Paula Kiger

How Being Generous on Social Media Will Change Your Life

By: Paula Kiger | February 2, 2017 | 

How Being Generous on Social Media Will Change Your LifeYou. Reading this post. Can you make my life interesting?

If you can’t, kindly move along and don’t waste your time (or mine) trying to connect.

When “I Want to Connect” Just isn’t Enough

When I read an article recently by a professor who advised readers to quit social media to preserve their careers, I was curious to know more about the author.

As I reflexively do almost any time I read something interesting, I visited his website to look for a way to go deeper: A Twitter handle, maybe, or an email address.

That’s not what I got.

True to the sentiments expressed in his article, he has no social media links on his website, and states that he does not have a “general use email address.”

Simply put, he’s not interested in connecting with people like me, unless we have an interesting proposal that will benefit him in some way.

As a social media enthusiast who is on social media for large parts of every day, both for work and personal reasons, I struggled to understand his viewpoint.

Social Media Connections Matter, Even if There is No Immediate Payoff

Having a 20-year-old child, I am often struck by how precisely she gets to refine choices she makes based on either a) an algorithm (like Pandora Radio), or b) a feedback-based site (like Rate My Professors).

Back in the olden days, we were held hostage to whatever artists some programming director chose.

At school, our student/teacher match-ups were handed down by the logic of who was teaching what, when, and which students fit in those slots.

Heck, we even had to answer the phone without caller ID.

It could have been ANYONE calling, even someone we (gasp!) didn’t want to talk to.

As my daughter grew up, she could craft her own channels …. all One Direction?


Tired of One Direction?

Create your own Katy Perry channel.

She doesn’t have to listen to Beyoncé when she may be more of a Taylor Swift person, but she is missing out on the serendipity of hearing something out of her comfort zone.

Some of my favorite musicians throughout childhood became favorites because I was unexpectedly exposed to them.

While I envy her ability to manipulate her playlist, I am sad for the discoveries she won’t make serendipitously.

Sometimes we are pleasantly surprised by being exposed to something we didn’t think we would like.

Giving Us What We Want at the Expense of What We Need?

Many of my daughter’s choice of college professors have been influenced by sites such as Rate My Professors.

I vacillate on this one.

On the one hand, it can be incredibly helpful to know the pros and cons of instructors.

You can be saved from the really horrid ones by seeing the feedback of other students.

Perhaps the instructors themselves are better because they know feedback about them will be public.

BUT, I think college students sometimes do not know what they need from their instructors.

Some of the best academic situations I had were ones that started off rocky …. demanding instructors who insisted I work really hard and did not spoon feed me.

But they were some of the most effective faculty members I had, in retrospect.

I am sure they would have been skewered on Rate My Professors.

We don’t always know what we need; we may not be prepared to evaluate options from the best perspective.

A Generosity Mindset is the Most Interesting Kind

When the author I had become interested in wrote on the contact page of his website, essentially, “don’t contact me unless you can make my life more interesting,” I wanted to shake him out of his deep reverie and beg him to open himself to the unexpected rewards that come from being generous with those who you’ve impressed enough that they try to reach out to you.

As an example that the Spin Sucks community will understand, I have interacted with Gini Dietrich on a number of occasions.

I’ve asked questions that were quite small, things I probably could have learned from a Google search.

I don’t run a company like she does; I haven’t written a successful book; I’ve never given a keynote (yet!).

But still, although I may not have something to offer her, she responded graciously.

I can name example after example of ways a simple tweet has led to a true, “in real life” friendship, of ways I have found solidarity with others who support the same causes as I do, and of how social media has given people with disabilities a lifeline to a world beyond their hospital bed or geographical location.

In none of those situations did I know anything would happen beyond a pleasant exchange of 140 characters.

As I wrote here, the threads of social media (and life in general) are often invisible.

If you are choosing to connect only to someone whose value to you is tangible, you’re likely to be missing the deepest connections of all.

About Paula Kiger

Paula Kiger believes her Twitter bio says it best: Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. She is a communications professional who provides writing, editing and social media services through Big Green Pen. She was the community manager for the Lead Change Group for two years. Paula has a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Human Systems from Florida State University. She is an active advocate for many causes, including access to immunizations for children worldwide.

  • paulakiger

    Thank you, Gini and team, for sharing this post and for being living examples of generosity in action.

    • <3 you!

      • paulakiger


    • You have killed it on this article. Congratulations…and thank you! <3

      • paulakiger

        Thank you. 🙂

  • I love your POV here, Paula!

    I’ve met so many amazing people through twitter conversations that I would likely never have met otherwise. And many of these folks have become friends IRL.

    So, I’m definitely in agreement with the power of serendipity and being generous with yourself online as you can.

    • paulakiger

      I wonder if one element is this …. that people have always been this way (either tending toward generosity or not) but social media makes it more clear when they just overtly say “don’t try to connect unless you can do something for me.” Hmmmm.

  • Nancy Davis

    I remember meeting Gini here in the comments section. I was just starting out and was full of questions. She is one of the most gracious people I have ever met. Along the way, it has been my pleasure to become personal friends with her and with others. These people helped me when life got nearly impossible. Kindness like that is hard to find.

    • paulakiger

      Totally agree! I have to say — though — I’m thinking about my first foray into the comments. One of the first times there was a Featured on Friday (or whatever it was called pre-video inquisition and pre-written inquisition), Gini said something along the lines of “bribery may help you find your way to this feature.” And it took me about a hot minute to send her a package of Big Green Pen goodies, along with a note that literally (sorry, Laura) said “this is not a bribe.” LOLOLOLOL. So maybe I’m guilty of the opposite — looking for something the community could do for me and somewhat blatantly going for it.

  • Love love love this perspective. A spirit of generosity is the best life strategy, and just happens to be an awesome approach to business as well.

    • paulakiger

      I agree! Thx for your comment!

  • C Renee C Fuller

    I cannot imagine life without social media now and when my sons ask me “how did you look up stuff way back when?” I laugh and say it took hours instead of seconds!

    • paulakiger

      Right? So many examples along those lines — have your kids ever stood there, remote w/dead battery in hand, bemoaning their inability to change the channel? // As much as I disagree with the author’s disdain of social media (QUOTE (from his article, not the book, the it perpetuates his theme): “There are many issues with social media, from its corrosion of civic life to its cultural shallowness), his writing DID force me to A) recommit to being in control of how my attention is divvied up and B) make sure that as much as I love social media, I use it in an intentional way (with plenty of kitty pix thrown in for good measure).

  • MarySchaefer

    Hi Paula! What a great post. I’ve seen versions of “don’t contact me unless you can make my life more interesting,” and it makes my stomach hurt.

    I too have established cherished relationships with colleagues I have met through social media. I have been delighted to meet “IRL” people I met virtually in some way. (I’m still looking forward to meeting this cool gal with a big green pen.)

    At the same time, I have to admit, my generosity toward someone who reaches out to me depends somewhat on how they have done so. I’m blown away by people asking me, no, expecting me to give them something for nothing, without recognizing what they are asking.

    That said, I would never discourage (and show my disdain for) people publicly who want to reach out to me. I am discerning about my response though.

    Excellent thought provoking post, Paula.

    • paulakiger

      Thank you so much for your comment, Mary (and I too look forward to an IRL meeting someday). You raise a really important point that is a cousin to this —- the fact that if we ARE accessible (as I think we should be), then we are presented with the “can I just pick your brain?” scenarios where people want/expect resources from us (a half hour of consulting time for example) that we would otherwise charge for ….. those can get “delicate” to navigate. I am glad you introduced this important point. // I am also struggling with the author’s clear delegation of ALL things promotion to publicists, etc. — obviously it’s working because his books do so well but it seems like a simple Twitter account is something you could hire someone (I actually know people *cough cough* who LOVE) Twitter, could monitor it, and let him know the ones that are “interesting” enough for him to personally become involved in. I am not surprised you brought such great perspective to this discussion!

      • MarySchaefer

        Paula, it IS delicate to navigate. I am faced with it nearly every day. I’m amazed at the people who insist on paying me, and those who wouldn’t think of it. To those I *gift* my time I tell them *I* get to choose who I give to, and today it’s you! Some I give a quick answer via email. Others I direct to my account so they can choose to exchange their money for my time and expertise. Even with these options, I still have to consider every request I receive to ensure I can look myself in the eye because of my choice.

        Generosity is good. “Giving” to the point of resentment is not. I’m playing junior psychologist at this point, but I could see someone (perhaps like that author) *give* so much a that eventually he/she simply shuts down.

  • Paula, you are one of the most generous people, on social and in life, I’ve ever met, so I can’t think of a better person to write a post like this.

    • paulakiger

      Aw, thanks.

  • What a sad little man he must be. My social media links have helped me through bad times, given me opportunities I never would have had, and contributed to my many adventures over the last 6 yrs.

    • paulakiger

      You know, I have read this book, one or two of his blogs, and watched his Ted Talk —– I am not sure if “sad” is the conclusion I would come to BUT …… I think his choice is a limiting one that keeps him from experiencing some pretty cool people and situations. (And I’ll be curious as his kids get older if everyone in the house is on social media lockdown…..).

  • You know I agree 100% Paula (and about Gini too). In my experience, academics are a whole other ball game; they can be very weird people, equally insular IRL. So maybe this gentleman was just being true to who he is? It’s interesting that he bills himself as a “millennial computer scientist.”

    I do see a lot of people still stuck in the “don’t talk to me until I need something from you” mode, and it really really irks me. When they need something from you, they have no hesitation in asking to “pick your brain over a cup of coffee,” but God forbid they should actually talk to someone if there’s nothing in it for them.

    That said, I also experience the other side, and I know many others on this thread have as well, where people – especially if they think they know you from social – expect you to give give give. And you can fall into the trap of being such a “giver” that people pick you clean. And if you have nothing left for yourself, then that’s not good either.

    • paulakiger

      Hi! And thanks for your comment. You know, you make a really good point about academia. The fact that he associates himself with that primarily is definitely clear in the book. // As Mary pointed out elsewhere in the comments, there is a cousin to this topic which is the effects of BEING accessible — and having to manage all that comes with that. // I guess one distinction I am starting to make in my mind is the fact that his work on attention is fascinating. But much of the commentary on social media was just SO absolute in its viewpoint. And after all, I wouldn’t have bought his book on audio, and the hard copy (because I needed to be able to easily look passages up) if I hadn’t heard about him ……… on Facebook. It’s not all bad, you know?

  • I lived a long time without interacting on social media. No Facebook nothing until 2014 and I have to say that it has definitely changed my life. I’m a disabled caregiver who spends 99% of my time at home. The friendships I have online have made my life so much more interesting and fun. Without it I wouldn’t have any contact with the outside world.

    • paulakiger

      What you point out is EXACTLY one of the biggest factors behind my belief in (and love for) social media. It has expanded access in so many ways. Thanks so much for chiming in, Rena.

  • Jane Anderson

    I can’t imagine anyone saying that (don’t contact me unless YOU can make MY life more interesting). Oh. My. Word.

    I fell in love with social media in 2008 but didn’t even know where to start. All I knew is that it was the best way ever for me to travel the world. In 2012 social media changed my life. Yes, my life has become more interesting, but it was more me reaching out to people who had no little box I had to fit into before they would respond. If I had a very, very long piece of paper and I were to list all my friends, I might have more virtual friends than friends I see in person. Not one of them has been stingy with their time or responses. In fact, I am blown away at how people I might never meet in person act like they know and value me. After reading your article, I won’t ever take them for granted.

    • paulakiger

      Oh Jane I love the sentence about “no little box I had to fit into.” Goodness my social media (and real world) would be limited if it were all about fitting into other people’s boxes so thanks for that great visual. And I sent you more details about the language on his site. As I’ve said more privately, I don’t “pick fights” often and I guess this isn’t picking a fight exactly but ….. as you can imagine knowing me as you do, I did send a link to the “interesting” address ….. to see where it falls on his “Interesting” scale (although I am pretty sure I know!). 🙂

      • Jane Anderson

        In response to you message to me. I have to wonder if that character’s ego is to inflated he needs an overhead door and cathedral ceilings to exist. LOL

        • paulakiger

          You certainly can’t read the text on that context page and NOT be clear about his preference, right?

        • paulakiger

          You certainly can’t read the language on his contact page and not be crystal clear on where he stands can you?

  • doro7

    Nice post. It reminded me of a pundit who has become very popular on Twitter and sought after for his commentary, which admittedly is very cogent and insightful. Years ago (before he was quite as known) I was on the board of PRSA-NY and wrote to him about a speaking engagement. My emails were ignored, and I ultimately got word through a third party that he wasn’t interested. It’s not the same thing exactly, but it’s funny how the experience colors my opinion of him; a simple response would have been fine.

    • paulakiger

      I totally hear you on that. It is quite astounding how someone taking the time to send a simple response (even if, in a case like yours, it had been “I’m not able to accommodate your request right now”) can make such a positive impact. Those who know my grammar-loving ways will not be surprised at this story but …… a guy was doing a grammar book once and there was a “challenge” to be the first to send in an example from your state, including how you fixed it. At a local (temporary) event here, the sign spelled the sponsor, the local Sheriff’s charity, as “Sherriff.” In retrospect I can’t believe I did this but I actually wrote our sheriff, who probably had better things to do (solve crimes anyone?) asking him to do a fun publicity thing and send out someone in uniform to be part of the “fun” of correcting it. Instead of ignoring me or telling me to go away, he made a fun joke out of it (“would you BELIEVE how often that word is misspelled?”). After he passed away, the fact that he was so tactful and responsive for such a superfluous thing was the best story I could tell for his legacy — that he took time for a constituent even though her concern was trivial. People remember. 🙂

  • Marisa Cesare

    Great post! Social media is an important tool for networking both professionally and personally. The connections you make online can transfer to connections in the real world, and cutting yourself off from these connections can limit your opportunities.

    • paulakiger

      I agree, Marisa. Thanks so much for your comment!

  • What a hilarious thing to write, unfortunately, that kind of reaction will only just confirm his narrow judgment on the world – who would want to risk engaging with him if he would potentially rebuke them for not providing him with enough value!? I think your wider point about hearing things out of our comfort zone is so true as well. Now that we are our own content curators we almost build our own echo chamber online, filtering out anything, not in line with our views. Also as you say “we don’t always know what we need” I would go further and say “sometimes what we think we need is exactly what we don’t need”! With both of these points in mind, I really agree the best way going forward is to just adopt a generosity mindset.

    • paulakiger

      Great points and angle on all of this! I can’t get this situation out of my head (which, yes, kind of does feel like he is “winning” at some invisible game). I’ve made it a personal challenge to wrest a response out of him (even if it’s critical … just SAY SOMETHING) which, again, gives him the power and is the opposite of what I intended to do. Did you know one of his other books in addition to Deep Work is titled “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”? Well, I’m knocking at that “ignore” door and trying to find a good enough strategy to get in! // And yes, in the long run, generosity is almost always the way to go. Thanks for your comment.

      • Brilliant, what a great challenge! Im sure eventually you will be “so good he cant ignore you”! Good luck…

  • USCgirl83

    Social media has enriched my life. Connected me to new friends. Reconnected me with old ones. Allowed me to vent. Exposed me to heartache. My biggest criticism of social media is that it has often gotten in the way of personal connections, but I’m working on that. Like you, I also like the opportunities that come from the music I didn’t select myself or the professor others encouraged me to avoid. So much comes from that leap of faith!

    • paulakiger

      Thanks for your comment, Vicki. Social media has enriched my life too, for sure! Despite writing this post and the great conversation in the comments, I STILL struggle to put my finger on exactly what about Newport’s attitude toward social media irritated me so much. I think in part it’s the fact that the success of his book(s) to some degree is due to (wait for it!) people like you and me talking about them on social media. Social media has been good to him, I feel, while all along he has been dismissing it as shallow. Anyway, thanks for stopping by!