When was the last time you sat and considered the impact social media has on your ability to perform?
It may be something you’ve never thought about. It may be something that occupies every 3rd thought you have in a day.
With the tools to connect with friends, family and potentially the entire world at your finger tips, what impact do the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Strava, Messenger, Whatsapp and alike have on our ability to be fully present in the moment where we need to step up and shine like a star?
What performance are we talking about?
Whatever performance you are thinking about right at this moment.
It could the performance you give when asked to present to management. It could be how you perform in the race that got you off the sofa, into the gym and now you’re faced with a 5km road or obstacle race. Or it could even be that big project you’ve been handed and you want to do well in.
Performance in this context, is about how you go about doing something which you have a vested interest in achieving, and to a standard you have an emotional attachment to attaining.
Like most things in life, start with the ‘why’
The motives for engaging in social media are often unique and complex.
The decisions to post a picture of one’s workout, the environment you are currently in, the experience you’ve just had or the memory you wish to share can take minutes to make, and potentially leave an impression for a lifetime (depending on the state of those who see it).
But why might someone have taken the decision to post that image, video or wording, and the narrative that accompanies it?
Are they looking for support? Are they looking to share their self-perceived success? Are they after sympathy?
A study by the New York Times Consumer Insight Group found 5 reasons why people share on social media:
- Supporting a cause
This gives rise to a mix of the origins people are posting from, intending to give some insight into the world in which they live, how they live in it and what reaction they have had to it.
Simply put, sharing often feels good to the person sharing it, giving them a boost from the knowledge they’ve shared with those they care receive that message, and the number and types of reactions to it.
What happens when these tables turn
It’s from here that the impact on performance can begin to be felt.
The point when sharing moves from being a ‘want to do’ exercise to a ‘need to do’ exercise can start to increase the pressure on the publisher to find interesting things to post about. Pressure to live up to an expectation, whether set by yourself or others, has long been a catalyst for limiting performance without the appropriate balance and objectivity.
There is also the impact when sitting in the recipient’s point of view.
In the first instance, there’s the emotional response felt to seeing the post. Some posts inspire, some challenge, some antagonise and agitate, some excite, some deflate. All entirely human reactions to the context created from the post that was seen.
Over time, that initial reaction can foster seeking out of others with a similar point of view, challenge back to those who originally posted the content, or inspiration to set your own bar for performance as high if not higher than that in the original post – reactions that will increase performance in some, and decrease performance in others.
Without taking action, these feelings can grow and grow, establishing belief patterns that can ultimately hold you back from you realising who you want to be or what you want to achieve.
What to do…what to do…
From a recipient’s perspective, being aware of your own emotional response is the first step to helping yourself reduce the impact social media can have on your ability to perform.
Taking a moment to ask yourself ‘how was reading this made feel?’ or ‘what action am I thinking of taking from seeing this?’ can lead you to engage with your response, and make a conscious decision to take a different course of action…to digest, disregard, or positive direction from what you have seen.
Remembering that unless explicitly discussed, you are working to an assumption of the true intent of the message being shared by the sender, can also help to contextualise that message so that it doesn’t impact you negatively.
From a sender’s perspective, taking the time to consider the impact intended versus the impact likely to be felt can ensure a post that was designed to inspire does exactly that. Alternatively, a post that has it’s origins in a cry for help can be treated as such by the recipients, who’s heartfelt support to help the sender can be felt in response.
And if your intent is to engage others, the STAR model (Storytelling, Triggers, Amusement, Reaction) proposed by Tiago et al (2016) may be worth remembering in articulating the origins and positioning of your post. That way, when you share your success, you can do it in a way that engages others in your moment, rather than push them away.