Category Archives: Whimsy

Why our social networks make us feel lonely

There are days when I look at my Facebook and other social network feeds with envy. Everyone in my social circles seems to live and lead perfect and interesting lives. I see stories of holidays, activities, friends getting together and having fun. I see complaints, whinges and bitching. I see anger and indignation, boasts and one-upmanship.


But do I see the truth about my friends and their lives? Or do I see the minute speck of reality, carefully edited that they want me to see? Do I only see the carefully crafted parts of their lives that they want me to see – so I can think of them in a better light. So that they can show me the best part of who they really are. But are they the person I think they are?

Are our social networks changing us – encouraging us to portray a better version of the people we really are?

Our communities are weakening as we spend more and more time away from our friends and families. more and more of us think of ourselves as lonely. But how can this be? We have lots of friends on our social networking sites. We engage with them often. Our online social lives are demanding and require us to constantly contribute. At dinner, at home, as soon as we wake we add status updates to show our friends what a great time we are having. We feel connected to all our friends. And our friends stop us from feeling alone don’t they?

Our online networks grow. We collect connections on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook like badges of honour – as a mark of how successful we are. But do we have the deep friendship and relationships with these collections? Of course not. We are replacing intimacy with status updates and photo sharing.

But do the online messages of support really make us feel part of a closely knit community of friends?

I know some of my friends on social networks really well. I share gossip and experiences with some of my friends. My other friends, my weak ties still matter in my social network. But they are less ‘connected’ to me than my strong ties. I can not manage to have a close relationship with all of my social networking friends, Dunbar’s threshold number of 150 friends works for us online as well as offline.

As humans we tend to be really social creatures and congregate together in communities either offline or online. However, we are valued and rewarded for our individuality. At work we are measured for our personal achievements – not the achievements of the community, or work group as a whole. As a result of our achievements we get paid more salary, bonuses and achieve a higher grade of career. We feel better about ourselves and spend more money to validate our self worth.

Unfortunately, in pursuing our careers we often ignore the personal community that makes us feel connected. We spend more time on social networks, sharing thoughts and feelings online that we could be sharing with our close family friends and communities.

But social networks are making us lonely.

We become addicted to our devices, to our virtual relationships. We all suffer FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and we use our smartphones from the shower to the sack. We effectively manage our social lives through our devices. But are we truly fulfilled with our online social lives?

We are exchanging our community and our conversation with online connections. We seem to have many friends – but we are ultimately lonely. Our conversation now happens online instead of face to face.

We will always be heard by someone online. We can get the attention that we crave online. We can write humorous, witty posts, we can share interesting, thought provoking prose. We can be who we desire to be online. And we will never be alone. We have our connections and we have our conversations online.

And as our conversation happens online, we spend time making sure that our online status shows us in the best possible light. We promote our successes and edit out the unsuccessful parts of our lives. We delete swathes of our actual lives to show how fabulous our lives seem.

The problem is that conversation is unstructured, chaotic and unpredictable. It is unedited, it is ‘how it is’. Sherry Turkle in her brilliant Ted talk talks about conversation.

‘People say, “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with having a conversation. It takes place in real time and you can’t control what you’re going to say.” So that’s the bottom line. Texting, email, posting, all of these things let us present the self as we want to be. We get to edit, and that means we get to delete, and that means we get to retouch, the face, the voice, the flesh, the body — not too little, not too much, just right’.

And yet our online messages, are thoughtfully constructed and edited. This post has been corrected, and edited. It is not the original thoughts from my brain. It is a better version of the original truth I intended to share.

Our online messages are not chaotic. They are carefully contrived to have the biggest impact on our society. We display ourselves to our community in the best way that we can. We announce our successes (and our failures) in the way we want them to be seen by our connections. We cut out the bits we do not want you to see. We reserve the unedited truth for our face to face friends.

In the Innovation of Loneliness, Shimi Cohen says ‘I share therefore I am’. We use technology to define our thoughts and feelings – even as we are having them. We are faking experiences so that we have something to share with our connections.

As Turkle says,

“That feeling that no one is listening to me is very important in our relationships with technology. That’s why it’s so appealing to have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed — so many automatic listeners. And the feeling that no one is listening to me make us want to spend time with machines that seem to care about us”.

Don’t let a machine take the place of the human that cares about you. Ignore Timothy Leary’s phrase “Turn on, tune in, drop out”. Sometimes the best way to enjoy your true friends is to Drop in, Tune in, Turn off.

Eileen Brown is a social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.  Connect with Eileen on Twitter and  or contact her to find out how she can elevate your brand and help your business become more social.

Stop tolerating the bad stuff and start living!


I’m a lot more tolerant than I used to be.  I’m much more calm and relaxed than I was 20 years ago.  i’ve learned to let things go.  I’ve learned to be authentic, I’ve learned to be me.


So several points on this blog post by Mark and Angel really resonated with me.  In being more authentic, I tolerate less destructive things in my life.  If you want to read the original post, the link is above – but here are my factors to succeed…

People who bring you down. – Don’t spend time dealing with people who are like emotional vacuum cleaners.  They suck energy out of you and grind you down until you are as miserable as they are.  Rise above it and keep calm

A work environment or career field you hate. – You’re at work a long time.  Surround yourself with people and leaders you respect.  Do work you enjoy and love.  Don’t get embroiled in politics, back biting or bitching.  It’s ok to say no.  Do not let yourself get bullied.  It is your job – not your life…

Your own negativity. – You have the power to change the way you feel.  Every new day can be a fresh start.  Celebrate the beauty of the new day, the drizzle, the crisp cold mornings, the fresh wind.  Enjoy nature.  Find something small to enjoy and turn around the cycle of negativity you’ve got into

Unnecessary miscommunication. – If you don’t know what someone wants ask them.  Ask for feedback.  Be kind with feedback.  Make someone happy, not frustrated with you.  Try to diffuse anger

A disorganized living and working space. – Tidy desk tidy mind.  Spend some time doing your life laundry and clearing out things you no longer need. Physical clutter often relates to emotional clutter.  See how much better you feel when everything is in its place

Pressure to fit in with the crowd. – Be your own person.  Try not to get talked into things you really don’t want to do.  It’s easy to say no – and very satisfying when you have done it.

Fear of change. –Feel the fear and do it anyway.  You might love the new way of doing things.  Do something every day that scares you – you might find that you’ve found something new you love

Being unprepared. – You will avoid the terror of getting things wrong and the humiliation afterwards.  If you’re prepared for anything, then you can conquer the world..

Inaction. –There are three types of people.  Those who make things happen, those who watch what happens, and those who wonder what happened.  Be one of the folks that makes things happen…

But most of all – be yourself.  You’re the best at it, and there is no one that can take your place…

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Credit: Noah Sussman

Blogging in 2011.. Year in Review


Looking back over my posts this year have made me reflect on some of my posts.  I’ve posted to this blog 236 times which is quite impressive.  I’ve obviously got a lot to say.

I’ve uncovered some interesting pointers with the things people search for too.  Sweet kittens, kitteh and funny hamsters all appear on my search stats.  But there are valid posts too.  For example:

Phone scamming is still pervasive se people search for scammers and other calls claiming that your computer has malware

How to cope in corporate environments also seems to be a key topic, with posts on corporate culture and how to change corporate culture

Several social media posts popped up on the list too, such as crisis management, writing your social media strategy and understanding your social ROI

It’s not only posts written this year that are discovered by searches.  Posts I’d written when I was at Microsoft, such as the missing Drafts folder in Outlook 2007 found with MFCMAPI (from January 2009) and importing Outlook into Windows Live Calendar (from April 2007) still turn up in my weekly stats report.

And on the personal side, my post about Johari Windows, written over 2 years ago now, still gets its fair share of views amongst the posts about leadership, social business, and cool technology features.

Reflecting on 2011 has given me some great ideas what to talk about for 2012.  I’m fired up and ready for 2012 to get going

I hope that you all have a very happy, and successful New Year with no bloggers block in sight!  Smile

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Image credit: Cristamos

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Speaking for Free: Don’t you value yourself?

Jeremy also has a lot of requests to do freebies for potential clients – and the reason they give him is usually that he’ll gain more exposure for his business. I’ve spoken about speaking for free before as it’s something i feel strongly about.

There are lots of people trying to make money out of social media at the moment (and believe me, social media specialists are a dime a dozen right now) speak for free.  They are EVERYWHERE.  Their knowledge isn’t so broad, nor deep, they haven’t been around to see the evolution of social Networking sites – (my post from 2007 shows that we’re still concerned by privacy issues on Facebook).  But they are more than happy to speak for free at every event.  They don’t really value the work and effort that they have put in to learning their skill.

They don’t really value their skill – so they don’t put a price on their work.  They devalue the work for everyone.

I’ve been asked to speak at events – and I’ve even been asked expected to pay to attend the event as well.  This is loosely banded under the ‘sponsorship’ bucket, but it’s still the same way to devalue skills and experience.  Someone is making money out of my knowledge and experience.

That’s not behaving ethically or honourably.

Photographers have a particularly good point here.  People grab images from the web and use them in web pages and posts without credit, without a by-line. It seems that everyone does it without thinking of the time or effort that goes in to making an amazing photo.

I’ve changed the way I source my photos too.  I used to use bing to find  images – and grab them off the web.  Now I know that wasn’t ethical.  I’m now not comfortable with what I used to do.

I didn’t credit the photographer, or link to the image source.  I didn’t think about whether it was wrong or right.  I didn’t put a value on that person’s work.  I was caught up – like so many others in the fact that the Internet was a vast resource of information available to all.  I assumed that everything was free.

I was wrong.

I didn’t realise back then how valuable the Internet actually is as a resource. And that people like myself were contributing to that pool of knowledge

But now I’m much more aware or just how much work goes into making something of value.  Take a look at this image on Flickr


This photo is certainly not the sort of thing that you’d snap with your phone and upload on the spot.  The photographer has spent quite a bit of time getting this shot perfect.  Then he uploaded it for sharing – with a creative commons licence for attribution.  I use images like this under licence to use.  I actually use Compfight to find images like these amazing shots of butterflies.  I look for images that I can use.  And now, I always link back to the source photo showing how much I value the original image.  That’s more important than massaging my blog SEO by embedding the images on my site somewhere.

Photo sites like shutterstock, istockphoto and Webshots charge for photos – as they should.  Photographers charge for their time – as they should.  Everyone has got to make a living somehow.

Tony sleep puts it much better than I can when he addresses the “We have no budget” questions.   I’m going to refer potential freebie clients to his text – particularly this paragraph…

You see I don’t want your stinking “exposure”, I want mutually beneficial, productive relationships with clients.  I try to behave with integrity, honesty and fairness, and I expect clients will do likewise.  Exposure is the end of that process, not a means. Similarly with bylines.  I don’t require applause earned by being a sucker.  If free matters more than good, ask someone else.

For me, doing things for free devalues my skill.  It devalues my ability to execute on complex consultancy engagements.  It also indicates to the client that if I’m happy to give my knowledge away for free, then I actually might not be worth paying for after all…

Image credit: Flickr

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Death and status updates: Your social presence after you’ve died

I remember feeling humbled at the posthumous ‘Last Post’ blog written by the dead journalist Derek K Miller and admiring his courage in writing the post after his death, sort of like a final ‘Status update’.  It seems that I’m not the only one who had been musing about it.  Adam Ostrow spoke at TED in July and mused about the possibilities of your digital updates after your death…

His talk pointed me to a few websites too, such as If I die, which allows you to post a Facebook message to your nearest and dearest – which will be played to your Facebook friends – after you’re gone.  It had an innovative social awareness campaign too, using location based updates and other freely sharable pieces of information to connect with it’s intended audience and encourage them to record messages.  See the video below for how they did it:

I’ve always looked at this from a more technical point of view.  When my friend was in hospital last year with a broken back (she came out of hospital after 6 months) , I focused on passwords and PC related issues.  I didn’t think about what sort of status updates she might have left for the world to reflect on.  Would they be suitable as a memoriam?  I’m sure that at any one time, my last Twitter update might not be the one that I’d want on my status update – forever…

But what sort of app could do that ‘final status update’ for you.  Does it exist yet?

And more importantly, should it…?

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.


Murder, Suicide, or Quantum Suicide?

This sort of stuff blows my mind.  Here’s an article explaining how quantum suicide works.  The universe splitting into more than one universe is hard to get my brain around.  It makes me think of Schrodinger’s cat and the eternal life or death puzzle.  But here’s one of my favourite stories which I heard over 10 years ago.  It was a legal conundrum that police had to deal with in Canada in 1996 and it’s a really good story.


I love this puzzle story – it seems too far fetched to be actually true.  Just like the cat theory and the quantum suicide there are things out there to puzzle and amaze us if we open out minds…

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