That probably seems pretty counter-intuitive to most people I know, especially those that are using social media to help build their own personal brand, or promote their blogs, or engage in "the conversation." But for me, none of those reasons mattered. Or at least not anymore.
Back when I worked in PR, it was all about building your personal brand - establishing oneself as a social media afficianado, someone who was clearly savvy about all social mediums and how they could be used for their clients. Only, my clients were mostly enterprise software companies and social media was as foreign to them as another language. I was friends with reporters, and other PR people, and my clients ... and I found myself not being authentic. That's not to say that I ever posted anything that wasn't real; rather, it wasn't the real me. It was the professionally sanitized version of me. When I quit my job in PR in late 2010, I kept on with the keep on because when you're interviewing, people look at that stuff. Your social acumen truly does matter. Once I started my new job and my social stature became a non-issue, I started taking back my Facebook profile - it was just me, myself, and I. I unfriended clients. I unfriended reporters. I unfriended people I knew through PR, but didn't really know anything about. It was liberating, in a way.
After awhile though, I realized that I wasn't really getting anything out of Facebook that I wasn't also getting on Twitter. Yeah, several people "like" my posts, and that's great. But I didn't feel like the information I was reading - or putting out there, to be honest - was all that meaningful, to anyone. And then I realized that I couldn't really complain about not having actual conversations if I wasn't willing to invest the time myself. So I started commenting more on people's posts instead of just hitting the little like button. If someone asked for insight into a topic I'd take the time to respond and give them the information I had. What's the best restaurant in Berkeley for an event or a romantic dinner? What's the best Hawaiian island for romance (or family)? What are some good activities to do on the weekend in the Bay Area? What are some good beach reads? What are some good travel sites? What are some good real estate sites? If there was a question a friend was asking that I felt I could help them with, I would take the time to do it.
And then these past few weeks I noticed that the behavior was not being reciprocated. I have a lot of people on my friends list who work in the same general field that I do. We all run into the same particular questions from clients or our boss, or someone within our organization. I asked a fairly benign question - what podcast tool do you recommend? No answers. I know these people are recommending podcast tools to their clients, or recording the podcasts for their clients themselves. So I spent a couple of hours doing the research myself when I could have been doing my actual work. And then my boss threw me a curveball and asked me to create a podcast with slides attached. I've seen people do this. I know it can be done, but I myself have never been involved with this. So I reached out to my community and asked a more specific question about podcasting. One person responded. I couldn't use her information, but I very much appreciated that she took the time to throw something out there as a tool that could possibly work. Sadly, that was one person in about fifty that work in the field.
So then I did a bit more digging. I looked at my wall on my iPad this morning. For each time I posted something, I had responded to two or three other people. So, I was participating the conversation, but when it came time for others to engage with me, I was predominantly talking to myself. And I have to be honest - that kind of hurt, and I don't want to feel beholden to update a social media site that doesn't make me feel good about myself - or my supposed friends. If I can take the time to comment on one of a hundred random baby pictures, I'd like to think that you could take the time to respond to something I post. Alas, that doesn't seem to be the case. So I've taken myself out of the equation. I'm guessing the only people who will notice is my sister and my mom. We'll see. In the meantime I still have - and love - Twitter.