A Genuine Problem
One of the great challenges of social media is to be genuine – in your posts, in your views, in what you say and write and share, and in your overall engagement – and yet, to do so without being hated. Why is this challenging? Well, think of it: in your everyday life outside of social media, in face-to-face interactions and engagements, how often are people truly genuine with one another? Think of the retail and service-industry experiences you have had, parties you have attended, even some friends or family you interact with. Finding people who are truly genuine can be truly, genuinely challenging.
This of course begs the question: if we can’t always expect to be genuine in face-to-face engagement, why should we expect it when given the added distancing of social media?
Well, for one: I find it is helpful to stop expecting things, in general. That way, if something good happens, it comes as a pleasant surprise, a break from the usual sad, depressing consistency of failed expectations. However, having said that, it is beneficial to be genuine through social media, for the simple reason that it is more easily relatable to others. Perhaps it is because we are accustomed to a certain degree of falsity in human interactions that we have come to more easily recognize and appreciate genuine conduct when we come across it. That, and it’s also just pleasant, no?
There is no lack of articles, experts, observers, and practitioners of social media who have written and advised that whether you are using it for personal or professional purposes, being genuine and authentic through social media is important. These qualities create trust, and trust can lead to closer connections, future business, or more.
The struggle, at least from my own perspective, is in managing how to be genuine – in being honest with what you think and say – and yet, somehow, avoid being hated. There’s a reason why most of what goes on in your mind should stay there. Just imagine, if you will, going to a café or a restaurant where everyone – notably the employees – were genuine and authentic in all their interactions. Having worked in a restaurant as a bus boy, I can honestly say, this would not go well. I’ve had managers instruct me to take a five minute break because they could see that a rude customer was challenging my sense of self-control to not serve them their food face-first. I’ve had customers say obscene and racist things to me, and had to bite my lip and not respond with a verbal lashing, which feels like the most authentic response to me.
So, clearly, there are limits to authenticity. But one general rule of thumb I adhere to (especially when trying to get away with a lie), is that, being honest doesn’t mean saying everything, it just means being truthful with what you choose to say. The same could apply to most human interactions, and, notably, to social media. You don’t have to say what you genuinely think and feel all the time, but it is a good strategy to be genuine with what you choose to say and how you say it.
That Funny Feeling
I use social media for a number of things. I use it in a professional capacity, through my employer, a non-profit focused on educational advancement. I also use it for myself, both personally and in terms of advancing my own side projects as a writer. Increasingly, I find that an effective means of being genuine on social media and managing to avoid being hated is to be funny (or try to be, rather). After all, people genuinely enjoy funny things. I mean, someone who doesn’t like to laugh is clearly someone with a cold, dead heart, not someone who should be a typical target of any social media campaign, unless of course your target audience are members of the Republican Party (ooooh, just got political!).
But truly, a great way to engage others is to use humour. After all, for social media to be engaging, you have to offer something to your ‘followers’: information, accessibility, authenticity, entertainment, etc. And you don’t need to be “selling” humour in order to justify using it through social media. Of course, for comedians, being funny on social media is a must, however, many brands and businesses have chosen to use humour to engage and ultimately advertise and promote themselves through social media, regardless of how “serious” a company they may be.
Humour is multi-purpose. I personally prefer to use humour to deal with most of the challenges of life. I don’t know how I would have gotten through life without it. And as I am currently trying to cultivate the skill set to do some comedic writing, I have chosen social media as the platform for experimentation, character development, and subject matter. One of the main subjects of the experiment (and the planned writing project) is that of online dating, and notably, for gay men using apps and experiencing that specific ‘social media’ world.
Dating is hard enough, and the advent of apps and modern technology have made it simultaneously – and contradictorily – more accessible and more distant, easier to connect and harder to remain connected. I have learned to navigate through this world of contradictions with humour, and I find, as I curate and share comedic content on this subject matter through Facebook and Instagram, the levels of engagement accelerate, particularly with my own demographic.
A very effective means of using humour through social media is to share – or create – memes and gifs. I recently started creating my own. Giphy is an easy-to-use site to upload and add text to existing gifs, or to create your own from scratch. MakeAMeme is fairly self-explanatory for its purpose, and serves it well. And there are meme styles that are more popular through some platforms, such as the following style on Instagram, where you can have a good deal of text above the image instead of simply appearing over top of the image. A good site to make those memes is through Dankland.
An example of an Instagram-style meme that I created can be seen below:
The power of humour is not simply in making people laugh, it’s in finding something that people can relate to in real life, in bringing out or commenting on something genuine – an experience, an emotion, a state of being, a thought, an action, or behaviour – and twisting it around to look at it in a different way, a way that allows yourself and others to find humour in the circumstance, and in themselves.
So, for example, here are a few gifs that I created which tended to get a little more active engagement from my followers:
And it really wouldn’t be complete without including this:
I generally despise advertisements, especially when they are directed at me. I try my best to ignore them, to not pay attention, to not click or engage at all. I assume that a lot of people are similar. No one likes to be beaten over the head repeatedly, with advertisement or, presumably, with anything, really.
But if something makes me laugh, I don’t care if it is an advertisement and is ultimately just trying to get my money. If I am made to laugh, then I am happy to engage.
It’s not a flawless strategy, and not one without risk (after all, not everyone has the same sense of humour), but, it might just be worth the risk. Surely, it’s better to try to be funny and fail than to just be boring.
Click here if you absolutely, definitely, do NOT want to laugh and learn something at the same time!
Ever tried to be honest AND still be liked? There’s a #funny trick to it!