Looking at political posts on social media, it’s not surprising to realize that online reputation isn’t a high priority for many. It should be for you.
Welcome back to the Get Fit challenge for Greener Grassroots! We’re on Week 5 now, but you can jump right in where we are, or you can go back and start from the beginning and catch up.
Week 1 – Your Personal Assessment
Week 2 – Adjust Your Diet
Week 3 – Focus On Your Core
Week 4 – Repetitions
This week we’re going to talk about your form. Whenever you’re exercising, it’s important to learn the exercises using the proper form. Exercising with poor posture or bad form can strain your body and make it more difficult for you to target the correct muscles. If you aren’t careful, you might even do some damage; that’s the last thing you want when you’re trying to get in shape.
We talked about messaging last week, and all the things that might be interfering with your message. One of the points to review was about the interference you might unknowingly be creating:
Reduce your own noise – Are you coming across to people as combative? Do you spend more time trying to prove that other people are wrong than trying to persuade them your views are right? Apply the feedback you received from talking to others. Make a list of people you find persuasive, compare your own efforts, and then try adjusting your delivery.
There’s another aspect to reducing your own noise that I left out, precisely because I wanted to deal with it more thoroughly here: your online reputation. If you’re engaging in any social media platform, especially under your own name, you’ll want to think carefully about how you interact online.
And most of us already pay some consideration to our habits online, if only for work reasons. We’ve all encountered stories about people whose online antics cost them their job, or a potential job. Business magazines have increasingly devoted space to guiding potential job applicants through the social media minefield as they look for work. That’s a good thing. We might not understand it ourselves, but maybe it wouldn’t occur to a young person new to the employment scene that they shouldn’t post how much they’re going to hate the job they were just offered, or dress up in a tasteless costume for Halloween.
There might be a case to be made about how your personal life shouldn’t be so heavily impacted by your professional life. Nevertheless, the way you conduct yourself in a world that is increasingly integrated with online experiences does affect how employers see you, and how they believe you represent them. Whether it’s fair or unfair, it is happening, and most of us recognize that fact and act accordingly.
Activists need to pay attention to their social media reputations too, whether they work in the political arena professionally, or merely squeeze activism into an already busy day of work and family life. And online activist reputation management isn’t merely about refraining from posting images of yourself while intoxicated. (But I do recommend not doing that, while we’re on the subject.)
Beyond the number of political subjects you post about, there’s another, hidden metric to look at: How do your conversations look to bystanders?
People who post rude, demeaning, insulting or callous content on a regular basis are telling other people something about themselves. They are signaling that their social media platforms are not launching pads for discussions, but instead safe spaces for people with equally belligerent views.
Posts like that warn all but the most argumentative commenters that their input is not welcome; and those threads of conversation usually devolve into boring exchanges between people on opposite ends of an issue, insulting and name-calling each other while most other people stop reading the thread. The people attracted by this tactic are people who like to fight better than they like to persuade. It may look like fighting for a cause, and it may feel satisfactory for a brief moment, but few ideas are advanced this way, and few converts are made in shouting matches.
And that’s an important principle.
- You have ideas and ideals you want to champion, but you know it isn’t enough for you to be right.
- You know that in order to advance those things, you need to convince more people to join you.
- If you know you need more people, you will learn and develop successful ways to recruit more people.
- If you are going to recruit people to help you, you need to refine your recruiting tactics.
- If you truly believe in these ideas, you will look for and employ the tactics most likely to get you there.
- If you truly believe in these ideas, you will consider all your communications carefully.
- If you truly believe in these ideas, you will examine everything you are doing to become better.
And trust me, all this care isn’t just to spare the feelings of the people you find are fighting so hard against you. In nearly every political or activist interaction you will have, there will be the aforementioned bystanders; people not engaged in the discussion, but who are watching you and the people you are sparring with closely. Even when conversing with a person you will never convince, it’s important to remember who the real audience is: those often silent bystanders who are evaluating the conversation to see who they think is right, but also who they trust and identify with the most.
So, for the record, we can say that yelling at people, calling them stupid when they disagree, insulting them, belittling them, telling them to shut up, and other common online behavior is probably less conducive to building the army we need to get what we want. We might not only be scoring points and trading insults with an ideological foe. We might also end up cutting off potential allies or converts to our cause, simply because we enjoy the fight in front of us right now, more than we desire to win in the long run.
Bottom line: as an activist, your goal is usually to find more people who identify with your position on an issue, and then guide them to take action on that issue. That process is taking place both in person and online, not only via the items you post, but also in the comments and conversations that stem from them. As you champion your causes, be mindful of the impression you are making, and how you handle yourself in conversations about your issues. The success of your causes demand it.
Learning and maintaining proper form – everything from the way you exchange ideas with people, to the types of content you share, to fixing the old mistakes buried in your social media history – can help you become more effective at recruiting people to help you. It could mean the difference between getting the numbers you need to prevail, or complaining that your issues never win.