At Church, a man gets down on his knees before the alter, and prays to G-d to give him the grace to win the lottery. "Dear G-d, I beg of you: Please grant me the good fortune to win the jackpot." He comes back day after day to show his devotion. After a year of praying, G-d finally breaks down and says, "My son, please, I beg of you, buy a ticket!"
What does a joke about G-d have to do with what social media can teach you about the meaning of life? A lot, actually.
Let me present my top eight insights about what Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have taught me about living a life of greater meaning. Extra bonus: these tips will also help build your online influence and brand, both personally and professionally.
1. Relationships are Everything: whether we are talking about our Creator, our friends on Facebook, or our followers on Twitter, everything is symbiotic. Life is not about talk and take. It operates instead by a law of reciprocity; by a code of causality. To win friends and followers -- build meaningful relationships. They lead to connection and growth.
2. Give Whenever Possible (it is always possible). Some people live their lives as receptors: they passively soak everything up. But the reality is that giving is the cardinal rule of living. Religions teach this truth and so does social media. Don't wait for likes on Facebook. Be the liker. Don't sit, idly waiting for someone to share your content on Twitter. Take action: Retweet! Do not -- I repeat, do not -- share your own content and ideas with egocentric abandon. Spread the brilliance of others.
3. Spread Joy. We all know the personality type on social media who exclusively shares doom and gloom. War. Famine. Strife. Heartache. Lamentation. You get the picture. They are typically the same people who bring you down in person. This is not to suggest there is no role for consciousness raising on social media, but remember, the content you share is a reflection of who you are, what makes you tick, what you believe and what you aspire to become. Chances are if you only share the downside of life online, you're doing this in real life too. Don't be a downer. Opt to be uplifting and constructive.
4. Be Kind. I know a few people on social media that act like bulls in a china shop. They are always giving the contrary opinion, always criticizing and provoking. These people are hard to take in life, but sometimes we don't have a choice; we can't "delete" someone at the office or at school. On social media, ending our "relationship" with someone is a simple click away. Don't be the guy people block. When your social media personality is characterized by kindness, people choose to be around you -- to follow you, to like your content, to spread your messages. The same applies for life.
5. Be Wary of Selfies and Narcissism. I once read that if you are taking one selfie a day and uploading it online, it's time to take a sabbatical from social media. Life is so much richer, grander and more interesting when you focus on others instead of exalting your own ego. So get past the selfie. If you are waiting for people to throw roses at your feet (in the form of "likes" and praise), brace yourself for the stench of stagnation. Narcissism is the plague of the social media world. (Note to self: a selfie every once in a while -- especially if it's sardonic -- is perfectly permissible.)
6. Cultivate a Thick Skin. Not everyone puts #4 into practice. Social media sometimes teaches you the valuable lesson of holding your chin high, despite criticism. Don't let haters rain on your parade. I once read that "behind every successful person lies a pack of haters." Rise above the noise, fortify yourself, and keep creating - it's better for your soul than throwing rocks.
7. Authenticity is King. One of the ways to shine in life and on social media is to be real. I recently wrote about Women and the Imposter Syndrome and a few people asked me: why on earth would you put yourself out there like that? It's simple: it was true. Expressing yourself honestly builds trust. People respect and follow those they can believe.
8. Social Media is Not a Shrine. There is nothing specifically holy about Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, although I feel like many of us treat our accounts with the reverence of temples. Social media is a powerful force. But do not be confused. You decide how you will harness the power. The problem is, sometimes I feel like social media controls us, rather than vice versa. The takeaway here: take time to recharge your batteries, and remember, people are more important than devices and platforms.
Like the man at the alter at the beginning of this article, you will feel forsaken, disappointed and alone if you deliver sermons and soliloquies online without regard for reciprocity. Waiting for others to discover you, help you, promote you and like you is a passive, selfish path. It will result in a lonely journey both online and offline. Try this instead: like, share, care, retweet. Repeat. It feels good and it makes other people feel good too. This works equally well in life.
People think success on social media is a deep, dark mystery. I often hear entrepreneurs, companies and nonprofits lament their paltry presence online. Why is no one following me? They come back day after day, asking the same question. Sound familiar? We are wonderful, brilliant and talented; ergo, why are we not winning the social media lottery? Unsurprisingly, the gods of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram remain silent and unresponsive.
Let me fill you in on a secret: It's because you are too busy focusing on you, your company and your brand. You. You. More you. Forget about yourself for a second. Focus on the scintillating stars around you. They are gorgeous, captivating and brilliant! There is so much to discover. It is there waiting, just like you. All you have to do is open years eyes, click and share.
Who would have thought that the secret to success on social media -- the bastion of the selfie, solipsism and self-promotion -- is to focus outwardly on others. What an exquisite irony. And the best part: the same is true in life. I would totally retweet that.
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