Part 2 of 2:
Last week, I wrote about the recent increase in the number of political posts on social media, and the level of stress those posts create for many people.
Still, research shows social media users feel a need to stay connected, even in the face of added stress.
I have my own strategies for avoiding political posts. One is to limit the amount of time I spend reading news feeds.
The unfortunate side effect to this strategy is, of course, missing out on more important updates from friends and family. With all due respect to those of you deeply entrenched in the upcoming election, and hell-bent on sharing every opinion about a certain candidate, I’d rather read about my friends and the amazing lives they lead.
Turns out I’m not alone. Many of my friends are trying to avoid political posts in an effort to focus more on the positive side of social media, and they have some good techniques for doing so:
Unfollow vs. Unfriend: “At first I rolled my eyes and scrolled by,” my friend Jill noted about reading political posts.
“Next, I started posting links to fact checking sources debunking their ‘facts.’ After a three-day headache, I realized I was clenching my jaw and started unfollowing folks. Family and friends. Not unfriending, but I no longer see their posts on my feed.”
My friend Cynthia agrees. “I have unfollowed everyone who posts anything negative. I do, however, love the funny ones.”
No Space To Debate: One reason we avoid talking about politics on social media is the amount of space we have to debate. Shane Tilton, an assistant professor at Ohio Northern University, said, “I try to avoid political engagement on social media as those interactions don’t change the position of either party. The format of social media is traditionally too limiting to properly create dialog for meaningful change.”
Keep It Light: When it comes to changing minds, my friend Trevor agrees with Shane.
“I definitely have my stance and feel that no one will change my mind nor will I change anyone else’s,” Trevor said. “When I feel compelled to write [a reply] I turn to a joke about some pointless, ridiculous argument to try to keep it light. Some feel my posts are trite, but I’ve had several comments about my silly posts. Friends will say [my posts] were the only non-political post they saw in their feeds and it was refreshing.”
Write It And Delete It: “I write what I want to say in the comment field and then rather than post it I delete it,” Lori said. “This way I get my thoughts out without engaging in political banter.”
“I do this, too,” Kelly replied. “But usually it’s because I write it all out and then think, ‘Nope. Not worth it.’”
Part 1 of 2:
Trace your social media use back to the first time you used Facebook to learn about political candidates. It was likely during the 2008 race.
Many credit President Barack Obama’s use of social media for his victory in 2008. He connected with voters via social media, particularly younger voters.
Fast forward eight years and social media has become, for some, a necessary tool for staying up-to-date on the twists of this tumultuous election cycle. The problem for many has become sifting through the garbage to find meaningful, substantial information.
We’re still learning how to navigate the messy marriage of politics and social media. In fact, many of my friends have simply abandoned Facebook, claiming they’ll return after Nov. 8.
My reaction is, “wait a smidge longer.” Then I reference the 2000 election. Think what Bush-Gore would have been like in today’s social media world.
Most of my friends who have left Facebook say that reading their newsfeed every day created too much stress.
I’ve found myself agreeing with them so much that I actually cut my own Facebook consumption. I gander at my news feed three or four times a week now (before this I was easily scrolling my feed three or four times a day).
One of my favorite articles on social media and stress appeared in Computers In Human Behavior a few years ago, but it’s incredibly relevant today. Researchers Jesse Fox at Ohio State University and Jennifer Moreland at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus found that people felt stress over the amount of connectivity they had on Facebook.
Some stress was related to how visible they were to the rest of the world. Sharing posts about birthdays and happy moments are often just as stressful for private people as posts about politics, religion and race.
Despite feeling stressed, these Facebook users felt social pressures to stay connected and visible.
Fox and Moreland’s focus groups revealed something else: The biggest stressors came from posts about social comparisons and conflict.
So it should surprise no one that my friends who have abandoned Facebook have done so to eliminate stress from their lives.
But not everyone is willing to give up Facebook. They’re just looking for a way around mean and nasty political posts.
In preparation for this column, I posted the following message to my Facebook page a few days ago:
“I’m looking for social media users who try to avoid political posts. You avoid reading them, avoid posting them, or both. What are your tricks? Or maybe you’re just the opposite, and you love to troll political posts to inject your own particular brand of witty repartee, or you just really feel the need to right a wrong. How do you decide when to post and when to pass?”
Interestingly enough, I received almost 40 comments and only eight “likes.”
Look for their tips in next week’s column.
Why We Play Fantasy Sports
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Northern Ohio Fantasy Football Alliance, or NOFFA.
NOFFA is a group of men who have been gathering to play fantasy football for nearly 25 years.
When that column appeared in the Sept. 7 edition of The Vindicator, a reader wrote:
“I get that [fantasy football] is a big deal for some people. But it looks complicated. How much free time do these people have? I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
All are legitimate points, but the last statement seemed to be more of a question: Where would someone with an interest in fantasy sports get started? I turned to the experts for some answers.
Sports media scholars Nick Bowman (West Virginia University), John Spinda (Clemson University) and Jimmy Sanderson (Arizona State University), recently published “Fantasy Sports and the Changing Sports Media Industry,” a collection of studies on the phenomena.
“You have to decide your competitive level up front,” Bowman said. “If you’re a casual fan and you want to have fun and support your favorite players, be upfront about that and settle into a classic league.”
A classic league is for those who want to draft and manage a fantasy team, but may not be interested in the grind of daily fantasy sports (DFS) play like FanDuel or DraftKings.
“The DFS contests can be aggressive and competitive,” Bowman said. “If you’re competitive and looking to make some money, you really need to invest time.” New “competitive” fantasy owners should find a comfort level by finding others with similar skills.
For most fantasy owners, the connection to others is more important than competitive play.
“It’s ultimately a social endeavor,” Spinda said. “Even in hyper-competitive leagues, people develop social bonds over time.”
For a few owners, the social connection is the last thing on their minds.
“No matter who is playing, that camaraderie is often linked to vicarious achievement,” Spinda added, suggesting that a primary motivation for some fantasy owners is to win.
No matter the motivation, if you’re just getting started, it takes some time to figure out the rules, statistics, and if you’re playing online, the settings. But don’t give up. “Just like a real player or owner, you need to stick with it,” Spinda said.
“Even if it doesn’t end up becoming your ‘thing’ or you have bad luck with drafting and injuries, you should set lineups and battle to the end. Other owners tend to get angry when someone quits midway through a season,” Spinda added.
If you’re looking for a leg up, try using social media.
“Social media has blurred the lines between fantasy and reality,” Bowman said. “Fantasy sports owners can follow their athletes, ask them questions, and try to get the inside scoop on the players themselves.”
For fantasy owners who use social media, the locker room door is wide open.
Becoming A Social Media Manager
In 1996, I started a new job as an assistant director of admissions at Clarion University.
A few weeks into my new gig, my boss, John Shropshire, came to me and asked, “What’s this whole World Wide Web thing about?”
There were a few reasons why he singled me out for an answer.
First, I was already using the internet and dabbling in HTML coding (the original backbone of web design). He knew this because I talked incessantly about the internet.
Second, I was the new guy. This was my first test. Shropshire was giving me a chance to prove my worth.
A few classes and coding lessons later, I was directing the office’s website, and a few years later became the university’s first e-marketing director.
To this day, I credit Shropshire for my life studying social media.
Now I advise communication and social media students at Youngstown State University on becoming the next social media manager for their company, even if the job doesn’t yet exist.
If you’re thinking about the steps you need to take to be your company’s social media manager, follow these tips and you might just create a little job security (or maybe prepare yourself a career move).
Say “yes.” OK, well maybe no one is asking. But if your employer doesn’t have a social media presence, or there was some lackluster attempt at creating a Facebook page five years ago, here’s your chance to give your employer a social media makeover.
Ask your boss for a chance to build out the company’s social media presence. Start small by focusing on only a few platforms, and be sure to collect data to show that what you’re doing is attracting new customers and engaging existing ones.
Get certified. During the DOYO Live Thought Leaders panel in August, one recurring theme focused on education. Whether it’s HootSuite, Hubspot or Google Analytics certification, knowing all there is to know about these management tools will prepare you for social media marketing.
Having several certifications will set you apart from other candidates who come to the job market with knowledge of SEO, inbound marketing, and social content creation and delivery. The best part is, these certifications are relatively inexpensive, so persuading your boss to pay for the training should be easy.
(Try To) Be Creative. One of my first, favorite go-to tools was Corel Paintshop (back before Adobe Photoshop ruled the world). But as a wannabe graphic designer, I knew very little about how to create and manipulate images. Training was essential for getting my wacky ideas into graphic form.
Lynda.com was my first stop for learning how to create and change images. Now in its 20th year, Lynda.com is a staple for people in search of low-cost training. If you’re not the creative type, chances are you know some right-brained people. Ask around. Go to your company’s creative team to test your ideas or seek out some new strategies.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is special assistant to the provost and professor of communication in the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes on a variety of topics including communication technologies, relationships, and sports (with an emphasis on fandom). His work has appeared in Mahoning Matters as well as The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers.