On Social Media Usage Insights I Learned During my Buffer Job Application Process (Spoiler alert: I didn’t get the job)
I originally came here to write a post about my recent job rejection from Buffer. The post led me to start reflecting on my social media usage over time, which became a monster post of its own. As a result, this material is being split into two different blog posts. This post will contain information about Buffer and why I wanted to work for them in this post, with some basic information about the things I noticed about my social media usage. The second post will have some more in depth analysis of my Facebook usage over time, and include a bunch of charts/graphs. If you’re more intertested in the social media aspect of this post than me rambling about how awesome Buffer is, you can skip ahead and click “Read More.”
Around the beginning of the year, I debated starting to schedule my social media posts. If you follow me you know I post A LOT on social media. Like, way too much. I am aware of it, but my ADD and love of constant interaction have kept me from ever really reigning it in. This over-posting is sometimes interspersed with several week social media hiatuses to reboot and recharge, after which my posting decreases significantly and then steadily climb back up to “all the damn time.” I wanted a way to better manage my personal social media, and I decided to give Buffer a try.
For those that don’t know, Buffer is a tool which helps you create and schedule social media posts in advance. Buffer also analyzes data from these posts and provides metrics to help you find out the best times to actually post for maximum audience engagement. When I went to the website, I noticed a link saying that Buffer was hiring and decided to take a look at the types of jobs they were looking to fill and find out more about their company. Within minutes, I was hooked. When I began reading about Buffer’s company values, it was like reading about my personality in company form, I felt like I had found my tribe. I could make an entire entry about why Buffer is awesome, but for the sake of brevity here are some of the main reasons I wanted to apply to work at Buffer (with links to further resources on their site):
- They have a really great set of company values based around positivity and happiness. There’s also a value to have a focus on self-improvement. It’s no secret I struggle with depression. But despite this, or perhaps even because of this, I work really hard to maintain a positive mental attitude. This includes mindfulness and gratitude training, good habit formation experiments, reading a lot of self-improvement material, and constantly working to better myself. I don’t always succeed, but I am always working on it. I have worked in some very negative and toxic environments and know that working in a company that promotes happiness would be an excellent fit for me, and me for them. (They even used to have a page about employees ongoing habit experiments, that unfortunately isn’t updated anymore, had I been hired I wanted to try to reboot this!).
- They are very transparent about their company. They not only list employees’ salaries (even the CEO’s is listed!), but they tell you the formula they used to get them so there is no stressful salary negotiating. They also talk openly about past mistakes and failures in the company. I try to be as transparent as I can online, from talking about depression to admitting when I screw things up or fail at goals(2), so it felt really great to know I could work for a company that not only approves of but embraces transparency.
- They not only encourage employees to use vacation time, but they PAY them to do so. When I left my former position I had two months of vacation time accrued because I was never able to use it. I was only able to be paid out for a certain amount of hours, and because I was leaving I wasn’t allowed to take a vacation so I ended up losing a lot of vacation time that I worked hard for. When I complained to my former boss about not being able to use it due to our insane experiment schedules he replied “They give you too much vacation anyway.” This put a really bad taste in my mouth and made me sad that I had lost something that I worked hard for, so it felt nice to know I could have a job where I was encouraged to actually take earned time off.
- Buffer allows you to self-manage, which includes creating your own schedule. Another Buffer value is to “Live Smart, Not Harder” which includes giving it’s employees the freedom to determine their own optimal working schedules depending on what makes them happiest. After nearly a year doing all part-time and freelance work, I’ve learned a lot about my self-driven productivity and work habits. Namely, I tend to have a few very productive hours in the morning, followed by a lull mid-day, and then I get a second wind and am productive again in the evening. It’s hard to find a job that fits around these productivity hours, but Buffer lets you work when you feel it’s best. They trust their employees to be productive on their own, which is important. I am self-driven, using things like Rescuetime to track my productivity and tweak scheduling for maximum work, and I’d love to be trusted to do so.
- Buffer works as a distributed team and encourages employees to work from wherever they are happiest. This means, so long as there is Wifi you can work from wherever you want. Some employees work at home, others in coffee shops, and the coolest example: a handful of Buffer employees recently worked from Mexico! This is such a cool concept and has gotten me mildly obsessed with the Digital Nomad culture. I have lived in Philadelphia forever and really want to explore other areas, but am not sure where I want to live yet. Had I worked for Buffer I’d have had the ability to change locations periodically until I settled in one place.
As a result of their positivity based company culture, when you apply for Buffer they don’t ask for your CV/Resume. Instead, when you apply to work at Buffer they look at your social media usage.
One of the biggest things that ruminated in my mind immediately after submitting my application and during my being “vetted” was wondering if I would be automatically disqualified from the Buffer team because I suffer from depression and speak fairly openly about it. Despite (or perhaps because of) my depression, I am a self-improvement enthusiast and work fairly actively at keeping positive and happy, but it’s still something I struggle with and talk about. I talk about my depression because I find it really important to lessen the stigma associated with it, but I wonder if being so open about depression could be viewed as negativity. I figured that Buffer’s love for transparency would make this okay, and don’t actually think I was rejected because of this factor, but it’s the thing I thought about the most and thought it worth mentioning.
The first thing I did after decided I wanted to work at Buffer was to dive back into my social media archives. The goal wasn’t to edit and try to represent myself falsely but to explore the image I was presenting and see what Buffer would find when they did look at my social media activity. I knew I wanted to change careers for two years, so I had been more aware of what I was posting in that timeframe but was curious what was around from before then. To my surprise, there really wasn’t too much on Twitter to be too worried about. Sure, there was a sarcastic/negative toned tweet here or there, but overall I had been doing way better at maintaining a positive attitude than I thought I had been for the past year or so. When I applied to be a Happiness Hero (a customer service role) at Buffer, one of the application requirements was to include a customer service interaction you’ve had on twitter where you were the customer. When I went looking for one, I found that almost all of my CS interactions on Twitter were compliments to companies, rather than complaints! I felt like this had to be a good sign.
My recent activity on Facebook wasn’t too bad either. There was an occasional ranty post here or there, definitely more than Twitter, but it wasn’t constant. Note that I said RECENT activity on Facebook above. Now let’s talk about the less recent posts. I went back through approximately 3-4 years of Facebook posts and I started paying close attention to my “On This Day” post reminders. By doing this I realized that the most useful way to use “On This Day” is to get rid of old posts that display what an intolerable a-hole you were in your youth (or in my case, in my mid-20s). I like to keep things because I’m a digital memory hoarder, so I tend to just make them private rather than delete them to remind myself of what a d-bag I used to be and how far I’ve come. Reading back through my older Facebook posts was as interesting as it was cringeworthy. I started diving deeper into my archives when I began writing this post and was pretty interested in what I found. It’s inspired me to start a Quantified Self project on Facebook usage over time, but this project is going to take some more time to complete, but there will be a post about it in the near future (As mentioned above).
Frequency of Facebook Posts / Types of Posts
What follows is a whole bunch of words about my Facebook usage over time. Here’s a shorter Facebook usage Tl;DR breakdown for those of you who are like me and zone out easily :):
2004 I start using Facebook.
2004 – 2005 Mostly posts on my wall made by friends.
2006 – 2008 A lot of literal “statuses,” my first “my heart is so broken I may never recover” status (0 likes or comments lol), increase in photo posts (from my digital camera).
2009 The year I got my first iPhone. Posts frequency increases dramatically. I’ve already done some statistics on this and the posts increase by 89.6%. 2009 brings with it the end of the “is [doing thing]” posts and the beginning of long-form statuses where I learned to complain about things in a funny enough way for people to start “liking” them. The beginning of my transition from Livejournaling my entire life to Facebooking my entire life
2010 – Present Approximately one million posts occasionally interrupted by social media hiatuses. Over time posts flip flop between very complaint-driven and very positive/hopeful. Complaint posts evolve from blatant rants to using my misery as a vehicle for comedic posts. Positive/motivating/uplifting material is generally ignored by friends on social media, while complaint posts worded in a more funny manner receive the most engagement.
And now for the less TL;DR version…
As far as I can tell, I signed up for Facebook sometime in 2004. The majority of my first posts are wall postings from friends. A lot of these are hilarious, alcohol fueled, mildly inappropriate messages from my closest college friends, a good number of them from my friend Joe (“Tammy! You make me want to date women!” made me belly laugh while writing this in a coffee shop). It made me smile that at one point we were using Facebook to express our love and friendship for each other, rather than Fakebooking and curating the images of our life we want others to see. After these came a lot of “Tamara Hala: is so annoyed I have midterms this week! Ugh!” type posts where I was posting somewhat literal Facebook “statuses.” And then there’s a handful in 2006 where I am posting single words (“Confused.” “Amused.”). Looking back at these types of statuses, and remembering that a lot of us were using Facebook in this way, it’s clear we had this new social tool but no idea what the hell we were actually supposed to be doing with it.
Things change drastically in 2009 when I get my first iPhone. Not only does my post frequency increase dramatically (a whopping 89.6% increase), but the types of posts change too. In 2009, I start posting more long-form statuses and discover that I can get away with complaining (ABOUT LITERALLY EVERYTHING) so long as I make it kind of snarky or funny. Looking back on this, the attention these “funny” complaint posts get was bad because it positively reinforced my complaining habit and encouraged me to keep doing it rather than maybe working on not being so miserable all the time. Once I had an iPhone with which to post on Facebook WHENEVER I WANTED, I did. Picture posts also see an increase, and looking back through these I can see when I go from being very friend-driven and social to very depressed and isolated. Posts from 2009 to present stay frequent, with occasional social media hiatuses.
Content Changes over Time
So now some words on the CONTENT of those posts. WHOA, I do a lot of whining. I make it more tolerable over time by trying to put a positive spin on negativity with by being funny about it, but at the end of the day, a complaint is a complaint no matter how you dress it. In October of 2010, a close friend introduced me to the book Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson. I really embraced the content while I was reading the book and for a little while it changed my life for the better. I specifically remember a coworker complaining that I was “a totally different person” and “so positive I was boring.” My posts on Facebook reflect this, but unfortunately, if your brain is not naturally wired for it Positivity takes work and I didn’t consistently put in the work. The tone of my posts flip flops a lot over the years depending on what’s going on in life. For a while I was doing A LOT of yoga and things get more positive, then I fall out of the habit or something sad happens and I go back to being bitter and negative. It’s frustrating to read back over all this material and compare the good times to the bad. Reading the posts has been like watching a movie reel of my life being played back to me, and it’s hard because I can see myself trying so hard and succeeding for a while then falling back into pits of depression for various reasons (and sometimes for no reason at all).
The good news is, in the past two or three years the negativity begins to decrease somewhat dramatically. It’s still there, but it’s very clear that I start working harder on instilling more positive reinforcement habits. I was still suffering from depression, and there are some more frustrated/sad periods, but overall you can see the tone of posts begin to change. I started posting a lot more motivating links and material (that literally almost no one “likes,” whereas my more snarky complaint posts get tons of follower engagement, sigh).
In addition to the more positive posts, there’s also an increase in self-aware negative posts that I used in a way to be more transparent to my “audience.” These can be categorized as negative, but in some ways I think they were still positive because I used these posts to break the stigma surrounding sadness and depression. While it’s important to try to remain positive, I felt like it was also important to stop Fakebooking and start talking about how life isn’t always perfect, and how it’s okay to be sad sometimes.
For example, just before I turned 30, I was feeling severely depressed and like a failure in life. I had reached this milestone age in life and I felt like I had accomplished nothing. I was hiding it from most people in my life but I was so depressed I was seriously convinced it would never go away. The problem was that I couldn’t stop comparing my life to others’ and looking at all of the things I didn’t have (love, my own home, children, a career I liked) rather than all the things I did have (circus, friends, art, the time and freedom to figure out what career I DO want). I finally got tired of pretending to be happy and made a post about this with the goal of letting anyone else feeling the same way know that they weren’t alone. The response I got was amazing. I received almost 100 comments or direct messages in response to the post, all of them supportive, positive, and full of love and empathy. I wasn’t phishing, but the replies I got really helped me through a time when I was feeling extremely low. I learned that I was far from the only person feeling this way and that my friends who had the things I was sad about missing out on were all envious of the freedom I had in my life and the fun things that came with it. Had I not been willing to put myself out there and talk about how I felt, I think I’d have struggled with this for longer than I did. (This was also shortly before I started therapy again and went back on SSRIs).
I’ve already begun working on some of the data and statistics of my positivity and negativity on Facebook with the help of my friend Will, and to my surprise I am much less negative than I think I am overall! There are definitely changes you can see over time, though. Looking forward to sharing this and more with you in the next post.
What did I learn from all of this?
The things I learned over the past few months are definitely valuable, so I am thankful that the Buffer application process gave me the time and motivation to start exploring them. Some of the lessons I learned:
- Facebook used to be a place where my friends and I constantly expressed our love for one another before it became a place where we post primarily carefully curated updates about our lives.
- My Facebook usage increased by 89.6% when I got my first iPhone.
- Fake it until you make it works! (Read more after this list)
- My social media network provides a Positive feedback loop for negativity. Complaint posts worded in a comedic manner receive more audience engagement than positive/inspiring/motivational posts. I would love to change this but don’t know how yet.
- I’m a lot less negative than I think I am, but even so my negativity on social media decreases over time, especially after I left my career.
- However, I “like” a lot of negative things online. I noticed myself doing this while I knew Buffer was watching, and did wonder if people ever check the things you “like” or “star” or whatever online. If they do, I guess I seem a little more negative than my own material. For example, Reductress is basically my favorite thing on earth even though it’s pretty inappropriate and negatively toned. I am also a sucker for the Twitter @SoSadToday, though I’ve actively stopped myself from retweeting them so much. I guess my “liking” so much negative stuff is a bad thing, but so many of the things online that make me truly belly laugh and brighten my days are from these sources, so meh?
- I am not as good at social media as I thought! There’s a lot I do know, but there’s an equal amount I didn’t know about audience engagement, marketing, etc. Excited to keep learning about these topics and more.
- I am pretty bad at Twitter and need to engage more with my Twitter friends. More specifically, I need to make some Twitter lists because I log in so randomly that I miss a lot of posts I am actually interested in seeing.
- Along those same lines, I am REALLY bad at using Slack consistently. I like the idea of it, and I would love to interact more with the Buffer community (and the Quantified Self community, who’s Slack I haven’t been on in months, sigh), but I get really overwhelmed trying to keep up with Slack conversations and when I login and see things like “175 unread messages” it makes me REALLY want to see what I missed, but also really worried about how long I am going to get sucked into reading them. I want to be involved! I want to be in touch! But keeping up with Slack sometimes feels like a fulltime job, and not being at a desk for 8 hours a day anymore makes it too hard to keep up. I also feel like a huge weirdo when I reply to a post from days ago.
I won’t elaborate on all of the above, but I would like to touch on the following because it was the most surprising.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned after applying to Buffer: Fake it until you make it is a surprisingly useful and legitimate thing. I already felt like I was “faking it to make it” forever because I hide my depression from the general public pretty well. But I reached a new level of fake it to make it during my Buffer application process. I’ve mentioned it briefly here and there but I have been seeing the same person on and off for 2.5 years. It came to it’s final end right around when I started being vetted by Buffer (IE when I noticed their CEO was following my Twitter). This breakup, while expected at that point (even though I was in denial forever), was devastating. I had to cut one of the most important people in my life out of it completely and the pain was beyond words.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the breakup happened at the exact same time I had an unexpected issue with my health insurance and had to stop taking my SSRI (Wellbutrin) cold turkey. For anyone who knows about SSRIs, this is really bad, not to mention dangerous. I went on to experience withdrawal syndrome, while dealing with a lot of emotional turmoil, and the those weeks were some of the most terrible in my life.
I usually would at least vaguely mention things online and that I was sad to let friends know I’d be isolating to deal with a painful situation and things out of my control, but this time I couldn’t. I HAD to be positive. I couldn’t let myself slide into a bitter, angry mode online. I was likely being watched, carefully, and the result of this being watched could be a job that I REALLY wanted. And so I kept it all to myself. I kept posting positive posts throughout some of my saddest days. I kept seeking out, watching, and posting motivating and inspiring articles and videos. And a funny thing happened… I started feeling better. I still had some real terirble moments, but overall not letting myself post anything negative was actually making me feel less negative. Things were still hard, but they were significantly less hard.
I’ve heard the theory of “Fake it til you make it” a lot before, and I’ve used it here and there, but this was the most focused Faking it to Make it I’ve done and it really helped. I’m still conflicted, because I believe in being real online and not Fakebooking all the time, but maybe there’s something to be said about being real in moderation? I’m not sure what the answer is. I want to maintain a positive attitude both in real life and online, but I also want to feel like I can express sadness when I feel it. I guess I am still in limbo over this as of posting this.
So I didn’t get the job, which is a huge bummer, but I did discover the Buffer community, and with it a lot of really useful articles and information. I also got a lot of insight into my past and present social media usage. The rejection also led me to some new potential adventures, including applying for an internship I was too intimidated to apply for in the past (I should hear back in the next few weeks, fingers crossed!). I may not be working for Buffer now, but who knows what will happen in the future.
Links mentioned in this post (in order of mention):
- Buffer Values
- On Past & Present Struggles with Depression (And using Meditation to Cope)
- My GoodReads Profile (list of books I have read)
- Buffer’s Transparency
- On Realizing I’m Going to Fail (and Being Okay with It)
- I Failed at Almost Every Goal I Set for 2015 and the World Didn’t End
- Buffer’s vacation Policy
- How Much Do You Work Without Set Hours? A Buffer Case Study
- On Using Rescuetime to Monitor Activity and Increase Productivity
- Buffer Open: 5 Continents, 14 Cities, 24 People: How we Work as a Distributed Team Spread Across the Planet
- Lisa Congdon: The Internet is Not Real Life
- Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson
- Will Dampier -a good friend who helps me with all of my QS Data work
- Forget Mindfulness, Stop Trying to Find Yourself and Start Faking It
- Withdrawal Syndrome
About tamarahalaTamara is currently living in Petaluma, CA as an intern at Green String Institute! She is a mixed media artist, student aerialist, and former neuroscientist.
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