“Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.”–Daniel Pink, best-selling author about business, work, and behavior
It’s natural to want to share great news and social media is the ideal way to do it. We want the world to know when things are going our way, when we’ve succeeded or had an awesome experience. Sharing photos of our vacations with friends and family gives them the opportunity to congratulate us and send their good wishes. Posting our photos is a convenient way to help friends, colleagues and family stay updated about our whereabouts and milestones. It’s no wonder social media giants have attained lofty valuations so quickly.
Sharing our lives with the masses can be seen as a positive thing; It’s a way of being inclusive and open. Sharing our happy moments with hundreds of people has become socially acceptable. Don’t we all gain vicarious pleasure at times from viewing another person’s joy? Shouldn’t we expect others to reap joy from our successes and celebrations?
We might agree that sharing another person’s joy in part defines friendship, but that leaves out another critical ingredient for being a sincere friend-empathy. Using discretion in what we share shows consideration for our friends and family and it’s not an all or nothing proposition. We can share our joy with others without overdoing it. It could also temper the impression of being boastful and self-absorbed
Avoid opening an old wound
Recently a client of mine shared that when her mother died and she was struggling to cope with her pain she found it especially difficult to view her girlfriends’ postings about their mom’s being their best friends. While she is generally a happy person and a well-wisher to others, seeing all the posts on Facebook over the holiday season intensified her pain. Another person shared that she had lost a child after a very difficult pregnancy and has another child with special needs. She too is a generally a happy person but finds it surprising how boastful people are on Facebook showcasing their large, healthy, beautiful families celebrating one milestone after the next in the Caribbean, and other places she’s never been.
While she really loves many of her friends, she’s surprised that they lack sensitivity about how others might not have their good fortune. Sometimes those things that are so precious should be kept more hidden. Perhaps we could avoid some of these unintentional assaults to our “friends” by taking a moment to think about the impact of what we share prior to posting. We could even use social media to provide content that inspires, informs, uplifts or offers support to our friends. These are all factors that experts say increase our likeability and charisma.
Use Social Media to Increase You Charisma and Likability
We could occasionally ask ourselves some of these questions:
- Is this self-promoting or educational?
- Is this touting my family?
- How often am I posting photos of us on vacations, weddings or other exclusive events?
- Is my vacation one that all my friends could partake in?
- Could the post be easily interpreted as insulting or offensive?
- Is the humor at anyone else’s expense?
- Will my post benefit anyone else?
- Will my post bring joy, laughter or wisdom to others?
- Will my post inform others on a surprising or noteworthy current event?
- Could my post help others solve a problem?
- Could it be helpful in any way?
If the answer to these questions is that the most pleasure (and benefit) will come to a relatively small group who partook in that specific activity, perhaps we should limit some of those posts. I think that most of the time when we share posts of our vacations and of flattering pictures of ourselves, our significant other, or of our kids, our intention is to be inclusive. And most of us enjoy seeing our friends having fun. The point is to think about proportion. That is, how much do we put online that’s merely self-aggrandizing versus for others’ benefit?
Is limiting our posts being overly sensitive?
One could argue that withholding posts is cowering to those who are overly sensitive. Perhaps those people who become jealous from looking at someone’s post should be the ones to abstain from using social media. Maybe they should work on not becoming jealous so easily and grow a thicker skin.
While this advice might be true for the sensitive types, ignoring the potentially negative effect our posts could have on some people misses the chance for us to use social media in a mindful, and more impactful way. Carefully selecting our posts could help us become more effective when we post ideas that we want to spread. It could also help develop our reputation as someone who’s well informed and worth following.
Increase joy and spread knowledge
It might be a good exercise for all of us to consider sharing ideas, humor and entertainment more often than our personal celebrations. These posts can inspire meaningful discussion, help inform people about an important event or simply offer entertainment and/or comic relief.
While an occasional family picture update or profile change may be reasonable, a weekly or monthly profile update and regular posts at the beach might be something to keep private for family and closest friends. One needn’t completely eliminate personal posts in order to be sensitive to others. But we can choose to make a greater percentage of our shares about something of real value or interest to our viewers.
It never hurts to be a bit more sensitive, but it can hurt to ignore others where they might be a need for a bit more sensitivity. People tend to be more influenced and inspired by those who are inclusive and engaging. By providing content that’s useful, relevant and/or entertaining could enhance our potential to positively impact our connections and show them we care about what matters to them. Thoughtful use of social networking is one way to show emotional intelligence and could be a key to increasing our charisma even though it could mean holding back what we’re doing that’s so cool.