Social Media: Business and Authenticity

Continuing with my theme of social media for another post or two...

I recently read about an incident where a photographer on the east coast had his business dry up after he hit the road following and shooting the Trump campaign.  His claim was that once he was profiled by the local media (news bit akin to "Local Photog Shoots Trump Campaign") and people learned that he was an avid Trump supporter, people no longer wanted to give him business.  I'll be honest with you: I checked out his work, and frankly, I was amazed that people were giving him work before.  I don't mean to be judgmental, and I think everyone should experience the joy of shooting regardless of talent or skill, but objectively, his work really wasn't at the level that people should be paying for it (and FYI, the Trump campaign wasn't paying him).  But I digress...  Regardless, apparently he had been getting business before, and now it was drying up.

In the article I read, an interesting discussion (by photographers) followed in the comments section.  A trend in some of the comments was the the collective sentiment that basically clients should never know your political leanings, that such things one should keep totally private.  The conversation here was specifically about professional photography, but the logic could be applied to any business.  This got me thinking: can one put themselves out there online (Twitter, FB, etc.) and be truly authentic?  For example, I have a Twitter account (@RyanFonkert), and my posts range the gambit, from political posts about the election, to my bicycle adventures, to my personal and professional photography.  Now, many social media savvy business advisers would specifically recommend against the political posts.  If I stop myself from commenting on such things, though; if I censor myself; am I truly being authentic, being my true self?  And if I do lose a couple potential clients over something like that, are they clients I would really want to work with anyway?  Some would suggest to just have a secondary, anonymous account for such opinion posts if one really feels a need to post about such things, and I already have a few accounts for specific purposes, but honestly, it gets tiring, switching between accounts and thinking about what has to be posted where, etc.  And in the case of an anonymous account (which I don't do), I simply don't like the idea of not owning what I'm saying, of hiding behind an avatar.  It just feels like cowardice to me.

There's also a flip side to that social media authenticity coin, offering up in-authenticity by offering up comments that really just aren't in your true nature.  For example, if you read enough articles, books, etc. about how to successfully blog, post on social media, etc., you'll specific suggestions about what tone to use in your posts, to end with questions that prompt user engagement in the comments, etc.  I see these methods commonly put to use by photographer friends of mine - photographers whose work I greatly respect - and they really do work, but knowing these people personally, I see how phony it is, as that type of engagement is NOT how they actually are in real life.  So they're putting on a mask to get that engagement in hopes that it leads to business; and to be fair, I think it often does.  But what's given up for that success?

The Distraction of Social Media

First, before the title makes you think, "Oh no, another person preaching the evils of social media right after they quit... These people are worse than vegans or ex-smokers!", let me clarify that this ISN'T what this post is.  I think social media can be a very useful tool, or even just a pleasant distraction, for many people when used properly and in moderation.  What I'm going to talk about here is my experience with it, with Facebook in particular.

I'm a Facebook addict.  There, I said it.  When I'm active on Facebook, I'm ACTIVE, meaning I post and interact a LOT.  What I had come to realize recently is that it had become too much a part of my life, often to the detriment of other things.  When I mentioned the "in moderation" above, that was the opposite of me...  Back in July, I deactivated my account for a couple weeks to just clear the cobwebs a bit, get myself away from the distractions and negativity, and just get myself a bit more focused again.  It's amazing how, with that time reclaimed, I began to think about more productive things: things I wanted to write, photo shoot ideas, website and business ideas, etc.  Basically, with my brain free of thinking about things to post, replies to posts, etc., I could put my mind to other uses.  It was very freeing.

Then it happened.  I had something (political) I really wanted to speak out about, and Facebook has always been my preferred venue, so I decided to opt back in.  Surely now that I realized the value of spending my time differently, I would be wiser and engage in a more limited, moderate way, not waste so much time.  Ha!  It didn't take long before I fell right back into the old habits, and not only that, but right from that first post, I fell right back into the same old tired debates with the same old people.  It's not just wasting time, it's re-wasting time, as I was having the exact same types of discussions with the exact same people, and per usual, no one was changing anyone's mind.  It's just friends speaking at (not to) each other on the Internet.  And man, all those ideas I had churning during my break?  They quickly fell to the back of my brain, hardly getting any more thought as I focused on these new lively (albeit repetitive) discussions.  After just a couple weeks back on, I knew what I had to do...

So I've quit again.  I'm now about 5 days sober. :)  The ideas and deeper thoughts have come back.  Not only that, I just find myself more focused in the moment: I'm a better driver because my mind isn't thinking about my next reply in an online conversation; I'm more engaged with my family, as I'm not just thinking about posting pictures of the moments were enjoying together; etc., etc.  

I've also replaced that activity with more productive (to me) writing activity: not only blogging, which forces me to write more long-form, but also doing actual, physical writing in a notebook.  I'm finding that putting actual pen to paper makes me achieve greater focus about whatever I'm thinking about, and when I read back on it later, I can then think more critically, "Is this really something I also want to put online, to blog about; or is it something I should just leave alone, leave it just for me?"  I'm not writing every single day yet, but at least every couple of days I've been getting the notebook out and putting some thoughts down, usually on an afternoon coffee break at work.  It makes for a nice break in the work day, too. 

Now, I haven't gone total 20th century and given up on all social media.  I'm still active on Instagram and Twitter (and cross-post to Tumblr), but those I've always been able to use in more moderation than Facebook.  I can read or post on Twitter for a few minutes, and then not think about it again for a couple days.  Instagram sucks a little more of my time, but I still keep it much more moderate; it's not anything I consider detrimental.  And I have kept my Facebook Messenger account active so I can still be in contact with friends for whom the only real contact info I have is FB.  I just don't have the main account active, so don't waste hours on the news feed, get tagged, etc.

I'm not going to count this any raging success yet, not until I've remained off for months and don't even think about it anymore.  Then the monkey is finally off my back... :)

What social media platform is the big time waster for you?  Or is it something besides social media?