Bill Cosby notoriously said…
“I don’t know the secret to success, but the key to failure is to try and please everyone.”
Crowds are fickle, aren’t they? It’s a lesson I’m constantly reminded of by being on Twitter. And that’s not good for an approval-addicted people-pleaser like me.
I’m obviously no social media expert, but I do enjoy watching and studying humanity, and all of our funny quirks and nuances. Though I feel like few magicians realize it, a truly great illusionist is a great observer of people, and I can’t help but attempt to read the sub-text of tweets…you know, the stuff our tweets are often saying on a deeper level—things we don’t even realize our subconscious is saying. If you look closely, our tweets reveal a lot more than meets the eye, especially our insecurities. After all, we’re all trying to maintain the perceptions of others, and twitter is a tool in our culture’s tool belt for shaping the identity we want others to perceive us having. That’s why we often tweet things that attempt to shape the image of what we want others to see in us, because we don’t currently see ourselves to be enough in the world’s eyes of whatever it is we’re trying to prove we are. Social media can be like make-up…sometimes it’s just used as a mask to cover up insecurities and display a different face.
That’s something I tweeted about a few weeks ago. (I immediately lost followers.)
How do I know that I lost followers? I look at analytics that tell me when I lose followers. (I told you, I’m a people-pleaser…that’s what web-savvy people-pleasers do.)
And that’s where the danger lies, right?
The problem with that approach to twitter, (or any form of social media for that matter), is that before long, we start saying what others want to hear. Not all of us are performers on stage, but almost all of us are performing for our audience online.
At least, we try. The problem is, that’s an impossible task, because not everyone will enjoy the show. I actually lose a follower or two every time I tweet. That’s how bad I am at twitter. I even lost a friend once in real life, because he and his wife decided that my tweets were “too negative.” (I’m sure it was more than that, but that’s how their friendship break-up conversation began.) Seriously, come follow me for a few days…I don’t think you’ll see a lot of constant negativity, but it won’t take long for you to notice that I’m not that great at Twitter. (@HarrisIII)
I lose followers if I tweet about Jesus, post too many photos of my new son, if I tweet about the exciting adventures of full-time travel, or anything remotely controversial. The atheistic magic community who sometimes follows me can’t stand all those tweets about Jesus. Neither can some of the kids who follow me after hearing me speak in their public schools. Teenagers who attend church usually love tweets about Jesus, but they just can’t wrap their minds around my obsession with my new son, Jude. More than one picture in a row, and they’re out. And the pastors who follow me love my to-the-point statements about church and my faith, and all of my pithy quotes from dead theologians who are smarter than I am. However, I’ve noticed that they really just don’t care too much for the tweets about my personal life.
Needless to say, what I do for a living puts me in front of a very wide variety of people from different walks of life. And there are times I catch myself trying to please all of them. But can I?
Nope. I can’t. And, neither can you. So…what to tweet?
As I’ve spent the last few years finding my approval in the eyes of my Creator, rather than the approval of difficult-to-please human beings, I’ve discovered a very freeing truth: Your online followers (or “platform,” as the experts call it), is a horrible representation of your value as a person. Other people’s inability to see your value does not determine your worth. And by all means, your follower count online certainly doesn’t determine your worth.
The approval to the addiction of other people is as dangerous, (especially to a christian leader), as an addiction to any drug on the planet. If you spend all your time trying to please a fickle, opinionated crowd, you’ll constantly find yourself changing who you are to try to cater to that crowd. And before long, you become a product instead of a person. And products have to be marketed. That’s why following Jesus and being an entrepreneur is sometimes so difficult and messy and hard to balance. I’m supposed to be marketing myself, right? Or so they say. And some of you have been convinced that you’re supposed to be promoting yourselves, too. Now that we’re all performers, we feel like we’re supposed to.
But, you are not a product in constant need of selling. The world might make you feel that way these days, and sometimes, in today’s culture we sadly sometimes have to sell ourselves to get ahead. But rooting your identity in that idea is a very dangerous thing. In your creator’s eyes, you are not a product. Neither am I. Don’t let your sub-concious get tricked into thinking that you are. No matter what, you should never be reduced to a product, or you’ll be in constant need of sexier packaging and non-stop improvements to remain more competitive in the marketplace. Sure, better yourself. Fight for a promotion at work. But when it comes to you rooting your identity in your performance and what others think about you, that’s a never-ending road to travel down, and I can tell you from personal experience that it only leads to exhaustion.
“It’s better to be marked by God, than marketed by man.” -Christine Caine
Instead of revolving your life around trying to please a crowd that is impossible to please, just be who God created you to be, and do and say all that He leads you to do and say. For some of us, that’s easy, because our audience consists of people who have a lot in common with you and each other. For others, finding a tribe isn’t exactly a walk in the park. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who follows you, only whether you are following Jesus.
Speaking of Jesus…remember when he rode into Jerusalem on that donkey? They were singing His praises and welcoming his arrival. Sadly, it only took three days for that same crowd to start yelling “Crucify him!” If a perfect, miracle-performing Jesus can’t please everyone, what makes you think you or I can?
If you have a bunch of followers who love you, great! If they don’t, well…you have something in common with Jesus. The good news is, Jesus was crucified so that we wouldn’t have to be.
Trust me, we’ll all be better off if we stop with the show. Myself included. Slowly but surely, I’m learning to. Because with every tweet, post, and keystroke, I’m learning that crowds are fickle indeed.