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True Community on Social Media

Social media can be used for connection but you have to be very purposeful about who you follow. There are many on social media that are just looking to sell something or get you to engage simply to build their own profiles. If your social media feeds are full of these types of people, but you want to move more towards a true community feel on Instagram and FaceBook, keep reading.

There are three different types of accounts that I tend to follow:

  • Educational
  • Entertainment
  • Community

I will break these down in a moment. But first, if you want to build community, the bulk of the people you follow should be in the community category. Some accounts fall in all three categories. Some people will engage with you, entertain you and educate you. These accounts are golden. Educational and Entertainment should not make up more than 25% of what you follow. Instagram and FB will populate your feed according to the accounts you typically tend to engage with. If you watch and follow a lot of people who make funny puppy videos, Insta and FB are more likely to show you more of the same. If you follow a lot of “influencer” accounts, the algorithm will show you more of the same. People who make influencer videos and funny puppy videos for a living, are most likely not trying to build true community and are more in the business of getting lots of likes.

Even if an influencer is interested in building community, they probably get so many comments that they can only interact with the first 10 or 20 and you are likely to get lost. This is how you know. Go to an influencer post that has a lot of comments. Scroll down and see how far the engagement goes. If you know the person personally, it may be worth it. If not, you are risking having your feed be populated with people who will not be engaging with you. I digress. Let’s talk about education.

Education: These are people you follow simply because you learn from them. I don’t expect them to engage with me at all. I follow them simply because their content is super impactful and helpful. Some examples would be accounts that feature inspirational quotes, news outlets, Yoga pose tutorials, beauty influencers, fashion accounts and people who do workshops that you frequently attend. Again, keep them to less than 25% of the accounts you follow or the algorithm will overload your feed with these types of accounts.

Entertainment: These are people you follow because they are amusing or intriguing. I don’t expect these people to engage with me, that is why I keep them under 25% of my total accounts so my feed is not flooded with them. Examples would be celebrities, funny videos, provocative memes, cute animals, Yoga pose accounts (yep, LOL), and people you find intriguing.

Community: These are people who are actually interested in what you say and what you think. These accounts are not one-way streets. They respond when you comment, answer your DM’s, and interact with your accounts. This also includes people who may not necessarily interact with you online but they interact with you in real life. Some examples are students, family, classmates, teachers, church members, friends, local businesses you frequent and customers.

It is important that you are making an effort to communicate as well. It doesn’t have to be quid pro quo but if you never interact with them, you cannot be mad if they don’t interact with you. Imagine going to dinner with someone who doesn’t talk to you. They just eat and stare at you. Also, if you don’t interact with them, Instagram and FB or less likely to show you their posts.

If you start to notice that someone, in your community list, is constantly posting but never responding to you, unfollow them. They can keep following you and when they start to interact again, follow them again. This is not about being petty. This is about making sure that your social media accounts are serving you. If everything in your feed is either educating you, entertaining you or building with you, you will love Instagram and FB because they are fun and positive spaces to hang out. You won’t feel as bad when you are on them a lot because you are learning, growing and building connection.

Immediately unfollow accounts that make you feel bad. Yep, this may mean unfollowing friends, family or colleagues. This also includes people who are unintentionally making you feel bad. For instance, if you are super jealous of a friend’s success until you get your emotions to a good place, unfollow them. If you are grieving the loss of a child and watching your friends play with their kids online is triggering you, unfollow them for a while.

If you have a lot of fluff followers, it will take a while for you to clean them out and for the algorithm to start working in your favor. Stay with it and you will eventually have a feed you love.

If you are using your feed for business or you are an influencer, and the people you do business with are not necessarily people you want to virtually hang with, consider having more then one profile. One for business and one for personal use. You can also follow only the people you actually want to engage with. If you look at influencer or celebrity accounts, you will notice that they have thousands of followers but they only follow like 100 people. And going back to the beginning of the article, if you are following these people who don’t follow you back, and you want to build community, do so sparingly.

Some people opt for the “if they follow me, I will follow them.” If you are okay with filtering through tons of posts that you are not interested in, then go for it. To have control over what shows up in your feed, you can follow them but not interact with them.

If you want to build community and true relationships, avoid just putting hearts on or liking everything and anything that hits your feed. This can be really difficult. Your friend’s new kittens, that she posts 10 pictures of every day sure are cute, however, if you put likes and hearts on all of those pictures, you are going to get more of them. I used to follow a very popular Buddhist teacher who posted (probably their team and not really them) all day, every day. I loved everything they posted. It was good stuff. However, after a while, FB only showed me posts from this person. Literally, there would be post after post after post of stuff from this person. It took a couple of weeks of me not commenting on their stuff for FB to actually start showing me other things.

Another way to diversify your feed and get more of what you want showing is to go out of your way to interact with an account. For instance, if you notice that Insta has stopped showing you posts from your Yoga studio, make a note to go to their account every day to comment, like or share their posts. Eventually, the algorithm will get the message. FB does have other ways like putting them on a list of people you want to ensure you see. This works if you have a new account, a small account or a slow-growing account. However, if your account is established already or you have a big account, that can be quite tedious. If it works for you, do it. I don’t use that feature so I can’t really speak to it.

If you want to literally have more diversity in your feed, meaning you want to see posts from all ethnicities and walks of life, go out of your way to find these people, follow them, follow who they follow, and engage with their content. Social Media favors the dominant culture because the dominant culture favors the dominant culture. If you are not careful, your feed will have you believing that only White skinny people practice and teach Yoga or that you cannot possibly find anyone but “Karens” to speak on your panels. It will have you thinking that everyone in the world thinks like you and I guarantee you everyone does not.

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.

One Comment

  • Camilla

    This is really great advice, thank you!
    I come across so many accounts that don’t comment or engage back in any way when I leave thoughtful comments. It’s nice to know that I can just unfollow and save my social media time for the community that actually want to have interesting conversations!

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