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Social Media with Soul

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Is social media ruining our society? Stealing playtime from youth, disrupting productivity at the workplace, giving a microphone to harmful users?

Or are we just doing it wrong?

What if social media had a bit more soul?

Some have said social media is bad for your soul or even killing your soulHowever, there are ways to make peace with social media, over avoidance altogether. My previous post called Empowered to Unplug shared my research uncovered on college students who expressed a number of addictive behaviors in social media use. However, with some simple interventions, those same students increased social media self-awareness and adjusted future healthy technology use.

In this post, I’m proposing an alternative social media approach that can give more life not just to the screen, but to the human spirit.

I’m writing today because I believe using social media with a soulful approach can lift our spirits and even increase a sense of humanity that spans digital and physical spaces.

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” Jalaluddin Rumi

I got to thinking about social media with soul after reflecting about the people I follow that give me “life.” Whether through learning, laughter or even debate, I could “feel” their presence on social media was real and meaningful. I also observe individuals who are able to shine a light on others, listen and amplify other voices that may not be heard otherwise.
What types of people/posts in your feed get your attention? Who or what keeps you reading that blog post, watching that video, or called to action to comment, like or share? Especially if you want to approach your digital presence through a lens of leadership, I would propose there is a soulful approach behind it.

The word soul evokes emotion; it is technically defined as, “the essence of embodiment of a specific quality” or “a person’s moral or emotional nature of sense of identity.”

Can we get a sense of a person’s morals from their twitter feed? Can an Instagram account embody the qualities of that person?

Yes. Yes. And Yes. And I’ve noticed these are the type of people (or even companies) that I engage with the most on social media.

For leaders looking to add social media into their communication toolkit, this approach can give meaning not just to those that follow you, but fuel to keep you committed to the tools.

Why? Because you don’t have time to waste. It’s basically busy work to be on different social media platforms if it is used as a one-way marketing method. People want to connect with who they are following, not sold by them. Life is too short.
Zen Meditator
That’s not to say you can’t still use social tools to be a storyteller, celebrate accomplishments or to announce exciting services you offer. Soulful social media includes connection and interaction that is two-ways. Using social media with a bit of soul is a personal humanizing approach to branding. And it can be through the simplest of actions.

Asking you to suddenly show a bit more soul on social media is a big ask, especially if you hold a very public position in your company or community organization. It’s a risk.

The definition of soul includes the call to share one’s identity. The reality is that not all identities are privileged, nor celebrated. Vulnerability gets turned up to high, that may not make this a reality. What if sharing isn’t welcome from the position you hold in your career?

But what is the alternative?

It may take some time, courage and confidence for what works for you. I hope this post will empower you to find the harmony that can exist and even thrive.

We are all on this journey of life, no matter your definition of faith, religion or spirituality. But what it means to be connected in the age of technology is something we are still figuring out, over and over through trial and error.

So let’s take some inspiration from the infamous poet Rumi, in imagining what social media with soul can look like. This can be applied not just to personal pages but for organization-wide social media accounts.

“Wherever you stand, be the Soul of that place.”  ― Rumi

Can you find your personality, values and/or core identity on your Facebook feed, Twitter posts or Instagram uploads? While these tools have logistical limitations on self-expression and interpretation of emotions (the how), you still have much control of telling your story (the what). A story that deserved to be told, heard and amplified.

“Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.” Rumi

Social media is about relationships. So feature, celebrate and recognize others over yourself. Upload inspiration, living out your values. Take time to listen and engage, the simplest of messages may give someone out there a light of hope. Simple start methods: Give some digital hugs by sharing the blog post or article your friend/colleague just posted, credit the artist of an image you shared or reach out/dm someone who appears to be struggling.  

“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”― Rumi

Digital spaces offer both text, audio, and video – but it isn’t just the content that speaks. It is connecting to your authentic point of view, opinions and life experiences. This means it needs to be based in reality and congruent with how you live your life. Raise truth that bears meaning for others to live by. But keep in mind tone. Text or even emojis can only go so far, perception by readers can not always be controlled. Own your message as if it was on a billboard.

“Every moment I shape my destiny with a chisel, I am a carpenter of my own soul.” Rumi

There are countless options for real-time engagement, that offer timely responses, reactions, and interaction. Being tapped into moments lead to opportunities, credibility and community building. From live tweeting of your favorite tv show (ie #GOT) to turning an online interaction into a face to face meet-up. Take these technologies as tools that can build to more significant relationships and rewards.

A final note must be acknowledged again about identity, recognizing and honoring perspectives based upon what privileges (or lack thereof) you bring even into the digital space. Do you need to listen and interact, more than you shout or share? Who are you elevating? Who are you leaving out?
What would you add to this? What resonated with you?

Maybe at its’ simplest, social media with soul is being yourself. Because you are awesome, and the world needs more of that.

Digital leadership - social media with soul
While I can keep writing about this concept, the best way to show and not tell you what social media with soul is to offer some examples from my feed. I hope just by scrolling through them you’ll get a sense of soul and ideas for what you can apply to your digital leadership presence. You’ll notice some themes of humor, reflection and inspiration.

Create your own opportunities. Don’t wait for others to give you openings when those may never come. But, embrace them when they do.

We are all leaving pieces of ourselves in the people we meet, the positions we hold, and even the social media posts we share. It can’t be all about what you do on social media, but you can’t separate it from the spirit and the soul that is you. Be you, all of it. Intentional. Amplified. And all inspiring awesome.

“There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled. There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled. You feel it, don’t you?” ― Rumi

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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