A Social Media Icon
Seth Godin recently noted the following on his always insightful blog:
“The Mona Lisa has a huge social media presence. Her picture is everywhere. But she doesn’t tweet. She’s big on social media because she’s an icon, but she’s not an icon because she’s big on social media.”
This perfectly sums up a point I often find myself trying to make when arguing that people don’t need to engage social media to advance their career.
In my experience, if you push people — especially young people — about why they think social media is crucial for their professional life, you’ll eventually uncover a belief that an important factor holding them back is that people in power simply haven’t noticed their specialness.
Social media platforms, they’ve been taught, provide a method to correct this information asymmetry by making it easy for them to demonstrate their specialness to the world (potentially bypassing some dreaded “gatekeepers” along the way), and therefore reap the attention that they know deep down they already deserve.
As Godin hints, however, reality is both simpler and starker.
If you can produce things that are rare and valuable, good things are likely to follow: opportunities will become more interesting and plentiful, you’ll gain more autonomy over your career, and yes, people might even start talking about you on social media.
On the other hand, if you’re not producing something rare and valuable, no amount of social media “grooming” will convince people to care (with a few rare exceptions).
The natural conclusion to draw from these observations is that you’re almost certainly better off taking the 135 minutes per day the average social media user spends on these services and instead dedicate them to deliberately improving your ability to do valuable things.
(Hat tip to my friends The Minimalists for pointing me toward Godin’s post.)