As a small business owner I know it’s not just about spreadsheets and analytics. Entrepreneurship is about giving back and making a difference. As a military blogger I believe that it’s important not only to talk about the issues and challenges of our life, but to do so in a transparent and real way. I also believe that we must use our voice to make change happen. For that reason I think it’s time put a call out to my fellow bloggers, speakers and influencers because, frankly with all that’s going on out there IT’s TIME TO STEP UP AND IT’s TIME TO LEAD.
As someone with a following that shares stories to inspire, support and educate I can’t help but feel that in some way I’ve failed my readers and the online community as a whole. OK maybe not failed, but certainly missed an opportunity with regard to social media. In fact I know I’m not alone.
The point I’m making isn’t with regard to a particular message, way of doing business or even a certain level of success, it’s about the fact that we as a group, the bloggers, thought leaders and influencers, haven’t done a good job of making our platforms a safe and welcoming place to interact. You may say that’s not our job, but I challenge you and wonder who’s responsibility is it if not ours? Aren’t we the people who pave the way, create change and educate on that very playground?
Our lives are impacted so strongly by social media that we as leaders of that community have a certain responsibility to it and the people who frequent it. Together, because of our vast reach, we can absolutely make an impact and should do just that. We can provide lasting change where it matters most – in the daily lives of our communities and by the nature of what we do have an obligation to step up.
The Problem As I See It:
In a day where technology rules, gratification is instantaneous and communication is hit or miss surfing has become more than obtaining information, it’s become a way of life. It’s expanded our circles and allowed us to meet and connect with so many more people than ever before, but sadly many people feel lonelier and more disconnected than ever. People are hungry for connection and inspiration and now frequent the internet because it’s easier and less of a hassle than going out on the town. From internet dating to connecting with family and friends it’s a whole new kind of social life. And we the small business owners, aka the “gate-keepers” provide the playground with our blog posts, social media shares and community conversations. We have built the place for them to come, but forgot one important component. We never provided the rules or guidelines. The problem isn’t that people are seeking connection through social media but that they have no experience to draw from and they don’t know what to expect.
Much like high school without the teachers, counselors or principal, you have the cool kids, the victims, the burn outs, the introverts and the band geeks all who want to be king of the castle. There are no boundaries, no standards of conduct or dress codes and the result is disappointment, unfulfilled expectations and feelings of betrayal, exclusion and anger. Couple that with the illusion that everyone has a perfect life, perfect children and perfect relationships and you have a recipe for loneliness, depression and judgment.
Social media has left our kids believing that if things aren’t perfect they are flawed or something is wrong with them, it’s left our parents feeling disconnected and invaluable because they can’t keep up with the latest platform and given bullying the perfect hiding place. As a society we have never been more stressed out, depressed and unhappy, we have lost our sense of community and even become our own worst enemies.
Consider this: According to the Associated Press researchers found the rate for suicide increased 2.4 percent in 2014. This is the highest it’s been in more than 25 years and even though we are more connected than ever before our quality of life is steadily decreasing. We need to shift the tide and create real interaction and connection because that is what people want and need. We need to be true leaders and lead by example. I believe someone needs to step up and clean up the mess before it festers and if not those who create and maintain the space then who?
So to those of us that choose to be the story tellers, the thought leaders and the connectors, I say it’s time to
Small Business Owners It’s Time To
STEP UP AND LEAD
Here’ how to Become The Solution and Help Bring Our Society Together Through Social Media Using These 3 Simple Steps:
- Be authentic – online and off
Stop pretending! Whether it’s online or off authenticity in our online community leaders is critical for a healthy and happy society. I get the whole fake it til you make it mindset, but that doesn’t mean lie to your followers in an effort to prove you’re worthy. A true leader is transparent and authentic and your readers will follow suit when they see that it is safe to do so. Win-win right!?No one has a perfect life or is happy ALL of the time, so when your posts project that, you are in essence telling your readership that it isn’t ok to share the parts of their lives that aren’t perfect. The result is a culture of extremes and an environment ripe for judging, bullying and targeted attacks. Be the expert AND be real – find that balance as technology becomes an even bigger part of our lives and encourage authenticity in your flock.
- Interact, Demonstrate and Take a Stand!
It is through human interaction that we truly experience joy, and supportive connectivity and positive interaction is key to solving the issues that are going on online and contributing to the loneliness and sadness many people feel. Through our connections and our followers, we have the ability to influence and educate. Just like we had to learn the playground rules from those who came before us, society needs leaders to demonstrate how to play nicely online. Someone needs to establish and hold the boundaries and that someone needs to be the online leaders that are influencing our communities at their roots.By example we can demonstrate how to interact and support one another, how to stop cyber bullying in its tracks and how to connect with others online in a way that is enriching. We don’t have to accept comments that are degrading just so our analytics show engagement, and for goodness sake if you see hateful behavior don’t just ignore it.We as leaders set the tone and our followers look to us to see what is acceptable behavior. And shame on any of us who has looked the other way for sake of numbers and reach. We have a responsibility to clean up the mess that has begun to fester and take a stand for what can be an incredible place for us all to learn, grow and interact. I imagine that much of the spamming, bullying and hateful interaction would diminish if together we chose to
- Spark and Inspire Kindness and Understanding
A safe environment encourages the most interaction, and we as a group need to spark kindness, understanding and tolerance across every aspect of our profiles & platforms. I get that there will always be ugly people, but we don’t have to be connected to them in any way shape or form.Focus on creating quality informative content that people need (not just that you can make a quick buck or spikes your analytics ) and encourage your followers. SHOW them how to be helpful and respectful with one another and engage with those who are “playing nice with others”. Work alongside your followers to snuff out the bully’s and losers and we all win.
As a collective, we have the ear of multiple generations, socio-economic groups as well as corporate and political leaders. We represent every race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and socio-economic group. We are military and civilian parents, children, siblings, business owners and community leaders with every life experience imaginable. And we have power to change the tides and bring kindness and hope to the internet community and back to a society that desperately needs it.
I invite you to work to create an intricate web of information that inspires thought and facilitates better communication. I challenge you to take on the responsibility of doing more than just growing your business and to use your platforms to make change. Influence others in a way that will tap into the need for real connection and become a social voice of interaction that promotes an environment that isn’t hurtful.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject and encourage you to share any steps you have
for creating a supportive online community in the comments below!
~Judy Davis, the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author and lifestyle blogger as well as a military life and teen suicide prevention expert. Co-founder of DASIUM, Judy’s books Right Side Up and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Riskare go to resources for families and her websites are filled with tips, inspiration and resources for those looking for direction. Connect with Judy at TheDirectionDiva.com