Can Social Media Give You an Overinflated Ego?

Lately, I have been spending some time thinking about how people react to social media fame. What happens when you reach 1,000 Twitter followers? 5,000? 20,000? 100,000? How do you react when your blog is suddenly getting significant traffic and people are hanging on your every word? Some people can take it in stride without letting it go to their heads while other people end up with enormous overinflated egos.

Compare this to the reaction to fame that professional athletes, actors, musicians and celebrity CEOs face. Some people completely change (new house, new cars, new friends, new spouse, etc.) while others continue to live in their old neighborhood with existing friends, and remain grounded despite their fame. While social media fame isn’t the same, I see similar reactions.

I was reading a Harvard Business Review blog post by John Baldoni where he was talking about egos in sports and applying the same ideas to business. He mentioned this quote: “It’s okay if other people think you’re God, but you’re in trouble if you start believing it.” This really resonated with what I’ve been seeing in the social media industry.

For some people, it may already be too late. Those enormous egos may have already taken over their bodies like in the episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” where alien entities take over the bodies of Troi, Data and O’Brien and control their every move. Are they too far gone, or can we still save them by exorcising that enormous ego and replacing it with a normal-sized one?

For those you you who can still be saved, here are a few tips for keeping that ego in check (these are Baldoni’s recommendations, modified to apply to social media):

  • Remember that your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn friends or fans are not your real friends (take Danah Boyd’s experience on stage at Web 2.0 Expo as an example of when your “friends” can become a mob). Real friends are the people that stick with you during tough times.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. When people butter you up with praise and tell you how awesome you are, politely thank them, but don’t believe it.
  • Everyone has shortcomings — I certainly have my share. Whenever your ego starts to take over, think about something that you need to improve and remember that you are an ordinary human being who makes mistakes and has weaknesses.

What are your thoughts on how social media fame gives people inflated egos?