Facebook: Sharing or Showing Off? [en]

[fr] Une prise de conscience d'une part de l'effet négatif que peuvent avoir sur moi les publications positives de mes amis sur Facebook (je suis contente pour eux, mais en comparaison, suivant mon humeur, ça peut faire ressortir à mes yeux mon inadéquation), et d'autre part du fait que je contribue peut-être à cet effet chez les autres avec mes partages (de tout mon temps passé au chalet dans un cadre magnifique, mes voyages, la voile...).

A few months ago, I realised that certain posts that showed up in my timeline on Facebook didn’t make me feel very good.

  • another of my friends was writing a book
  • somebody else was hanging out with exciting “famous” people
  • yet another was pregnant
  • somebody had a new exciting professional gig

I felt happy for all these people, of course. Amongst my peers, I’ve been reasonably conservative about connecting with people on Facebook, and bar a few exceptions (that’s life), I’ve only friended people I like. So, when people I like are happy, or have a new exciting job, or are about to be parents, or lead exciting lives, I’m happy for them.

Neige et chalet 129 2015-01-18 17h45

But during times when I’m not feeling too good about myself or my situation, or going through a tough spot, or suffering a bout of self-doubt, learning about these good things in my friends’ lives actually brings me down.

The explanation is quite simple: social comparison. We tend to do that. Some more than others. We compare ourselves to others. It’s a background process, really, and I personally have a lot of trouble turning it off or at least down.

I’m somebody who is on the whole positive/optimistic about the internet, the digital world, social media. I think it is overall a good thing. For us as a society, and for us as people. So I’ve always looked at articles like this one with a bit of skepticism.

What I see described in some of these “facebook envy articles” doesn’t really fit with what I observe on Facebook. They sometimes paint a picture where people are actively putting their best foot forward and showing off the highlights of their lives, and others spend their time actively stalking their friends lives, seething with envy. I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get the idea.

Kolkata Streets 2015 38

When I noticed that learning good news about my friends’ lives was bringing me down, it took me a while to realise I was experiencing some form of Facebook envy — because the mechanisms I could see didn’t fit with what I had been (half-heartedly) reading about.

I didn’t see my friends as bragging. They were just sharing stuff about their lives. And of course, people are more likely to share “Yay got the book deal!” than “ate a cheese sandwich for lunch”. Or maybe they also share the cheese sandwich, but more people are going to like the book deal and comment on it. And so Facebook’s algorithm is going to push it to the top and make it appear in my newsfeed, rather than the cheese sandwich.

I also didn’t see myself as actively trying to compare myself with others. This was just part of the “keeping passively in touch” role that Facebook plays for me. Catching up asynchronously, and probably also asymmetrically. But behind the scenes, social comparison was working overtime.

Sailing in Spain

I learned to take time out. Leave Facebook for a while and go do something else. It didn’t spiral out of control. Yay me.

As I was becoming aware of what my friends’ posts was sometimes doing to me, I started having second thoughts about some of the things I was posting. You see, I have a chalet in the mountains, in a really picturesque area in the Alps. I go there quite often during winter, as I take a season ski pass. And I share photos.

What’s going on in my mind is not really “see how lucky I am”, but more “I’m aware how lucky I am and I want you to get to experience some of this too”. My intention is generous. It is to share so that others can benefit too.

But I’ve realised lately that this may not be the impact my posts have on others. My sometimes seemingly endless chalet and mountain photos might be for others what book deals and professional success in my newsfeed are to me.


People with families, or two weeks of holiday per year, or who live in parts of the world that make travel more difficult or simply don’t have the means to move from where they are might feel (rightly) envious of some aspects of my life. I travel quite a bit. Aside from the chalet, I have a boat on the lake, go to India regularly. My freelance life has drawbacks, but one of the advantages is have is that I have quite a bit of freedom with my time and where I am, as some parts of my work are location-independant. And I live in Switzerland, for heaven’s sake.

Of course, I try to share the good things about my life, because I’m aware I’m privileged, and I don’t want to spend my time whining or complaining. I do complain, but about the small things, usually. Like people saying “blog” to mean “blog post”. The big things that bring me down are also much more difficult to talk about, and so I don’t often mention them. But I’m generally happy with my life and that is what I try to express.


I don’t experience what I do on Facebook as “self-promotion”. Every now and again I “do self-promotion”. I write a post that really has to do with my professional area of expertise, or I share information about something I’m working on. But that’s far from the majority of my postings. Most of the time, it’s really just “oh, look at this, I want you to enjoy it too!”

Now, however, I’m more and more aware of the part I may be playing in fuelling other people’s social comparison blues. Am I going to post yet another photo of how beautiful the mountains are from the chalet balcony? Or showing that I’m sailing on the lake? Or that I’m hanging out with the cats again?

Furry Boys

I don’t know if I’m going through a realisation that will change what I post about or not. But it’s definitely changing how I think and feel, to some extent.

What about you? Do you get “bad feelings” seeing what your friends are upto? And do you think about what “bad feelings” you may unwittingly be eliciting amongst your friends through your postings?

And what is the solution to this?

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Finding a Balance in Office Work: Long-Term Projects [en]

[fr] Quelques réflexions sur comment je m'organise pour mon travail "de bureau", et la difficulté que j'ai à avancer sur les projets "long terme, pas urgents".

Here is an umpteenth post about my journey figuring out how to “be the boss of me” — getting work done and still having a life as a freelancer.

Honestly, I have not been doing too badly this year. It’s even been pretty good. 🙂

The other day, when I was catching up with Suw, I told her that I was now pretty competent at managing my days, but not that good at looking beyond that. What I mean is that I have a system to keep track of the next things I need to do, and I’m much better than I used to be at evaluating what can get done in a given day. I still tend to be a bit ambitious, but overall my “day plans” are pretty realistic.

Proof of that, in my opinion:

  • I now very rarely have a day where I’m “running” or “scrambling”
  • I rarely have to work during the week-end or the evening to do stuff that “absolutely needs to get done and I haven’t managed to squeeze it in yet”.

So, the next step is the week. I’m still using maker days and manager days (it’s not perfect, sometimes I give in and sacrifice a maker day, but overall I’m getting increasingly better at sticking to my plan). What I’d like to think about here (you read me right, I’m writing this post to think something over) is what I do (or try to do) during my office “maker” days.

Here’s what I’ve identified so far:

  1. daily business: checking e-mails, taking phone calls, hanging out on Twitter/IM, responding to prospective clients, journalists, people who want to pick my brains, dealing with little emergencies, reading stuff online
  2. “regular” paid work: these are gigs that are long-term and require a little work every day or every week at least, and therefore fall in the “daily business” category too, but are for a client who is paying
  3. my projects: taking care of eclau, Bloggy Fridays
  4. my “promotional” stuff: blogging, keeping my websites up-to-date (technically and content-wise — ahem), writing, planning ebooks but not writing them, preparing general documentation to promote what I do to prospective clients, research
  5. accounting and administrivia: personal and professional, including writing to the gérance to ask them to change the windows so we can save on heating
  6. support network: I have a bunch of friends I’m in regular contact with to talk things over (their things, my things)

OK, the list is a bit messy, but it’s a start. I know that one thing that can usually “kill” an office day is when I’m asked to do a one-off, time-limited gig by a client: for example, a 2-4 hour WordPress training/coaching session. The reason for that is that this kind of gig pays immediately: shortest path to money. So usually, when I make exceptions and kill a maker day, it’s because there is immediate money at stake (as long as it doesn’t compromise the work I need to do for my “regular” paying clients, of course).

Items 1, 2, 3 and 6 of the list above are not really a source of trouble right now. I mean, that’s what I spend my time doing.

Items 4 and 5, on the other hand, are problematic: I keep falling behind. In the case of accounting and administrivia, as they are something I get in trouble about if I don’t do them for long enough, every now and again I go “gosh, am behind, gotta spend a day on it” and I get it done. But I have trouble with regularity (less and less though, to be fair with myself).

The big painful one is what I call “my promotional stuff”. It’s long-term. If I don’t do it, there are no direct consequences. It does not involve other people. Summary:

  • it’s for me, so it tends to end up less high priority than all the rest that is “for others”;
  • no time constraints, so it is less high priority than emergencies and deadlines;
  • some of it is actually difficult for me (preparing promotional copy for example).

So, here are some of the items that are on this long-suffering list of things I want to do but never get around to doing because there is always more urgent stuff to take care of:

  • upgrade WordPress and plugins on a bunch of my sites
  • do something about the horribly out-of-date content on my professional site (organize another WPD?)
  • get a proper lifestream up and running (as Nathalie aptly put it earlier this morning, “FriendFeed is nice and all, but I never go there”)
  • start writing the blasted ebook 😉
  • write more fiction
  • write up shiny material explaining what I do (including “terms and conditions”) that I can send or give out to my clients and prospects (including sending stuff to schools saying “I give talks” and “looking for somebody to teach a few hours on social media over the next academic year?”)
  • catch up with my photo uploading on Flickr (in a way, yes, this also ends up being a “promotional” activity)
  • blog more (you’re getting tired of hearing it, but look, it’s working).

I’ve tried a few times to state (to myself, that is) “Friday afternoon is for administrivia and accounting” but weeks are so short that my resolve usually falls down the drain. I’m thinking that I should firewall time to work on these “longer-term” projects each week — but again, I look at my calendar and think “ugh”. A day a week? Sounds like a minimum when I look at the list right above, but quite impossible when I think of what my usual weeks are like. On the other hand, I do have (what feels to me like) quite a relaxed workstyle, so maybe if I did firewall a day off I’d discover I’m perfectly capable of dealing with the rest of my work on the other four days.

So, the questions for me remain:

  • how many office days vs. meeting days in a week? (right now I try to have three office days, but don’t always manage)
  • what’s the best way to build in time for long-term projects which tend to stagnate at the bottom of the priority list? (firewall a day or half a day off each week, or every two weeks, or something else…)

Dear readers: your insight is much appreciated. How do you do this? Do you do it? What have you tried? How did you fail? How did you succeed?

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About Visibility [en]

[fr] Vous connaissez certainement des personnes qui excellent dans l'art de se mettre en avant ou de promouvoir ce qu'elle font. S'il est bon de savoir le faire, une réputation qui repose principalement sur des compétences marketing/vente plutôt que sur ce que l'on produit réellement, ça ne force pas tellement le respect. S'il n'y a aucun mal à utiliser de temps en temps des "tactiques marketing" pour se mettre en avant, et faciliter de façon générale la diffusion de ce que l'on fait/écrit, gare à l'excès. Si l'on se cantonne à "jouer avec le système", on n'est au final qu'une coquille vide avec une grande gueule.

Here’s another post I wrote offline while waiting at the cinema. I was going to post it tomorrow but I just bumped into this blog post by Seth Godin which is on a very similar topic (and way better than mine). So… I’m posting it now, and will go to bed a bit later!

Quite a few months ago I came upon a blog post explaining how to become a successful blogger. How to become “known” amongst the blogging crowd. It had some good advice, but it bothered me. And it’s only a few weeks ago that I understood why.

I’ve tried to dig out this post again, but (ironically?) I can’t make it surface. It was of the “x ways to …” type, “here’s how I did it”, “you can do it too” type.

See, as in the real, offline world, there are two things: the product, and marketing it. Of course, they aren’t really that separate, but please bear with the simplification for the sake of the argument. For a blogger, it comes down to what you actually blog about/do, and how you promote yourself/what you do.

As somebody who’s pretty bad at self-promotion overall (not hopeless, but not a natural by far), I’m pretty sensitive to those who are better at it than me, in a sometimes “jealous” kind of way. I hate to say it, but I sometimes resent it. Some people come across as “noisy empty shells” — good at marketing themselves and putting themselves forward, but not much behind when you start to dig a bit.

Now, some lucky (and talented) people both have something to say, and have got the “self-promotion” bit figured out. And I have no problem with that.

Back to the blog post I was mentioning: what made me uneasy was that I used some of the techniques described there myself. Was I dirty?

And now, I figured it out. There’s nothing wrong with using “tried and tested” techniques to drive traffic to your blog, get people to link to your entries or comment on them, or basically, to put your stuff out there.

However, if that’s all your online reputation is built on, you’re just an empty shell with a loud mouth. If you’re “being good at promoting yourself” and use it to give yourself a boost every now and again, I don’t have a problem with that.

Here’s what it comes down to, because, in the end, this is about my opinion on something and the advice I’d give to those who are interested in it. I’ll respect you more if your reputation is built on your content and actual doings than if it’s built on you making use of every possible technique to maximise visibility of what you do.

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Going Solo Venues, Open Stage, and Link Love [en]

[fr] Sur le site de Going Solo, vous trouverez le récit de mon après-midi passée à visiter des salles de conférences à Lausanne. Ma proposition d'Open Stage pour LIFT'08 semble avoir du succès mais a encore besoin de vos votes.

Je me pose ensuite des tas de question sur les raisons pour lesquelles Going Solo ne semble pas attirer plus l'attention des blogueurs. Est-ce trop tôt? Pas assez d'informations? Ai-je épuisé mon capital social? Est-ce que tout le monde pense que les autres s'en chargent?

Pour que des personnes en-dehors de mon réseau direct puissent entendre parler de Going Solo et s'y intéresser, j'ai besoin de votre aide. Voici la (modeste) collection de liens couvrant Going Solo. Julien a parlé plusieurs fois de Going Solo en français (merci!), mais je crois que c'est à peu près tout côté couverture francophone. Oui, la conférence est en anglais. Mais vos lecteurs francophones ne sont pas tous nécessairement anglophobes, ni les personnes qu'ils connaissent à leur tour.

Que ce soit clair: je ne veux forcer la main à personne. Si vous trouvez Going Solo inutile ou même bête, ne perdez pas votre temps à en parler (ou mieux, en fait, racontez pourquoi vous pensez ainsi, ça m'intéresse). Mais si vous désirez soutenir cette conférence et que ce n'est visible nulle part sur votre blog... Prenez un petit moment pour ça.

Et si vous avez un éclairage à offrir concernant ma difficulté permanent à "rallier" les gens autour des choses que je fais (pas les choses que je blogue, hein, celles que je fais), je suis toute ouïe. Merci d'avance.

Just a note to say I’ve published [a blog post on hunting for venues for Going Solo](http://going-solo.net/2008/01/21/venue-stories/) (yes, on the Going Solo blog — what? you haven’t subscribed yet? what are you waiting for?). If you have any thoughts on the points I raise there, go ahead.

In the good news departments, it seems [my open stage proposal about organizing a conference for freelancers](http://www.liftconference.com/going-solo-being-freelancer-connected-world) is attracting interest. It still needs votes though, so if you [want to help make sure I hit the big stage](http://www.liftconference.com/lift08-community-program-propositions#openstage) and you are going to attend LIFT, be sure to [vote](http://www.liftconference.com/going-solo-being-freelancer-connected-world). (Every vote counts. Thanks.)

*Prepare for slight digression.*

For some reason, I seem to always have trouble motivating people to “spread the word” about stuff I’m doing. There seems to be a disconnect between the picture people send back to me (“Oh, you have so much *traction*, you’re so influent, etc.”) and what actually happens when I try to get the word out about something.

I usually don’t have this problem when it’s somebody else’s stuff. If I sign up for your nice new shiny 2.0 service and like it, I’m going to convince dozens of people to sign up. Twitter. Dopplr. Seesmic. It’s even happening with offline stuff like [the neti pot](http://steph.wordpress.com/2008/01/19/morning-rituals/).

I guess one of the issues is that I’m not really comfortable promoting my own stuff. Some people seem to have no problem doing that — I always feel like I should shut up, and if what I’m doing is really worthwhile, other people will pick it up and blog about it. On the other hand, I am pretty comfortable [page-slapping](http://joi.ito.com/archives/2003/08/10/page_slapping.html) people with my own writings.

So, what is it? Do people underestimate the support I need from the community? Am I one of those annoying people who [ask for too much and don’t give enough](http://www.horsepigcow.com/2007/11/24/you-may-be-a-community-freeloader-if-you/)? Do I squander my social capital? Is the stuff I do so lame that nobody has any interest in talking about it? Am I simply just “missing” a little something somewhere that I still haven’t figured out? Am I just not active enough in self-promoting?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about my [technorati ranking](http://technorati.com/search/climbtothestars.org) or about the fact that some of my blog posts have already been around the world three times (my stuff on [MySQL encoding problems](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2004/07/18/converting-mysql-database-contents-to-utf-8/) and [multiple WordPress installations](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2004/09/02/scripts-for-a-wordpress-weblog-farm/) have remained popular for years — the latter with spammers, maybe, I’m afraid). It’s more about *stuff I do* as opposed to *stuff I write*.

Take [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net). I know I haven’t really started pushing it out there, because we don’t have branding yet and the price isn’t quite set. But still. When I [announced it here on CTTS](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/14/announcing-going-solo/) (and before that, when I [said I was starting a company](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/13/im-starting-a-company/)), a lot of people stopped by to leave an encouraging comment or send me a nice tweet. I really appreciated it.

Now, not trying to make anybody feel bad here, but here’s [the coverage of Going Solo](http://del.icio.us/steph/coverage+goingsolo) that I’ve been able to round up (or the [technorati cosmos](http://s.technorati.com/going-solo.net). I’m getting into the habit of bookmarking any “coverage” links, because they’re easy to find on the moment, but 6 months later you can forget about it.

Is it because I haven’t explicitly said “Going Solo needs your link love”? (If that’s it, I’m saying it now.) Is it because it’s “too early) — ie, people are waiting for the venue to be set, the full programme to be announced, sidebar badges to be available and the tickets to be on sale? I personally don’t think it’s necessary to wait that long. I’m convinced Going Solo is going to be a really useful event for many freelancers out there. I want to get the word out and create interest for it, also outside my immediate network. And for that, I need you. You’re the only people who can help me reach “outside my network”. Or maybe I’m being difficult, naive, or expecting too much?

I’d like to understand what’s happening. I’d like more people to talk about Going Solo and try to promote it to their networks, of course, but my main issue here is understanding. So any insight will be… more than welcome. If you think Going Solo is worthwhile, but you haven’t blogged about it, it would help me if you left a comment to tell me why you haven’t (yet, hopefully!) blogged about it. Again — I’m not asking for justifications, just insight from “the other side of the fence”.

This week-end, as I was hurrying to get [my LIFT workshop](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/01/19/lift08-workshop-get-started-with-blogging/) out of the door, I was astonished (in a disappointed sort of way) to see how few people had come up with proposals for LIFT. I know people wait until the last minute to do it, but I also realised that I hadn’t really blogged about LIFT this year. I guess I was thinking that it was so popular anyway, a blog post of mine wouldn’t really make much difference. “The others” were already blogging about it.

Then I took a step back and thought of [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net) — how my frustration that people weren’t talking about it more. So I wrote a blog post to tell people it was [the last minute to send a contribution to LIFT](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/01/20/very-last-moment-to-propose-a-contribution-for-lift08/). Did anybody make one because I blogged about it, I wonder?

So, done with the angst-ridden rambling. I welcome your comments. And Going Solo needs your link love.

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