This is meant for all of the natural-born leaders out there who ever made to feel small.
And this is especially meant for all of you made to feel small because of social media realities – a place where each of us feels even smaller than ever.
Because on social media, validation somehow fuels growth.
This isn’t something that I necessarily agree with. It’s simply the fruits of my observations.
It’s an interpretation I’m sad to report.
On social media, validation somehow fuels growth.
The realities of today:
If we don’t get our followers (those clicks, those likes, those shares), we’re somehow – by virtue of a feedback loop I want to literally cut with a pair of scissors to make go away – meant to feel like we don’t have worth.
Some of you may recognize this feeling.
It feels almost – but not quite – like being “cancelled”. Except that in this case, we haven’t actually done anything to rock the status quo boat.
We’re inching forward, swaying left and right with the imbalance, holding in that gag as we advance.
Will our latest posting be ‘accepted’?
And when, oh when, will we finally be ‘mass-liked’?
I’m referring, of course, to that little blue check mark of Twitter.
But you can substitute for Facebook. Or Instagram. Or any other app. They all basically have one of their own.
Sure, to some it’s just a little check,
an otherwise barely-noticeable thingie, for lack of a better term.
But to others, it’s a nobility mark, which seemed to have sprung up overnight. With value that has ballooned out of proportion to what it actually is, it has somehow acquired a quizzically important societal role.
Why, it has literally transformed into the quintessential mark of validation in the world of social interactions as we know it. Simply put, it determines who “fits” in today’s online world; and also, conversely, who doesn’t.
You’ve made it, it says.
Or maybe what it tries to stand for.
Those who wake up to it one morning seem to bask in the glory of its possession, proud owners of this 2020 honor badge.
That’s at least what I’ve read, from owners who have let me know.
The Validation of a Little Blue Check Mark Click To Tweet
Before you read any further, let me reiterate that I do not personally sport a little blue mark.
My account sits barren, devoid of acceptance.. or fame.
And while this piece may come off as resentful, because I am covering that very fact (again and again) and in so much detail at that, know that I’m extremely comfy in my online skin. I’m simply a glutton for punishment (and self-deprecating, as some may attest)
My words simply represent an analysis, having taken several steps back from the playing field, and surveying that landscape in its entirety, which I often like to do. Doing this helps keep me stay grounded, reminding me of the important things I set out to accomplish when I first stepped foot into the treacherous terrain;
And yes, you’ll find online apps can be quite dangerous: navigating through them safely often requiring “emotion-armor” that’s made of steel.
But here I am, writing this commentary on what can only be perceived as minutia in the grander scheme. Except that it isn’t, because this is the minutia that makes up so much of our collective brain cell activity; each and every day.
And while we’re telling it like it is, I’ll admit it: that somewhere, deep down in the bowels of my gut, I probably – just MAYBE – might find pleasure in possibly getting bestowed a little blue check thingie, if it were to magically fall into my lap, too.
I’m living and breathing, right?!
Except for me, it would be especially meaningful.
Because, you see, I’m a social-media-stand-alone (also known as a “social media don’t”).
Because I don’t really go with the flow.
I’m not really sure how I’ve even gotten to where I am today – with any “traction” to my name. Because I’ve grown more and more introverted, the more online-extroverted I get. The more that I share, the less comfortable I feel. And secretly, I’m just waiting for the ground to open up beneath me, and I’m bracing myself for that virtual fall.
I’ve somehow survived thinking for myself.
I paved this path, and chose to do things alone, having cut ties with larger organizations – purposely! – in order to accurately convince myself that I am “self-made”.
But I’m barely hanging on by a thread.
I saw it coming: because of the very fact that I separated from the organized setting, I have made it harder to propel my brand.
Which makes me wonder: is anyone out there truly self-made? Or do we all truly latch on to others, needing to herd ourselves together, in online sorority and fraternity equivalents, to muscle our way up the social media ladder, in order to really be heard?
I’m asking in place of so many of you, who have felt marginalized by this concept. And I do it even as I hold on tight myself, refusing to give in to group-think and continuing to go against the grain.
And although it may sound like the natural thing to do (Just be yourself, right? What could be hard about that?), it isn’t. In reality, to do “your own thing” online and to succeed is it quite hard.
You get labeled.
You get ganged up on.
You get put into a virtual corner.
Even when everyone outwardly cheers you on, they’re quite often doing the very opposite.
In the secret, murky corners of social media messenger spaces lie conversations that would twist and turn any decent human.
And here’s their bottom line:
When you don’t follow the social media majority (typically determined by the “strongest” one of the bunch), in whatever group or hashtag, or other identifying entity of the gathering, you’re the outlier. You’re basically the ‘nerd’ standing outside of that “cool person” pool, and you typically do what you can to fit in.
And clearly you’ve got to work much harder. Because you’ve got more to prove.
Your validation loop isn’t existent and so you must therefore fuel your own fire. And that’s truly a hard thing to do.
So when you get that little blue check mark distinction – –
you know that you’ve made it in life.
Once the honor is bestowed upon you, you can officially puff out that virtual chest and wear it for all to see.
You’d likely also tweet about it, or post on the honor with a screenshot or two.
I’m just waiting, in fact, for the day when recipients whip out a folded up little paper from their pockets, where they’d read off a list of who they’d like to thank.
Because online, one needs to make sure that it’s known. I mean, did the tree actually fall in the woods?
The Mysterious Members of the Twitter Academy
But sadly – and this is where discussion likely warrants eyebrow-raise – this doesn’t translate seamlessly into our tier-placement in the real world.
You remember that place? It’s where you and I ACTUALLY live.
Because plenty of people that have “made it” there, haven’t actually made it “elsewhere”.
And conversely, people who have made it “elsewhere” haven’t necessarily made it “there”.
So who gets to decide?!
Now, if we actually think through the validity of the little-blue-check-mark bestowal, it makes absolutely no sense.
It is merely, as mentioned before, a reverse Scarlet Letter.
It is an online stamp that’s meant to tell people you’ve made it. Pure and simple.
Except that it is completely nebulous what you’ve actually made.
Bear with me here:
Somehow, the powers that be – the ones sitting up at that top box of the corporation ladder – whether it’s at Twitter headquarters, or Facebook, or Instagram – get to decide who gets the check.
They essentially get to ‘validate’ who should be listened to, by bestowing that otherwise nothing of a little blue check onto its new and proud owner.
And suddenly, out of thin air, that person has “clout”.
But why? And who?
Have we, as a society, ever actually paused to consider who might hold such bestowing powers?
Does anyone even know?
Who gets to sit in that boardroom?
Is there a “Little Blue Check Mark” Committee of some sort?
And if there is, I’d love to be a fly up on that meeting wall!
Is there some traditional pow wow, or organized meetup, in which the anointed saints of blue-check-mark-dom” congregate? And how in heaven’s name do I get to apply for the job?
Do the member physically hold in their hands a paper representation of accounts that deem themselves worthy (the bourgeois class who submit for approval, hands clasped together in a mercy stance? Do they hold their noses up in the power that they hold, as they go through the lineup, one by one?
And what exactly does this saintly committee consider essential for “making it”?
Publication ones has appeared in?
The number of times on a talk show?
Or – and yes, I’m going to go there – maybe, just maybe, it’s the “connections” one has.
Have we as a society ever openly considered the factors that go into making this “impactful” decision?
And should we truly consider this as “impactful” at all, being that it’s merely a little blue check mark, and that we don’t actually know what it means to earn a bestowal or who gets to decide?
Allow me to rephrase it in this way:
why should an entrepreneurial venture of any sort – be it Twitter or Facebook or ANY other social media app – be the deciding factor of whether or not what you say matters?
I finally get to make my point: that they don’t!
Only YOU get to decide.
Because on your social media journey, and in building your own strong brand, you get to decide and validate your thoughts.
When you stay true to your message and to all that you do, and you don’t feel the pressure of having to fit into group-think, or do things that aren’t true FOR YOU, you win.
You literally win in life.
Because in my book, in that instance, that little blue check mark has already been bestowed. Even if it isn’t physically there.
You do you. Because that little blue check mark lives in us all.