Revealing yourself using social media

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We can learn a lot about people based on their social media behaviors.

In 2018, there are power games being played on Facebook by power-starved people all over the place. Frequency of postings, over- or underengagement, “Likes” and “Dislikes,” “Shares” or a lack of them, are the means by which power games are seen on Facebook alone.

Technology may have made us more connected, but it also has — without question — empowered people to use power over others while hiding their cowardly ways behind a screen. The evidence of this is overwhelming. Researchers call it “face validity,” which means that people can see that assertions are valid and correct.

To make a long story short, a lot of evil is done in the land of apple pie and baseball through smartphones.

In 2013, I went to Harvard University to study leadership. It was one of the very best decisions I’ve made in my life. I was then getting ready to serve as department assistant chair of a large academic unit with 750 students, back in Pennsylvania.

I went to the university to better understand people and to learn different models to manage them. We learned through case studies and simulations the many games that people play in every kind of organization, from universities to  corporate America.

It is ugly what people do to people, both in real life and online.

If you happen to be a minority, these games are played with much more frequency. Dude, I’ve seen a lot in my career in higher education, and have developed skill sets to identify, early on in the game, the people who use their power for evil.

I have to admit that technology can be quite helpful with making inferences about power in organizations. Cyberspace, in this context, is an extension of our real lives. I know, I know … we live in an evil world that is dominated by self-centered people. Technology will never change this fact. I would even argue that technology can only exacerbate this problem.

Here is a cool test you can use to determine whether people are with you or against you. How often do your “friends” like your postings on social media? Are they commenting on your successes or feeling your pain when you lose a family member? Or, are they ignoring what you do because they are afraid that other people may value your contributions more than theirs?

Sure, these aren’t easy questions to answer, especially on Facebook, because the Facebook algorithm is constantly changing. But overall, it is pretty easy to make assertions about people’s behavior on social media over time.

I most definitely pay attention to it and link my findings to what happens in real life. You should also do it. It is amazing what you find.

Technology can be helpful with finding who is playing power games against you. Read this carefully: You can identify a person who wants to exercise power over you face-to-face and online, by examining his or her actions and by paying attention to detail.

Remember: Technology is simply a tool that we can use to better ourselves. In the end, we are our best judges of character and, with the appropriate training, can better understand our surroundings by simply mixing computer-mediated interactions with observable, real-life behaviors.

Keep this in mind. Power is exercised in a variety of ways, but these two ways are usually pretty revealing. Most people, regardless of whether they are using technology to make you look small, disdain your efforts or delay gratification. These are defense mechanisms and clear indicators that someone is trying to exercise power over you. Now, think about this and how they are related to your Facebook (or Instagram) feed. It is pretty revealing.

Now that we have adopted social media in our lives, paying attention to people’s social media behaviors is necessary. It is amazing what people find when they pay attention.

Hey, I like this game. Back in the day, I wanted to be a secretive CIA agent. Be cautious: I am watching you.

———  (Column published previously in the Cleveland Daily Banner)

(About the writer: Dr. Luis C. Almeida is an associate professor of communication at Lee University and a TEDx speaker. He is the author of the book “Becoming a Brand: The Rise of Technomoderation,” and a devoted Christian. He can be reached via his website at  luiscalmeida.info). 

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