Social Media Under Stress – Pitfalls, Power and Purpose

There is undoubtedly stress in the air.  In fact, I think that stress has long seeped into our mindset and saturated all of the nooks and crannies of life.  And when we are stressed, if you remember, our brains and bodies kick into “fight or flight” mode.  Rational, logical thinking leaves us to prepare to fight for survival.  It is important to keep in mind, social media is not space where ‘fight or flight’ is necessary.  Let’s briefly talk about the pitfalls, power, and purpose of using social media in times of stress. 

Pitfalls of Using Social Media While Stressed

Quite simply, we use social media to express the emotions we are feeling.  Humans are inherently emotional beings.  And when we feel something, we actively seek connection with other people to feel with us.  We are social in our emotions.  When we are happy – we want everyone to be happy with us. When we are upset, we want the world to sympathize and be upset, too. Social media is the perfect outlet for us to showcase our emotions and seek emotional camaraderie.  In fact, it is because of sharing emotions that social media works at all.

However, there are pitfalls. When we post from a negative emotional space, whether it be frustration, fear, anger or anxiety, not only can we invoke that emotion to people who see our posts, we tend to post things that are not what we would say, do, believe or act upon if we were not under duress.  As business owners, coaches, leaders, or entrepreneurs, that may ultimately impact our success as an online presence. 

The Power of Controlling Our Emotions 

Social media works because of emotional engagement.  Without connecting with people, nobody cares and your posts get minimal views.  But, as leaders, controlling your emotions and engaging with your audiences from an emotionally intelligent, and emotionally responsible position is power.  The question you might be asking is, “Well, how do you do that?” 

  1. Stop and step away: Give yourself a break.  If we listen closely to ourselves, we can determine when we are stressed, anxious, or mad.  If you cannot be that vigilant, you might need a break from social media. Step away long enough for you to determine what your thoughts are when the emotions have dulled. 
  2. Listen: Revisit the post, incident, or image that invokes such a strong emotion.  Review it.  Ask yourself what you think the speaker is really trying to communicate? What is beyond the words?  What is their emotional state?  Check yourself and make sure you are responding to the concept – and not the speaker, the emotion or the context.  If you are not ready to do that — go back to step 1 and stop and step away. 
  3. Draft a response:  Draft a response.  Write it on paper, in your notes, or on your hand.  Write it out somewhere.  Often, we don’t know what we really think or feel until we write it down. This might be messy. It might require edits.  Don’t post it – just write it. 
  4. Wait:  Yep – just wait.  Sit things out.  Time gives us perspective and is a great internal checks-and-balance system. 
  5. Edit: Review what you drafted. Does it need to get changed? Revised? Edited?  Or maybe trashed?  Go back to what you wrote and refine your messaging to make sure you are really saying what you want to say and responding to what the speaker really is trying to communicate. 
  6. Respond — or perhaps choose not to: Post your response.  Or, maybe you choose not to.  

After stepping away, reflecting, writing and reflecting some more – now you should be at a place of emotional control where you can show up as a leader online. 

Use Emotion For Purpose 

As leaders, we constantly have to remember why we are showing up online.  It isn’t to talk.  We are showing up to lead.  Plato once stated, “Wise men speak because have they something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something.”

Be purposeful.  Don’t show up just to talk.  Show up because you have something valuable to contribute to the conversation.  Show up because you can add value to the current library of knowledge.  Remember why you started your business, sell your product, or why you choose the path of leadership.  Work to align your messages to your purpose. 

And, like always – stay in your lane.  When leaders, coaches, and entrepreneurs step into the lane that is not theirs, they lose credibility and lose the trust of their audience.  You can have a purpose and contribute to your purpose by focusing on your mission.  And remember, sometimes silence is power.  Our silence can create space for more meaningful conversations, thought, and new voices. 

Exceptional Leaders Are Exceptional Communicators 

If you have a digital presence, you are a leader – regardless if it is intentional or unintentional.  That makes it your responsibility to show up as a leader every single day.  Part of strong leaders is using emotions in a way that engages and inspires and does not feed into negative emotional contagion.  Monitor your emotions and create powerful, purposeful content to avoid social media pitfalls.  To learn more, work with the team at the Wordwell Group by scheduling your first appointment online.  You can also join a free group online for more resources.

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