Several years ago, my dad purchased a book for me called The 7 Habits of Effective People, by Stephen Covey. Being a 20-something, I assumed that the gift implied that I wasn’t successful. Ah, the people who think twenty-somethings are more mature than teenagers 🙂
I held on to the book, but I didn’t really give it a chance. After the rise to popularity that people like Dr. Phil experienced, I felt increasingly over the years that I didn’t need another book that would, as I like to say, be “grab you by the collar” stuff. In my own experience, the only way to really get yourself to move is to motivate yourself. Guidance is important, but until you are ready to internalize it, people could talk to you till they’re blue in the face and it wouldn’t move you an inch. What would this book do that would be so revolutionary?
Earlier this year, I read Trust Agents, and there are several references throughout the book to this same 7 Habits. As I started delving into the world of Social Media, I noticed that everyone I respect seems to be at least familiar with the book, if not steeped in it. So, finally convinced by 7 Habits believer Chris Brogan, I bought an audio version of the book. I’m already done with it. And I wish that I wasn’t.
Instead of doing a “book review” of why I think this particular book, whether in print or audible, is really important, I am going to create a 7-part series that expresses what I gleaned from this book, which is a much deeper understanding of how Social Media can work for people. Now, this is kind of funny. When Stephen Covey first was working on the study that grew into his best selling book, it was the 1970s. The internet was just a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye. Steve Jobs maybe only owned 2 black turtlenecks. In the audio version, Covey refers to “the email.” So how can I say that this book helped me understand Social Media better?
It’s all about the principles.
You see, what lies at the heart of The 7 Habits is your heart. Your relationships with people. How to relate to people better. Now of course, all of these lessons can be used in “real life” too, but what struck me is how Social Media can kind of strip out these particular principles and really shine the spotlight on them. In Social Media, you are not distracted necessarily by white noise, facial expressions, rolled eyes, a long history, fatigue, or other things. Your brain and your heart are using your keyboard, connecting with other people who can only present themselves to you as their brain and heart lets them.
It’s social interaction 101. It’s a blank chalkboard (er, do people still use chalkboards?) that one can write these 7 principles on and say, “Oh, wow, there it is.”
In thinking about Social Media through the filter of these 7 habits, I came to see a lot of what goes on behind the scenes for some of the most “effective” people I see on Social Media sites. I come to see where I need to grow as a person who uses this medium. It’s also a nice way to remember that Social Media really does mean that you are dealing with other people. You are not socializing with your computer or your phone or your…whatever it is you are using right now. Maybe your television! You are socializing with other people who are, perhaps, more like you than you realize.
More Pragmatism about Ethics
Before Covey even delves into the 7 habits he talks about how he has never seen so much pragmatism about being ethical. In other words, people are not doing ethical things because they are ethical. They may be doing things because that’s what celebrities have to do, or that’s how you get more followers on Twitter. It was upon hearing this that I knew that I would be absorbing this wisdom with Social Media in mind. Because being ethical does have its benefits in this world, doesn’t it? I like to give back because that’s the way I’m wired, but it would be easy enough for someone to say, “Oh, okay, I’ll promote 12 people for every tweet I do because that will get me more followers.”
So I’d love to hear your thoughts about that tiny nugget first. Is Social Media making people TOO pragmatic about being ethical? Are people being nice so that they can get ahead? And how can you tell?
I hope you enjoy this series. I hope that I can impart my sentiments to you as I felt them as I went through the book, because it was extremely interesting. It would be awesome to have you add to the conversation as I go – if you’ve already read the book, or if you are reading it now.