OKAY, Yes, It Can be Inconvenient. But I Got Hours of My Life Back- and That’s Just the Beginning
Those who are in the business of social media consulting would suck in their breath. My god, they intoned, nobody will know who or where you are! My god, you’ll be invisible!!!
What a nice idea. Invisibility. Being left alone for a change.
Yesterday, as I was enjoying a rare Broncos win on a Sunday when I am just now beginning to get my house and life back in order after nearly a month in Africa on adventure, I got a Linked In email:
Hi Julia! I wanted to reach out to you because I have an opportunity that may be a good fit for you or someone you know. I’m growing my business and looking for people to join my team and try my skincare products. A few things I love most about having a business with Rodan+Fields is that you’re able to do it on the side of working a full time job, raising a family, going to school etc and still be succesful creating or supplementing your income while also getting a great discount on amazing skincare products. Would you be open to setting up a phone call to learn more?Hi Sara! I wanted to reach out to you because I have an opportunity that may be a good fit for you or someone you know. I’m growing my business and looking for people to join my team and try my skincare products. A few things I love most about having a business with Rodan+Fields is that you’re able to do it on the side of working a full time job, raising a family, going to school etc and still be succesful creating or supplementing your income while also getting a great discount on amazing skincare products. Would you be open to setting up a phone call to learn more?
It’s bad enough that she jammed two emails together and didn’t bother to check. She didn’t check her spelling either. She’s into multi-level marketing, which, hey, kick me if I’m wrong, has no business on Linked In. To my mind and in my direct and lifelong experience, MLM is an affront to our friends, neighbors and family that we commit in close combat. In MLM, we waylay them in our houses, their houses, even on Match.com (dear god yes, that low). MLM is a seek and destroy relationship imposition that is unique in its ability to damage just about any personal connection. Of course she didn’t bother to look at my profile (for all I know “she” is a bot) but what bothered me most was the level to which this once-useful business forum has descended.
Look, there’s a place for MLM (kindly not in my life, thanks, I like my friends) but not on Linked In. I know that for some it’s a great way to work and earn money. However I do not put MLM on the same level as the VPs, CEOs, Directors and others with whom I do business. It’s like ebay: lots of folks making money. That’s legit. But these aren’t F500 execs, nor are they running in the same circles. That doesn’t take away their legitimacy. The circles just don’t overlap, at least for my dime. This is how I see it and it doesn’t make me right. It simply means that this is how I see various kinds of commerce, different spheres of work.
This is the same thinking that led me to ban anyone in MLM from joining a very high-powered women’s group that I ran in Spokane for a number of years Those women were intense- they ran for office, were CEOs, entrepreneurs, writers, dancers, VPs of corporations. They’d have had me by the short and curlies had I brought in an MLM type. Too many who do it do not understand boundaries, like the above woman on Linked In. Social media simply allows folks to stomp over that many more polite understandings. They’re called boundaries for a reason.
I’ve had people ding me for going after folks who want to make money. Look, that’s not the point. It’s how they go about it, and the way we all get invaded and persuaded and imposed upon. I hate MLM with a passion, if for no other reason that over the course of my lifetime, vastly too many people (including a Match.com date) really wanted me in their down line. They loved my energy, they saw it as a payday, and they were desperate to sign me up.
I signed off. I don’t like being looked at solely as someone else’s paycheck. Nor do most of us. MLM uses our venal natures to get us excited about recruitment, the same way that Werner Erhard’s EST (and subsequently, The Forum) used its graduates to persuade others to sign up. In fact, Amway and EST were sometimes lumped together, not without cause. David G. Bromley places “Erhard Seminar Training” with Lifespring and Amway in a grouping of “quasi-religious therapies and corporations.” Wikipedia
I am struck by how people — and corporations —now use social media to solicit, recruit and attempt to control, corral and monetize people like so many Moonies (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonie_(nickname). We haven’t come very far. The social media sites often begin with good intention, and then someone has to ask the question about how we can control folks and get them to buy shit. Turn us into wallet-wielding cultists, which is apt when you look at people shuffling along with their faces pressed into the devices. In other words, recruit us into a zombie-like state, put us at war against each other, while sucking our wallets and our lives dry.
Works, too. Just look around.
Social media has arranged us into tribes, which in the 1980s or so used to be called “cults.” Same diff. The only difference is that now the whole country has been divided, when it used to be that my old high school classmates and I would laugh at the one redhead who got himself sucked into the Moonies. Now it’s a national pastime. Mindlessness.
As opposed, say, to mindfulness.
I cut that umbilical cord last Labor Day and haven’t missed it one bit.
The rather quaint notion of relationship- that old fashioned idea wherein you and I build trust, connect through shared values and do our best to find common ground seems to be so outdated these days. And like a lot of antiques, immensely more valuable. That’s my whole point.
For example, when I travel, my phone stays home. While that has on occasion caused some challenges (well look, you learn how to deal precisely the way we had to deal long before there were cell phones, it’s called creative problem-solving, and isn’t it wonderful to learn how to exercise THAT skill these days?), I love the freedom. The ability to engage others in conversation to pass long layovers in distant airports. Make friends. Learn new words and ways of being. My god, what gifts those are.
I may be an antique (yeppirs, getting there) but the value that I bring to the workplace and to relationships is measured not by how much I buy from someone at the ghastly overinflated price of $500 an hour for simple marketing techniques that are sheer common sense. My value is what I can offer in terms of my humanness- the culmination of knowledge and experience from decades in business, world travel and all the insights gained therein. The ability to think independently. To eschew addictions and be present. To be fully human, not turned into an obedient consumer, wholly unable to decouple from my devices, my drink, my dependencies. To care. To love. To contribute, which means I have to be available. Not attached by a permanent umbilical cord to a device. Free.
Freedom is hard won, indeed.
Just as your value is driven far more by your authenticity, your vulnerability, your wisdom and your willingness to engage with others at important levels. Engage in real discourse without descending to insult and attack. Being willing to learn, and grow, and to not know. It’s terrifying. Exuberant, even. I find a lot of that on Medium.com which is precisely why a good bit of my online time, what there is of it, is spent right here: learning, exploring, reading, listening, sharing. That’s a good investment, especially when people care enough about you to challenge an assumption, provide good feedback or say what they like about your work.
The emphasis on monetizing all our contacts is little more to me that a social media MLM model. And that’s not a compliment.
There’s no question that my feelings about social media are driven in part by my generation. At nearly 66, I was a late adopter. I am happy to have a website, like billions of others, but I am not interested in all the technology that makes any semblance of a private life impossible. To a degree the genie is already out of that bottle. Facebook has three years of my presence buried somewhere. But no longer. That’s the best I can do. For many of us, the repeated hacks of once-trusted institutions have made our relative safety questionable. These days I don’t even answer my phone if I don’t recognize the number, so prevalent are the scammers and abusers. The same with emails, so many of which I don’t dare open for fear of infecting my computer with a virus.
What’s a friendly person to do? I like people, I appreciate connecting. I teach networking, it’s who I am. However, given the tenor of our times, when so many so-called outreaches are thinly-veiled attempts to get to my wallet, I am not eager to respond to much of anyone I can’t see, can’t get a bead on in person. The tricky veneer of computer anonymity provides far too much protection for the very people I have reason to distrust. These days, that’s just about anyone I can’t see in front of me.
Just because there’s a photo of someone on Match.com doesn’t mean there’s a real person. Or, Linked In. Or, anything else. It’s a scammer’s paradise, and we have been led like sheep to the slaughter. The problem is that the next generation is growing up knowing nothing else. That suits the suits and the scammers just fine, thankyouverymuch.
I can’t speak for anyone else. The strategy I use is pretty straightforward: My computer is largely for research or writing (word processing). What a quaint old term. It’s a workhorse. My phone is for phone calls. On occasion, emails. What a quaint notion. My time is my own. What an extraordinary idea. I am spending more time with people I know and like, making more friends I can actually see and touch.
I’m hardly alone. Plenty of Millennials are too. So are number of iGen kids, who instinctively know that there is a better life away from the life suck of the internet and social media.
We want a community around us that we can see, feel, touch, hug, love and revere. What an absolutely revolutionary idea. Radical, in fact. Eschewing the mind-numbing seduction of social media for real life.
It’s inconvenient in a world that is now social media-dependent. However, having pulled the plug on Facebook and spending even less time these days on Linked In for the same reason, I have a gift. Or two. Or three.
But both my time and my life are much more my own.
Freedom. What a quaint idea.