Professional online presence and social media toxicity

Last week I tweeted my last tweet explaining that I was ditching Twitter. I have written a lot about the importance of online professional presence for those who want to keep up to date on what’s happening in their industry. So why this sudden contradiction?

Well, it started when my husband and I decided to remove the news from our lives – no newspapers, no news feeds on social media, no news on the TV. Call it ignorance but our lives have never felt more positive since doing this. The constant, daily and day-long negativity leeched into our lives and we noticed it was severely affecting our mood.

However, I noticed that Twitter was still a source of this negativity. A lot of professionals like myself use this source of interesting information to keep abreast of what’s happening in the professional world and upcoming changes to our respective fields. It’s also a great way to (virtually) meet new people and enjoy the odd holiday snap or adorable ‘caturday’ pic.

However, in my opinion, there’s a flaw with how Twitter presents its feed – not only can I see what the professionals I follow tweet, I can also see what they like, retweet and comment on. This is a great idea if everyone I followed used Twitter in the same way I like to use it. But they don’t.

I completely understand that we each choose to use Twitter in whichever way we want but in doing so, I’ve noticed Twitter has become another source of negativity. The activities of the professionals I follow who use it in other ways than for professional purposes means my feed is barraged daily with toxicity which include:

  • petty arguments between people who do not share the opinions of one another but each insisting theirs is the correct opinion by using disgusting language and name-calling tactics
  • people catastrophising every single piece of speculation for the sake of entertainment or from severe misinformation
  • making public passive-aggressive and disproportionately aggressive complaints to services and companies (despite the social media rep causing none of these issues)
  • people sharing harrowing personal experiences related to abuse, drugs, violence, suicide and hate (while this may help them as part of their own recovery, the contents can still sometimes be disturbing)
  • Brexit (enough said)
  • Trump (enough said)
  • sexism (from both sides)
  • I hate to admit it, but from the perspective of a socially-awkward-soul that I am, it can be is extremely cliquey which sometimes impacts my self-esteem (I agree this is more my beef than anyone else’s but it’s still a source of toxicity I’ve identified).

And I’m not alone with this. There are too many links to articles about the dangerous effects social media have on people and their mental health (this is just one of them) but there’s little connection or awareness on how this equally effects professionals when trying to develop their online presence.

If Twitter was a friend or part of my social circle, I wouldn’t – I couldn’t – tolerate that amount of toxicity and I’d quickly remove them from my life. Again, we each choose how to use Twitter in the way we want, and I respect the choice people make. My choice is to remove negativity and toxicity from my life, especially from sources I expect to provide professional insight.

The purpose of this post is to remind fellow professionals to take care of yourselves by being aware of the type of information you’re exposing yourself to on a daily basis when using social media for professional purposes. Being proactive about learning and reading interesting articles from your peers is an absolute must to broaden your knowledge and insight but make sure you identify where the bad stuff is sneaking in and focus on how you will address it.

Personally, the bad stuff outweighed the good stuff so I chose to address it by leaving. After ditching Twitter, I’ve decided to focus my online efforts to other sources of professional intrigue, like LinkedIn and subscribing to industry newsletters (which are wildly undersold!), cutting out all the toxicity and negativity. It will also give me a chance to network the good old fashioned way – in real life, speaking with real people and enjoy real learning experiences.

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