Full disclosure, I’m not a digital marketer, I barely understand how to turn on a computer sometimes- let alone how to market anything! I am a nurse, I work for the NHS, but social media became a huge part of my life in the last year.
Initially, I used social media in a professional capacity- sharing knowledge and connecting with other like-minded healthcare professionals. Then, my world changed drastically and somewhat dramatically.
You can read more about that over on my personal blog, but I’ll give you a brief synopsis. Out of nowhere, I became seriously and life threateningly ill- with no idea why, or what had caused it. At the time I distanced myself from social media, I found it too hard to see people living their happy shiny lives. It was really hard on my own mental health, I had gone from being a healthy happy 29 year old, to not knowing if I would ever be living a normal life again.
Something snapped in me- I was right, all I ever saw was the perfect moments of peoples lives, not the nitty gritty, not the bad or the real… I made a massively personal decision to share my story on social media- awful pictures and all. I wanted people to know that life wasn’t always the perfect holiday, or the Instagram enviable home. I wanted to get rid of the perfect life, and be real in an age where we are about perfection.
I was honest, I was fairly candid (there are a lot of people on twitter who now know I own knickers with French sausage dogs on them) but I tried to keep a sense of humor through out. I was overwhelmed with the response, it wasn’t just people laughing along with my (now looking back) awful jokes, but there was a genuine response of support, human connection, empathy and most of all friendship.
Social media had gone from perfect life snap shots, to people opening up to me, people wanting to know how they could make things better for me and people sharing their own challenges. It was the first time I didn’t feel on my own, I was sat in a hospital bed with such love and warmth coming through a screen.
This changed how I used social media overnight, and one that meant engagement with people became more sincere, it became about developing friendships with people I’d never met. Their kindness showed me that being real and not hiding behind false pretenses gave me a whole new audience of genuine people.
So- why is this story important? To most people, it probably isn’t, they will carry on showing the best parts of themselves and not truly be vulnerable. There is a huge amount of understanding to that- there are trolls, there is more clicks and likes on the perfect picture or a funny tweet which will make someone feel better. When I posted a picture of myself when I was ill- absolutely, I got the “attention seeker” comments, I got the “jesus, you look really ugly” comments. But I could count the amount on one hand. What I could never have anticipated was the other engagement. The gifts that were sent to me ‘Just because’ or the constant check ins to make sure I was coping mentally with what was happening. True connections were formed. What is important, and that I think a lot of people can learn, is that honesty and vulnerability isn’t a negative thing to share on social media anymore.
People are getting sick of seeing the perfect everything- because it isn’t attainable. People do however engage with things they can relate to, things that are real. Social media, more now than ever, needs reality. It needs people to know that in times of great uncertainty- its ok to be scared and worried, even more so to talk about it and express it.
So how can kindness be relayed on social media without it sounding trite or forced? It isn’t about inspirational quotes, its about sincerity and being genuine in your interactions with people. Its apologizing when you need to, and its stepping away from situations if it isn’t good for your own mental health- but doing it in an honest way.
People value honesty, and with the influx of fake everything on social media- turning around and being honest is important. A good example of this is a colleague who posted an honest message that she was struggling with her mental health and that she was taking a break from social media. In her post she openly said that she wouldn’t be responding to messages until she was ready. It was honest and brave- it didn’t stop people sending messages of support, but It meant that they knew to not expect a response. It meant that no one felt that she was being rude by not responding or ignoring their well wishes- because she was honest from the start. Honesty is often in short supply on social media, people are too afraid to say they don’t know the answer, and instead either ignore someone, or can be standoffish. Just be honest- say you don’t know; it isn’t a crime. It can even be an opportunity- open it up to your wider audience, you don’t know the answer- ask people to get involved and contribute. This will increase reach, bring people together- even potentially start a community.
The most important thing I learnt in the past year is spreading kindness. I try to pay back the immense amount of kindness I received to people when I interact with them. I make sure they know they can drop a direct message to me if they need to, and that I will always try and respond. Human interaction is more important now than ever before, kindness is more important now than ever before.