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Social Media: Rising Above the Social Media Trap Before it Takes Control of You

Social Media:  Rising Above the Social Media Trap Before it Takes Control of You

As the use of social media continues to grow, I have found that many people fall into one of two camps.  Individuals either love social media or avoid it at all cost.  However, there is new group that has emerged in the last few years of people who both love and hate social media at the same time.  In fact, these folks often feel like social media is a trap and at any moment they can fall in.  It’s time we explore some of the reasons people end up in one of these three camps.  It’s also time that we look at some ways we can rise above the trap so it doesn’t catch us in its snares.

social mediaWilliam Iven/ Unsplash.com

Social Media Lovers

There are folks out there who truly feel alive and enriched through social media.  And you may find it interesting to note that the age of the person doesn’t really matter.  We tend to think that younger people use social media the most.  While that may be true statistically, there are plenty of middle-aged adults and seniors who would are social media lovers too.  They may just go online for different reasons.

My husband and I opened our first social media accounts to keep track of our children.  What I didn’t realize is that I would be able to connect with former high school classmates, relatives, and friends.  I was able to rekindle some old friendships and start some new ones too.  I found myself enjoying catching up with people who used to be in my life but I no longer saw regularly.

Human beings are designed for relationships and social media provides an opportunity for relationships to grow.  I have felt part of weddings, vacations, and graduations.  I have also been saddened by the loss of former friends, their parents, and even internet-only buddies.  Other social online things I have been a part of have included bible study groups, and support groups.  Most recently, I have found many like-minded people who are interested in health and wellness.  Yes, I would definitely include myself in the “social media lovers” category!

Haters Gonna Hate

The opposite perspective regarding social media is that people hate it and steer clear of it completely.  To be fair, some of the concerns I have heard are valid.  There are times when social media becomes a gossip-fest.  Other times you can witness temper tantrums as people pour out frustration or disapproval.  And there are times when indecent comments or pornographic material can be stumbled upon.  I agree that no one needs to subject themselves to any of that nonsense.

However, to close the door completely to social media means that you cut yourself off from all the benefits too.  Car accidents happen every day and a real risk we take in life.  In order to protect yourself, you will have to avoid getting into cars for the rest of your life.  That is humanly possible, but not very practical.  Are you going to walk or ride your bike to work?  Walkers and bike riders can be injured too.  And you’re going to need to give yourself a good deal of extra time to travel.

Simultaneously Mixed Feelings

Many people feel conflicted between being a lover and a hater of social media.  They start out loving it but hating being exposed to some of the negative aspects.  Sometimes people start to feel like its stealing precious time from their lives.  We could literally spend all day every day on various social media platforms and still not read everything people have posted.

In response to the mixed feelings that are felt, individuals often feel like they need to respond in some way.  This is when you’ll hear comments about people taking “a break,” or a “vacation” from social media.  These comments may seem like a drug addict or an alcoholic trying to avoid getting high or drunk.  The truth is that for some people it does become an addiction.  Like many other things in life, we can lose perspective and our priorities can get off track.  We should not be spending 16 hours a day engaging in socially oriented online activities.  But I wonder if abruptly switching to zero is really the best way to handle this issue?

Staying Out of the Trap

If you are looking for a way to avoid the extremes of loving and hating but don’t know what to do with your simultaneously mixed feelings, it’s time to look at some strategies to avoid falling into the social media trap.  Here are a few suggestions of things that have worked for me in achieving a sense of balance with my social media time.

1.  Limit Your Time Online

It’s important to decide how much time you are willing or able to give to devote to social media each week.  And secondly, you have to decide what you want to do with that time.  Some folks really enjoy interactive time and prefer environments that let you comment and hit like, love, or sadness buttons.  Other folks prefer to observe and not interact.  .  There are no strict rules on how you should spend your time.  The only rule is that you put some thought into it and decide what is reasonable for your life.  For example, college students may have more free time than single parents who hold down full-time jobs.

2.  Contribute to a Positive Environment

Have you heard it said that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem?  Most of the time that’s true. If you want to promote a positive environment, it has to start with you.  Post things that will enrich other people’s lives.  Pictures of special events, encouraging words, inspirational messages are all great ideas.  And you may even want to consider defining your uniqueness and doing it regularly.  For example, do you love to share favorite Bible verses, or fitness motivation memes?  Plan to share a few each week or even a few per day if that works better.  Your friends and followers will start to look forward to the awesome things you share.  This way you’ll have a regular plan to make the atmosphere a good one.

3.  Don’t Go There Lil

Years ago, I heard the phrase, “don’t go there Lil,” and have come to love it.  This comes from a true story of a women named Lil who was about to say something unkind.  Surely, if she opened her mouth and let it come out, it was going to stir up more trouble.  A friend attempted to warn Lil not to go down that path.  Honestly, we all need a friend like that.  One who has the courage to tell you when NOT to speak.  If you don’t have one, or if your friend is not nearby, put your name inside the phrase and say it to yourself.  Next time you’re tempted to rip someone apart or tell it like it is, stop and repeat this, “Don’t do it _______.”  You’re only going to make matters worse and your silence will speak volumes.

4.  Unfriend, Unfollow, or Block

Until recently, I thought it was rude to unfriend, unfollow, or block others.  I’m sad to say my feelings have now changed.  I have been victimized by some of the most hateful comments I have ever seen online in the past several weeks and I’m no longer going to tolerate it.  No one has to agree with me.  In fact, I invite opposing viewpoints as they help me grow and stay open-minded.  But, I expect that my opinion and thoughts will be seen as equally valuable.  If someone who is following me or considers me a friend starts verbal attacks, then frankly it’s time for them to go!

I wouldn’t tolerate that behavior in my living room.  Neither would I allow anyone to speak to a member of my family that way.  In my career as a Registered Nurse, I protect my patients in a similar way.  Do you have a significant other acting up?  They’re going to quickly meet a member of our security department.  So, if you can’t be a part of a positive environment, and you think it’s good practice to verbally attack others, then it’s time for me to show you the virtual door.  The only people who I have completely blocked are people who post things that are so offensive I don’t want to ever see it again.  In most cases, I believe a person can grow and change and one day could become someone I would let in again.

Reflection Questions

  1.  How much time do you allow yourself on social media per day?  Is this working out good for you or is a change needed?
  2.  Are you helping to create a positive online environment or do you need a good friend helping you to refocus?
  3.  Is it time that you unfriend, unfollow, or block someone who is being a social media nightmare to you?

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Job Interviews: Can They Get to Know Me in One Hour or Less?

Job Interviews:  Can They Get to Know Me in One Hour or Less?

A little over a year ago I decided that it was time for me to move on to the next phase of my professional career.  I was finishing up my doctoral degree and had been with my current employer for seven years.  It was just time for a change.  Being a university professor, I was in the middle of an annual contract.  Therefore, I  would need to complete the academic year before making any serious changes.  In the past, I seemed to fall into job easily.  The right door always seemed to open right up.  But I didn’t realize how much times had changed.  I also didn’t’ know about the mountain of applications and interviews that was ahead of me.

interviewsTim Gouw/ Unsplash.com

Resumes and Applications

Your resume and application give potential employers a first impression of what you’ll be like as an employee.  There are numerous books and resources available that will help guide you through the resume process.  There are also plenty of tips available on how best to complete your application.  But since the focus of today’s blog is on the interviewing process, I’m just going to pass along a few 3 key tips on resumes.

  1. Highlight Your Applicable Strengths.
    It’s important to give a good first impression and highlight the best things about yourself, as well as the things the employer most needs to hear.  For example, if you’re applying for sales position, it would be helpful to point out your sales record in the past.  It wouldn’t be nearly as important to point out that you speak 7 languages, unless you’re working in a multicultural area where that would be an asset.
  2. Spelling, Punctuation & Grammar  Matter.
    No one wants an employee who is going to be sloppy and careless with their work.  Not to mention, there is no excuse for not using word processing programs or getting someone to proofread your work.  Put your best foot forward with your presentation.
  3.  Personalize for Each Employer.
    Yes, this is painful and time consuming; nevertheless, it is essential when it comes to giving a good first impression.  Using the same example of looking for a sales position, the product makes a big difference.  Some types of sales require internet support, while others require phone or face-to-face communication.  Public speaking ability would be a great thing for live communication.  On the other hand, internet support would require computer proficiency and tech skills.  Adjusting your resume to fit the job will go a long way and is definitely worthwhile.

Phone Interviews

The main thing to know about phone interviews is that they are real interviews.  I made the mistake of thinking my first phone interview would be short, sweet, and to the point.  That was not the case, it was very in-depth and my responses were being recorded by the recruiter.

You don’t necessarily need to dress your best for phone interviews, but I recommend wearing something that makes you feel your best and finding a private place to take the call.  I always felt more confidant when I was dressed for the day, hair and make-up were on and I had all my notes in front of me.

However, I do caution you about being ready at a moment’s notice with whatever you are wearing too.  I had been expecting an interview call at noon one Monday.  I thought I would spent a few hours preparing that morning.  Instead the interviewer decided to call at 8am.  The phone rang while I was in the restroom and I ended up being interviewed in my pajamas with disheveled hair and morning breath.  Oh well, made the best of it and did get a live interview scheduled for the following week.

Group and Back-to-Back Interviews

I have found that companies take different approaches to the interviewing process.  Some employers will bring your back multiple times for interviews with different people or groups.  Other employers will attempt to arrange back-to-back interviews in the same day to get it done in one shot.  I have had up to 3 interviews in a row, each one with different people.  At times I have even interviewed with multiple groups in the same day.

If you’re like me, you may not really enjoy talking about yourself for 2-3 hours at a shot.  However, you have one hour or less, in most cases, to give all the people in the room an opportunity to get to know you.  If you don’t say positive things about yourself, no one else is going to.  So, you’re going to have to learn this skill if you want to have successful interviews.

On the flip side, people don’t want to hear you brag for 2 hours either.  Share truthful information, and highlight your best features, but never make others in the room feel inferior.  Why would anyone hire you if they feel intimidated by you?  I have been told that I have an impressive resume.  But I’m also under 5 feet tall.  Honestly, I think the two balance each other nicely.  If someone starts to think I’m too well-educated or have too-much experience, they quickly notice that have a height advantage which usually helps.

Serious Changes

I mentioned previously that I was not prepared for the changes I experienced in the job search market.  To help you, I’m going to share a few lessons that I learned that may help you or a friend navigate the process a little better.

No One Is In a Hurry

I have worked much of my career as a critical care nurse, that means I’m into immediate action.  The sooner a decision is made, the sooner we can move on to the next thing.  The job market doesn’t operate that way though.  One company drug out my 3 interviews over 6 months and another company still has a position open that I interviewed for about 7 months ago.

Don’t Expect to Hear Updates

Some companies do an excellent job of updating the job portal on their websites. You can easily check the status of your application and see if a decision has been made.  But don’t count on it.  Twice I was told I was clearly in the running for high level positions and had to reach out to see if a decision had been made.  One person emailed me back, saying, “Oh yeah, I was going to let you know, we selected someone else.”  Another called in response to my email and complimented me but also said I wasn’t selected.  People are busy and people they chose not to hire are not their priority.

Great But Not the Best Fit

The harsh reality is that a company can only hire one person for each position.  Once I received an email saying there were over 100 qualified candidates for an online teaching position.  I would have been a good choice for that company, but I was not the best choice.  What makes someone the best choice?  It could be a number of things.  It could be that the transition will happen smoothly and you won’t cost much to get up and running.  If may be that you have experience with a certain population that will be an advantage.  We may never know what made someone else the better choice, but always remember that they can only choose one person to hire.

Lack of Human Interaction

For convenience and efficiency sake, much of the hiring process is automated today.  That’s great if you’re the one using automation, but not so great if you’re on the receiving end.  I had 4 interviews at one company, and they led me to believe an offer was pending.  However, they needed to finish the hiring of one of my would-be supervisors before hiring me.  Three weeks later I received an automated email that said that I was not selected.  What?  After some digging, I discovered that a new boss had decided to eliminate the position and no one was hired.  But the automation left me thinking that once again I was not the best fit.  Turns out no one was going to be the best fit in that situation.

Yesterday Matters Most

Earlier in my career, it seemed that employers were mostly interested in your potential.  They didn’t only focus on what you could do for them today, but also what you could do for them in the future.  The tides have turned and the focus is now on what you did yesterday.  Did you save a large company from bankruptcy?  Have you saved millions of dollars by using a new technique?  Did sales skyrocket under your leadership?  What types of success have you had in doing your job?  Recent experience seems to hold the most weight and the more successful you were the better.  So be sure to point out the awesome things you’ve done in the last year or so to shine yourself in the best light.

Reflection Questions

  1.  Do you know someone who is currently looking for a new job with whom you could share this information?
  2.  Do you interview and/or hire people for a living?  If so, please share some of your insight with us in the comment section.
  3. Have you been struggling with finding the perfect job for yourself?  If so, consider picking up a copy of one of the references below and learn what you could be doing better.

References for Further Reading (Do Your Homework & Be Ready)

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