This Is Your Life in Social Media

What about changing your profile picture?

What about changing your profile picture? Tony Lam Hoang/Unsplash

You haven’t posted all day. Your Facebook timeline doesn’t look quite right. What will your friends think? You have an audience to keep happy for your second job.

You are your own social media manager. You are your own branding consultant. Your personal brand matters to the world because you are important. People care what you think and need to hear from you. Time to get to work. What should you share today?

Today could be the day you change the world with a Facebook post.

You browse your News Feed for inspiration. So many good posts today — every good post you read gives you anxiety. How can I top what my friends say? You need to win. You are better than them.

Facebook has become the de facto place to share your political views. Those get a lot of likes but run a high-risk profile. Should you share a politically charged article with a clever caption? Everyone has the same views as you, so your posts won’t matter anyway.

Oh wait — except for that one alt-right friend of yours. And the alt-left fruititarian friend who called for a ban on Whole Foods products because they broke a seal’s nail during a cargo transfer in Alaska. You later discovered that that news story was fake. Your friends commented on your alt-left-friend’s post, but he still insists it’s true. After all, it was trending.

What about a sunset? Or a picture of your last meal? The one you cooked at home. You are such a talented chef. You know how to perfectly cook meat (caption: “perfectly cooked rack of lamb — took only 12 hours!”). Everyone will be so impressed. No — not deep enough — you need to demonstrate more depth of character.

Maybe you can change the world with a brilliant insight about labor economics. That Daily Mail article illustrates your point perfectly. But wait. Daily Mail. You can’t share anything from Daily Mail — it’s not authoritative enough for you. You have editorial standards. What will your friends think if you don’t share from the New York Times, the Atlantic or the New Yorker? It won’t meet their standards. It won’t meet your standards. You’ll be secretly judged. You can’t have that. Move on.

The News Feed flashes before your eyes. It’s moving too fast. You are running out of time. You need to post soon.

Maybe you could share something personal? Maybe you could share a picture of your family. But last time that was a disaster. Your family didn’t get as many likes as your friend’s family. You posted to Facebook and Twitter via Instagram — maybe that was the reason. Maybe you should have used the Amaro filter instead of the Valencia filter on Instagram. Your family is cute. There is no way in a totally controlled environment your friends’ family could have possibly gotten more likes than your family. They won this round—54–41 — but you’ll get the next one. Next time you’ll stage the picture properly.

Every time a family member posts a picture of you, you untag yourself. You are too cool for that shit. Gotta keep up appearances. You don’t need that polluting your timeline.

“Race Day” by Puja Saraiya Abid.

“Race Day” by Puja Saraiya Abid. @pujaabid/Instagram

What about changing your profile picture? That would be a major shake-up. You’d get a ton of likes. Maybe you could use that selfie from a jungle in Guatemala. Or that picture of you looking contemplative on a beach. Or the other one of you jumping, where the camera caught you midair in a smile. Maybe the one where you are at the finish line of a marathon. What about the one where you’re nursing a baby alpaca back to health? You look so caring in that picture. So nurturing. So happy. Everyone will love it. You will be showered with adoration.

On second thought, maybe that’s too big of a change for today.

You browse Facebook for inspiration. You see a status update from John. Years ago, the two of you got into a fight. Is it time to reconcile? Is it time to extend an olive branch? You like his status. Maybe he will reach out. Maybe this is an indication that the two of you are “cool” now. You are filled with hope, and you are wondering what he is thinking. Maybe he will feel the same. You also like your ex’s status. Maybe she will notice, you think wistfully.

Who is that woman with Ken? Didn’t he just get divorced? You secretly judge. You “love” his picture. You have to make sure he doesn’t know how you really feel.

What is that random political rant Talia just posted? You think about a comment you could post in response. But you refrain. No politics, sex or religion in your News Feed or comments. You want to make sure the social-justice warriors don’t skewer you. That would be bad. You have to abide by their rules to live a happy social media life. Don’t deviate too much from their thoughts, and you’ll be fine.

You switch to your mobile phone because you are tired and need to lie down. You are exhausted. You take an Ambien. You are lucid only for another 15 minutes, so you’d better post quickly.

What is Facebook’s algorithm displaying on your phone as compared to your desktop? Is it different? What does this teach you about their algorithm? Let’s see. You scan your phone. You look at the top of the News Feed — it’s Annu.

Why the fuck does Annu’s grandma like every one of his statuses and post some weird religious comment on each one? That’s weird as all hell. And he posts a picture of his baby literally every day with some emotional comment. They all look staged. How on earth does he have time for that? You don’t have time for that. You’ve just spent two hours on social media.

Oh God. There’s Sean posting again about his company. They raised another $5M dollars. He’s “humbled and grateful.” What a crock — he is the least “humble” humble person you know. And his profile picture — so appalling — that black-and-white picture of him speaking at a conference looking contemplative and waving his hands in the air makes you cringe. You hope his company fails — you hate watching him succeed. You like his status. You comment, “Congrats!” Exclamation points are important. They show real enthusiasm and emotion. What does his company even do? You scroll down farther. There’s more to learn.

There go Martina and Yusuf posting another vacation selfie again. They are always kissing each other in photos. Why on earth can’t they spare you just once from the intimacies of their life? They must be fucking other people. They must be masking the relative mediocrity in other areas of their lives by posting selfies. It looks like they make 15 attempts at each picture before posting. It’s not possible to perfectly purse your lips like that every single time. You are such a good person. You are not like them.

More scrolling. More liking. You can’t stop liking Facebook status updates. You are so generous. You feel like Santa Claus. You are probably making some of your friends’ days — especially the ones who posted updates that previously had no likes.

What a terrible day for inspiration, though. You look back on your own photos to see what might be useful. You smile at your mobile photos of your trip to Austin. There are the pictures from your college graduation. You look back at your wedding album. Those were good times. There are the pictures of you at the hospital with your firstborn.

You took all the right pictures, but were you really ever there?

You search Twitter — you see what’s trending. Maybe if you post about a trending topic, it will get more traction. You check what’s trending on Facebook too. You go on Instagram and try out a few hashtags. You want to see what’s being searched for to maximize success. Stirring the pot by posing an open-ended question is never a terrible strategy — maybe you can try that? You are data driven. You are a genius at this social stuff. No one can do this better than you. No one can duplicate the method you’ve put together.

A clever “someecard”.

A clever “someecard”. Medium

You look at a few celebrity accounts. What is Gary Vaynerchuk posting about? What is Tim Ferriss posting about? What about George Takei — he’s so clever. You aim to be like him. Maybe you should just share one of his posts? Maybe you should post a someecard? Those usually do well. But no. You want to be original. Maybe you can take something he posted about and paraphrase it a bit. No one will notice.

Eureka! You have it. You have the status update you’ve been waiting for. It took a long time, but you finally got there. It meets your editorial standards and the editorial standards of your own personal echo chamber. You post it. You feel satisfied. You feel relieved. This one is going to do well.

Two minutes pass — your first like — Kristin. She doesn’t count. She likes all your status updates. She couldn’t possibly have read the article attached to it. She liked it within five seconds. Does she have a crush on you? Coincidentally, she can’t seem to figure out how to stop sending you Candy Crush notifications. Someone should let her know — just not you, and not today.

More likes. More validation. You feel good — you feel high. This one is going to do well — it’s on the right trajectory. Mission accomplished. Nice work.

Your job is almost done. Now you just have to worry about Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium and Twitter.

The world is waiting to hear from you.

How many shares will this receive?

Sunil Rajaraman is the Co-Founder of Scripted.com, CEO of The Bold Italic, and a columnist at Inc.

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