Struggling with social media sites? Finding it hard to make friends online? This may help!
A long time ago my mom had a friend who was desperate for love; I’ll call her Dee. Most evenings she would get all made up and dressed up and jeweled up and go hang out at one bar or another, sure that she’d find her lifelong love there. At that time I, about 20 years younger than her, overweight and comparatively plain in manner and appearance, was in a dating phase of my life. And I had several dates each month, some of whom became friends, some of whom were just people to do stuff with, I wasn’t looking for – and didn’t want – The One. I remember talking with Dee one evening at my mom’s house, and she asked quite plainly, “I don’t understand it, I go out almost every night looking for a man, and I look so great, and you’re…….well, anyway, why do men like you and not me? I just don’t understand it!”
Well my answer would be the same when discussing nearly any relationships, and that includes everything from casual chatting with near-strangers to the deep friendships that sometimes develop on social media. The answer isn’t easy, but it is simple. I see a lot of people like Dee express frustration online because they aren’t getting what they’re looking for. The simple answer – and I won’t make you read all the way through to get to it – is that they aren’t what other people are looking for. Read that again before I go on.
Now think about what you’re looking for in friends on the typical social media site. People who always talk about themselves, maybe…or someone who keeps turning every conversation back to their own stuff? Maybe people who don’t hear or acknowledge in a meaningful way what others are saying? Or people who ignore every one of your posts or contributions but want to take their toys and go home because nobody comments on theirs?
No? Neither would I! Why? Because they don’t make us feel good. Rather, we feel irrelevant, unimportant when our own thoughts, posts, and comments are ignored. Who wants that? One of the Big Life Lessons I learned from my dad was that it is easy to make someone’s day better. Big return, small effort. Just show you care. Smile. Compliment. Listen. Like would make you feel good if someone cared enough to do the same. Is that more like what we seek in social situations? I thought so.
I have been part of social sites that have great potential, great leadership, lots of wonderful things, including a good-sized group of members who are actively posting. But I have seen, multiple times, comments about not enough activity or conversation. You know why? Of those I see posting, 90% of them are sharing their own stuff, most of it good or helpful or edifying or whatever…lots of great memes, meaningful words, heartfelt messages, music with passion, even personal experiences and thoughts…yet only 10% are actually responding any sort of meaningful way. Clicking a thumbs up like button isn’t meaningful. Single- or even double-word comments don’t convey much. These aren’t engagement. IF that is all that people want, a place to put their own stuff out there without also showing interest in that of others, then a SOCIAL platform may not be a good fit.
It is my personal belief that if we join a social group of any kind, we assume part of the responsibility for not only our own experience there, but also its success, which come in great part to participation with the other members. If we just want to put ourselves out there without involvement with other members about their contributions, a simple blog may be a good place for that, where people can interact if they want to, but relationship-building isn’t the purpose. A social platform thrives with interaction, which is a reasonable expectation.
Put yourself out there, put your stuff – and your SELF – out there, get the ball rolling. Then go see what everyone else has put out there. Offer up a meaningful comment to every post that triggers a thought or a feeling. Encourage, support, relate. A great formula YuMmY – make it about You, then Me, then back to You. Bonus for ending with a question that shows your interest AND keeps the conversational ball rolling. Here are some examples:
You really did a great job of how to balance on a unicycle understandable! When I tried a unicycle I didn’t really get into it. How long did it take you learn such great balance?
Oh that hurts so much when you lose a beloved pet! Mine have always been family members too. I hope that your wonderful memories will help you in your grief.
YOU – I hear what you are saying
ME – I can relate to what you are saying (but it isn’t about me, so…)
YOU – A supportive statement or question about their subject
Participate. Interact. Care. Put out a small effort for a big return. Make someone else’s day better by being about them and what they care about, and they will be drawn to you. Bring people out to play. Be about others as much as you’re about yourself. Be social. You might be surprised at how things will suddenly start to get better for you!