There's a risk of this if you hang out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn—especially if you use the "status updates" features within these tools.
If you are a negatively-oriented person, it won't take long for people to see that you view the glass half empty.
If you are using any of the these tools for relationship development, especially business relationships, you may be doing yourself more harm than good. While you might elicit sympathy—some will surely rally-round and empathize, thereby encouraging more of this posting behavior—humans are, overall, more attracted to optimists than pessimists.
People definitely don't want to hire or refer folks to Negative Nellys and Donny Downers.
If you limit your Facebook to family and friends, it may not be such a big deal to air your daily woes. Though I'd suggest even family and friends get annoyed by Eeyore! But if you have business contacts as "friends," you really need to think twice about what you share.
If you're on Linked In or Twitter, you probably ARE there for business reasons, and being negative undermines your efforts, big time.
3 ways to discern if you're turning people off
Everyone has the occasional bad day. Crummy traffic, bad service somewhere, kids out of control, or the occasional cold or flu. A random post now and again about such human things is no big deal if you more than balance it out with a more positive outlook on life.
But when downers are the trend, it's something you'll want to recognize and improve. Here's what to look for:
1 - Consider your present situation and demeanor.
Most of us can be divided into one of two categories: those who believe "stuff" happens to us and those who believe we make stuff happen. If you're a member of the former group, you probably have to work a little harder than the other group to NOT sound like a victim of circumstance.
Another factor could be that you're just feeling too stressed out or overwhelmed. If this is the case, consider taking a break from social media. It's also possible that the cause is stress from feeling obliged to be using social media! Maybe social media isn't something you enjoy in the first place. You aren't obligated to be there—you can take a pass.
More serious signs of negativity, and even depression, are feelings of unworthiness, putting yourself or others down, expecting the worst to happen to yourself and others and dwelling on past failures and disappointments.
2 - Review your status updates.
In Twitter, simply look through your Profile to see what you've been posting. In LinkedIn, from your home page, click on the words "Network Updates" over the status input field. Then choose the "My Updates" tab.
In Facebook, a quick and easy way to get a big picture recap is to use an app like "My Year In Status" which will auto-generate a random selection of your status updates. Go thru Steps 1 & 2. On Step 3, you'll see an option that says "Choose different Statuses" - this opens a chronological list of every status update you've posted over the last year. (To find the app, type the "My Year in Status" in Facebook's search box)
Pretend you don't know yourself, and read them as objectively as possible. Are you a complainer? What proportion are rants or whines versus neutral observations or upbeat messages.
Look also at feedback trends. Do fewer people comment on your postings than on postings by other friends in your circle? Has your post feedback decreased as negativity increased?
3 - Ask a sampling of trusted people.
Preface the favor with "I'm trying to be more aware of how I come across to others. It's important and I really need frank feedback. I trust that you'll be honest with me." Then ask: "Would you mind looking at my postings and tell me if you think I'm coming across more negative than positive?"
Be open-minded to their feedback and thank them for their frankness. It's really hard to tell people you care about that they don't come across well. Most will avoid it like the plague.
If you find more than 25% your postings are downers, maybe it isn't a deep problem, just that "dilemmas" are an easy source of things to write about—and they are! So it's a temptation to avoid. Hopefully the tips below can help.
If more than 50% are downers, perhaps you are significantly unhappy with your job or the way things are going in life. This happens to all of us at times!
It might wise to take a break from social media posts and redirect your energy in working through the sources of your unhappiness. By all means, don't be tempted post a play-by-play of your personal therapy (can you say "AWKWARD"!).
What to do to improve your image
If you do discover you've been less than pleasant to listen to, and you aren't a glass half-full person by nature, I'm not suggesting you have to go through life feigning insincere joy. Pollyannas are annoying, too.
What you're looking for is balance. And a greater awareness of how you are coming across to people. This is actually a very big part of Marketing 101.
It might be that the attitudes you've been conveying through social media represent impressions you've created in "real life" social situations. Yikes! Be glad you've become aware of it, and change it, now.
Going forward, think twice before hitting that post button.
- Is your post a complaint or a wish that something was different? If so, what's your purpose behind posting this? Looking for a shoulder? Hoping people will ask you to elaborate on the problem to show they care? If so, skip it. Social media is not the place for this. Pick up the phone and call a good friend or loved one.
- If it's victim-oriented (stuff happens), can you turn it to a positive projection (I'm gonna make stuff happen)? (e.g. "Tomorrow is going to be a great day" instead of "Today was the worst day ever" or "I sure hope tomorrow is better than today was")
- Have you been posting positive stuff lately? The occasional crabbing is human nature. If your last post was negative, though, fix it or skip it.
- Post about things other than your feelings or life's events. Share news, links, songs, anecdotes, tips, etc. Broadcast about other people and their merits—be a promoter of others.
Greater self-awareness usually corrects most of the problem. We simply don't think about how we come across until someone brings it to our attention. You'll probably become more aware of others' posts now, too.
Hopefully, if you're guilty of the Negative Nelly/Donny Downer thing, this lets you self-assess and correct before too many people notice.