Thursday, February 4, 2021

perversely, spending less (not more) time on social media seems to be bad for my well-being...

Some might say that with profiles on 15 different social media channels (at last count), I'm something of a social media 'whore'.

I never meant to be - I managed to resist joining Facebook for several years until Mel from my old school organised a class reunion using it; and I only signed up to start to Tweet because I discovered by accident that there were people talking about me on there.

(for clarification - I've never sought to censor anything that anyone wants to write about me on-line, but I just like to know who's saying what about me, so I'm not on the back foot when speaking with other people)


And while some people enthuse about how great social media has been in generating paying work for them - it's never meant I've landed contracts or new clients (yet...). Instead, I've always viewed social media as a means to start or continue conversations with people.

This approach seems to be generally well received universally - LinkedIn says I have an 'All Star' profile, and a few years ago, I was named as one of the 500 most influential people on Twitter!

But its hard to not hear people increasingly talking about how toxic and damaging social media is becoming to our well-being, and every so often to hear that a friend or colleague has decided to 'leave' Facebook or Twitter.


Now, over the last however many years (Pinterest and Instagram weren't a thing when I became self-employed 16 years ago - but then, neither was the iPhone either!), I've tried to keep a cumulative 10 minute a day habit on social media: over the course of a day, checking in to different platforms while I'm waiting for the kettle to boil, or in the minutes until the webinar I've joined is started by it's organiser.

But as this pandemic has rolled on, with client contracts and projects become ever more fraught in trying to meet shifting deadlines, and trying to invest more time with family members at home, it's been a struggle to achieve even this with the stresses and distractions that go on around us all.

For some people, such distancing from social media may sound like welcome relief, but over this last month, I've realised that some part of my well-being is starting to suffer from this enforced withdrawal - not because I think I'm addicted to social media, but because it offers me contact with fellow human beings to share what they're feeling, thinking, experiencing, and ultimately, how they're trying to KBO in these turbulent times.


So maybe instead of demonising social media, or hailing it as our saviour, can we try and take a more nuanced approach to recognising what it can offer us to our benefit, and how we can best try to manage this (for example - only using twitter lists rather than the general open feed).

And for anyone who's wondered why I've appeared quieter than usual recently on-line, this is my apology - life's just gotten too fraught and distracting. It's not an excuse, and it isn't a promise I'll be back in full flow next week - but a reassurance that I'm missing you all too.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

start-up ecosystems need cold frames as well as green houses

Anyone involved in anyway in the world of start-ups and business growth will be familiar with the range of support models there are out there that make up the 'eco systems' of incubators, accelerators, investor networks, and such like.

And there are good arguments that we need a mix of different supports and types of models because no two start-ups are exactly alike, and different founders and entrepreneurs will respond better to different interventions at different times.

But it struck me recently when I was speaking with a programme manager for a foundation that is seeking to do more to encourage disruptive start-ups (yes Sam, that is you I'm talking about!), that there may be a missing link in all these ecosystems that entrepreneurs and founders can apply to - to use a gardening analogy: there's a lot of 'hot housing' going on out there already (things that help the seeds of a start-up sprout and start to grow more quickly than they would if we'd dropped the seed packet into a flower bed next to the lawn and hoped for the best); but any gardener will attest to this hot housing only being half of what's needed to ensure new plants thrive in the future. 

That's because hot houses are not the norm of the world - our gardens aren't covered and heated to higher temperatures than the British weather usually offers us all year round, so when we move these exciting new plants from their 'bubble' of an ideal world into the real world, it can be something of a shock... Which is why good gardeners will always have a cold frame lurking somewhere - a place that these specially nurtured new plants can best acclimatise, transition, and ultimately get used to the suddenly harder and harsher world that exists outside the hot house that they grew up in and came to rely on.

For our wider start-up ecosystems, where are these cold frames? 

The closest I can think of would be the peer networks amongst founders that they create informally by virtue of having shared the same hot house, but what else might be able to be offered by way of regular check-in, a phased 'moving on' from the hot house facility, and such like? 

Because if we don't have a way to move start-ups out of the hot house in ways that help best assure them on their future survival and success, then they'll get too comfortable, and take up space that other start-ups need if they're to have their opportunity to make it themselves as well?