Thanks to Jeff Vander Clute for inspiring tonight’s post just by mentioning the phrase ‘intuitive social media’. If you listen to the sales pitches, if you basically buy into the virtual brochures from Facebook, et al, it can sound like social media is simple; especially, if you do it the way the sites describe. Personal finance has the opposite perspective where we’re told finance is so difficult that it must be left to the professionals. In both cases, managing your network and managing your net worth can be simple, but you might have to pay more attention to yourself than to the conventional wisdom.
I am a gregarious introvert. People are fun and fascinating. One of my favorite activities is sitting around with intelligent, wise, imaginative, and open-minded people playing with ideas. It would be nice to say that I’d never tire of it, but one sign of an introvert is the need to retreat when tired. (I could use a good retreat about now – but that’s another topic.) My interest in people is one reason I enjoy Facebook, Twitter (@tetrimbath), and such. My friends’ lives are played out before me, and I can vicariously appreciate what they are going through. They are definitely having better vacations than me. My life gets played out as well, with the subsequent mix of support, humor, and occasional chastisement. When the introvert needs to retreat, I turn it all off and hunker down for a while.
Listen to the advice from the sites and they’ll encourage you to hook up every site to every other site. They’ll encourage you to open your contacts lists and invite everyone on it. They’ll encourage group sharing (which sounds somewhat risque), location sharing (which seems innocuous until you read 1984), and photo sharing where you tag everyone else in the photo (apparently without regard for privacy or discretion.) They make it sound easy.
In addition to a lot of things, I help folks navigate their social media presence. Whether their social media interests are business or pleasure, the cacophony of claims intimidates people because they try to do everything, they find it too difficult to hook it all up, and then suffer performance anxiety when they don’t get as much traffic as someone whose kitten pictures just went viral.
Social media is social. Humans are social. We evolved to be naturally social, and the reason socializing feels unnatural may be because much of our daily lives exists within artificial, not natural, not intuitive realms. Socializing has always required some training. That’s what parents do, and why it takes a village to raise a child. That training, however, develops skills we naturally have. Socializing, with a bit of training, becomes intuitive.
Jeff (who is cofounder with Maria Back of Sourcing The Way) mentioned intuitive social media as if it isn’t common, and he’s right. The intuitive aspects of socializing evidently aren’t as profitable as boosting posts and promoting tweets. The trick, therefore, may be to concentrate on your intuition and your needs, and pay far less attention to what the sites want you to pay for.
Personal finance is less likely to be intuitive because finances are a fiction we’ve all agreed to believe in. Money is something we made up, and today’s incarnation of it is different from its first application and will probably be different from future implementations. Dealing with money, therefore, understandably takes more training than dealing with people. At least with people, math isn’t involved. (Though the species does count on one plus one making another one or two or more.) To optimize personal finances involves understanding budgeting, compounding, and estate planning. Corporations rely on selling optimization, and can dangle rewards before us that seem to justify the costs. It turns out, some of them actually deliver what they sell.
Money can be much simpler though. There isn’t much money to be made selling the simple lesson of “Spend less than you make. Invest the rest.” There are infinities within ‘spend’, ‘spend less’, ‘make’, ‘invest’. How you handle your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities fills bookshelves of strategies. The wealth of knowledge and insight is incredible, and was one reason I almost didn’t write my book. Eight words captures the idea. Why ask people to read eighty thousand words that say the same thing? (I edited it down quite a bit.) As intuitive as those eight words are to me, thanks to my parents, I now understand why each can require chapters. There are so many conflicting messages out there that intuition is inundated.
Money is math. Both are abstract. Money is treated as real, and mishandling money has very real implications within the abstraction that is our economic system. That abstraction has impressive accomplishments, but there’s no reason to believe it is a perfect system. Flaws exist. Mistakes will be made.
Social media and finance can both be made more intuitive. Modern pressures create complexity; but on a personal level, the closer we get to simplicity, the more intuitive it all becomes. (And then you get to spend more time with your friends, unless you’re a gregarious introvert who needs a vacation.)