Don't be a Digital Hostage

FOMO: the fear of missing out. It’s supposed to be a millenial problem, the idea that if you don’t go out with your co-workers tonight, you’ll miss that one magical moment. Of course, what you thought would be “that one magical moment” typically turns out to be a fairly unmagical hangover the next day and the rumblings of a burrito in your stomach.

FOMO uses our hopes to generate a misguided sense of obligation that ultimately distracts us from more important goals. Similarly, social media captures our professional ambitions and holds our precious energy and limited attention spans hostage.

Everyone knows you’re “supposed” to have social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook, that you’re “supposed” to be publishing articles on Medium and LinkedIn, that you’re “supposed” to be keeping up on the latest conversations on Hacker News and Reddit. And if you’re lucky enough not to be addicted to one or more of these services, you probably feel guilty: you’re afraid you’ll be missing out on valuable opportunites to connect with others, learn about new topics, and advance your career. FOMO strikes again.

In trying to consume, publish, and connect through every medium possible, we miss opportunities to create truely special moments.

What do you want to say?

Instead of focusing on onslaught of digital communication, we should consider what we actually want to communicate.

Start with yourself: which of your thoughts do you wish were more clear? We all have good ideas, but it takes time and patience to hone a good idea into a great one. Are you more interested in polishing that code example you had from last week, figuring out how to avoid arguments with your mother-in-law, or deciding why you hate Nickelback so much?

Why do you want to say it?

Next, consider the outcomes you want to see from your content. Maybe you need a new job, want to become an expert in a topic, or otherwise are heartset on becoming rich and famous.

Your desired outcome will define your audience. If you’re looking for a new job, think about who might hire you. They may not be impressed by a thought-piece on Medium about how Nickelback’s music was a backdrop to emotional scarring at your middle-school dance, but “Lessons from Nickelback on Customer Loyalty” might catch someone’s eye as a creative perspective on how good customer service can make even mediocre Canadian alterna-grunge a commercial success.

Where should you publish?

Once you have defined your idea, desired outcome, and audience, choosing the best medium(s) is just a matter of answering two simple questions: where can you express your idea most clearly, and where does your audience hang out? Modern social media offers us great long and short-form text, audio, and visual options. As someone who enjoys writting and is comfortable generating “word vomit” (a first draft) on command, I like long-format blogs distributed through Medium and LinkedIn, but these are by far the most common (and least exciting) places to air material, particularly “professional” material. Get weirder and more fun by exercising your other talents on less common mediums, like making audio posts on Soundcloud or posting doodles.

By following these rules, you can focus your energy on making great content, instead of chasing ideas across multiple channels and writing articles that ultimately don’t interest you.

RESOURCES

Some people who combine their passion for a subject with their talent to draw, run, talk, film, and write to create stellar memorable content, while enjoying the process.

  • Code Cartoons: uses cartooning as a technical/professional communication medium.
  • Running From the Law: podcast that uses a lawyer’s love for endurance running to help propel conversations with other lawyers on business law topics.
  • Crash Courses: using comedic video for political science, philosophy, and other topics.