tweet, which means that I have to be very careful in hitting the like-button on tweets that I don’t want to appear on the feeds of those who follow me (that also includes humorous tweets that others might not appreciate).
Social media can be a powerful tool for good, but it can also feed our most base instincts. If we are mad, we post about it. If we feel good about ourselves for working hard, then we are tempted to brag about it. If we want to project the false image that our marriage and family is too good to be true, well . . . you get the picture.
One final piece of advice: In a job search, your social media is an important piece of information for any potential employer. Your posts reveal a lot about you and the type of person you are. Our posts reveal a lot about what we like, what we don’t like, what’s important to us, our level of emotional intelligence, how we deal with conflict, how we relate to others, and our worldview.
Leadership—at its very essence—is influence. Our use of social media can increase our influence, or it can limit it. If we are not careful, our influence can be muted and unfollowed.