Dimmer Switch

February 28, 2009

Right off the bat, I want to assure you that the word dimmer in the title has nothing negative associated with it. In the past seven months we’ve gone through the undulations of war, stock-markets, Steve Jobs’ health and other news that’s made us cringe, gasp, sneer and react in a dim way. So hang on for a moment, the use of the word dimmer refers analogously to how conversations are best started in the social-media sphere.

Wondering why I put a hyphen in social media? That could be an entire soap-box discussion for another day on the benefits of writing grammatically correct missives in a world that’s married to LOL and ROFLMA and thx and bai and other manglings. But not today. Right here and right now I’m going to talk about why a dimmer switch approach is better than just flicking the lights on when you’re going to share yourself with the Webiverse.

Picture a party scene. You’ve been invited because you live in the house next door and you’re not obviously a nudist, a murderer or a Hare Krishna. Digressing again, if you are one of these things I’m sure you have your reasons. Please don’t fill the comment box with the reasons why it’s better that we all go without clothing.

You step up to the front door of the house, ring the bell and wait. When the door opens, do you:

a – run screaming into the house, shouting your name and throwing pictures of yourself and your family to the guests?

b – see the door opening and dive headlong into the bushes at the side of the porch, quivering like one of those cute, but useless, punting dogs that waifish models carry in their purse?

c – thank the hostess, shake her hand, present her with a bottle of Cabernet and then stride into the room observing the scene – looking and listening for clues about the people and the environment you’ve just entered?

While I’m in favor of the the dive-in-the-bushes approach, the preferred way to gain acceptance, develop a valuable following, and create conversations that allow you to learn and grow is by twisting the dimmer switch up to a brightness you and your audience can tolerate.

Don’t blast the spotlight on the room and yourself by running around in an overbearing and annoying manner. And don’t leave the lightswitch off as you avoid the possibility of meeting some great people with fantastic perspectives and ideas. Just twist the dimmer and allow others – and yourself – to bask in the glow.

From what I’ve found, the casual and consistent approach can be explained by many metaphors, but the importance in social media is being yourself and contributing in a positive manner to the conversations going on around you.

You’ll soon find that the light on everyone else you admire and learn from is strong enough to illuminate the value everyone has to share…even you.

What’s your favorite metaphor for participating in the social-media fishbowl? I welcome you to shine a light on your point of view.