My relationship with powerhouse Generation W conference-creator Donna Orender began with a random and unrelated Facebook post 7+ years before we ever crossed paths. I was living in NYC at the time, and one night I noticed a Facebook status from church friend. She needed a replacement at her regular babysitting job and since I’d been looking for ways to supplement my meager PR salary, I jumped at the chance. I began to babysit for the sweet Upper West Side family several times a week, and they became close friends during my years in NYC. When I left the city behind to travel the world in 2010, that family sent me off with hugs and promises to welcome me with open arms (and their connections!) if I ever returned.
When I came back from my around-the-world adventures and was trying to figure out what I should do next, one phone call to my adopted NYC family landed me a meeting with their family friend, a woman who happened to be the brand new Chief Marketing Officer of an enormous media network. After a 15-minute conversation, this brilliant CMO connected me with her friend in my hometown of Jacksonville… that woman was Donna Orender.
And the rest is history. Donna is now my mentor, a connected-to-everyone-in-a-seven-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon-kind-of-way woman with huge ideas and the clout to bring them to life. Stories of online connections like these are why I think social media is a priceless treasure — if we use it right.
Donna provided me the wonderful opportunity to participate and share my social media expertise via video with the teens at Generation Wow in November, and last week at the 3rd annual Generation W conference I shared my original video and some new info for the women in the audience. Below I’m including the highlights from my talk.
I’ve received hundreds of requests to share the video I created for Generation Wow, I borrowed lots of content from films and TV shows and I’m just not ready to go to prison for copyright infringement just yet. I’m working on a solution as we speak, so keep an eye on Twitter, Facebook and AngieAway.com for updates.
The Digital Divide: To Post or Not To Post
A vocabulary of truth and simplicity will be of service throughout your life. Winston Churchill
The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone? Ecclesiastes 6:11
Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace. Buddha
Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them. Nathaniel Hawthorne
All our words from loose using have lost their edge. Ernest Hemingway
When you have spoken the word, it reigns over you. When it is unspoken you reign over it. Arabian Proverb
Consider that all the bright thinkers and leaders I just quoted were mostly referring to verbal person-to-person communications. These guys thought we talked too much before the dawn of the Information Age, when we started announcing our feelings, what we had for breakfast and which Saved by the Bell Character Buzzfeed says we are to a broad, non-specific audience of people we barely know.
According to a report from the University of California San Diego, while print media is technically declining, we are consuming and expounding more words than ever. The report suggests that the average American consumes about 34 gigabytes of content and 100,000 words of information in a single day. At that rate, you could read War & Peace every 4 days.
Since we are more verbose in 2014 than we’ve ever been, today I want to talk very briefly about the weight of our words, particularly, the ones we use online. From my millennial perspective, I believe online interaction is as much a part of our cultural fabric as in-person interaction is. Social media is something nearly everyone in this multigenerational room uses. Whether you’re an early adopter, a late-bloomer or the Pope, our online personalities are all floating around in cyber space, interacting with one another, with very few rules about etiquette. Something Kanye West frequently reminds us of.
The rapidity of social media adoption into our culture left us in an unprecedented, bizarre cyber land without boundaries. There we were happily using snail mail and rotary phones according to guidelines that had long been in place, when Facebook broke the mold and changed everything. It happened so fast, many of us never stopped to make a plan for how to use those emerging social channels in a beneficial, productive way. We just started taking selfies and playing Farmville.
I think Relevant magazine said it best in a recent article: “With the exception of a few universally offensive statements or pictures, it’s [the internet is] a rule-free zone where we can interact with society while accepting minimal personal responsibility for the implications of what we do. In absence of guidelines for healthy and polite social media etiquette, we are left to determine our own boundaries for navigating the seemingly endless opportunities available to us.”
As Andy Stanley famously said in his book The Principle of the Path, we don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.
If you’ve never taken a moment to ponder how best to purposefully direct your digital life, I challenge you to give it some thought beyond just recreational use. If you’d like Facebook, Twitter and all the other social platforms to be more than just a digital black hole, think through some best practices you want to follow to put social media to work on your behalf.
Let’s use my strategy as an example. I’m a social media consultant, a journalist, a blogger and a publicist. My passions are traveling, volunteering, teaching others how to get the most out of their digital life and great white sharks. My online social goals are to inspire women to travel the world, to land new consulting projects and freelance writing jobs, to share content from my blog, to mentor teenagers and to keep my very overprotective & concerned family posted on my changing GPS coordinates.
Focusing on specific goals & passions helps me to keep my statuses and posts on track. Do I occasionally tweet something off topic, like goats singing Taylor Swift songs? YES. Stuff like that is what makes the Internet so awesome. But my main goal is to use social media platforms to move my career in a very specific direction, and to entertain and inform the people who’ve chosen to follow along.
So how do we know when to post or when to keep to ourselves? When I’m faced with the “to post or not to post” dilemma, I run through this short list – a great resource to keep in your back pocket as you create that overarching strategy for your online life.
5 Questions to Ask Before You Post
Am I seeking approval or attention?
Does my status reflect a fleeting emotion?
Is this statement kind or helpful?
Is this something I would say to someone’s face?
Is this a private moment or something to protect?
Think about whether your status reflects something you truly care about, an issue you know well, or an interest you genuinely pursue. If it doesn’t, and it’s not a funny cat video or Jimmy Fallon doing something hilarious, take the time to consider if you really need to share that internal monologue with the world at large.
Anonymity is no more. We’re all authors. We’re all publishers. And we’re all digitally tattooed with a lifetime of words, regardless of our privacy settings. It’s up to Generation W to lead the charge in the online world, living out the truth that our words have weight. In the digital age, even our throwaway Facebook posts and supposedly deleted photos can have long lasting consequences.
Sniping at each other over politics on Facebook, family feuds splashed for everyone to see on Twitter, throwaway comments about how we hate trying on swimsuits because we’re so fat and disgusting… I can make a video for the Generation Wow teens and encourage them to make good choices online, but if they don’t see that modeled for them from the women they look up to, it’s never going to stick.
Social media can be full of land mines. It’s not that hard to mess up and step out of bounds since no one ever showed us how to navigate the digital world. But remember cyber space is also overflowing with possibilities and opportunities, helpful tips, double rainbows and dancing cats. We don’t have to be intimidated by it. It’s the great equalizer, a place for Popes and celebrities and empowered women like all of us.
As I said to our Generation Wow girls in the video – how you use it is all up to you.
To access more information on the content from Generation W 2014, check out the live blog notes here.