The bucket list is one item shorter this month, as we moved from our rental home near the beach in Edmonds, to leasing a beautiful houseboat (Homer, at right) on Lake Union near downtown Seattle. As we downsized and prepared for a major life-shift, many were envious of our “dream move” but some were also bewildered by our choice.
While I appreciate both reactions, I have been more fascinated by the number of parallels of live aboard life to life on social media. I’m sure that’s unrelated to the fact that I’m a social media consultant (LOL!) but there are a number of common principles – and maybe just good life lessons overall – that have made the transition easier. I constantly find myself thinking ” this is just like Facebook because…” or “that’s why you don’t do this on Twitter…” etc.
Mindful is Meaningful – Like it or not, most everything we do on the houseboat affects our neighbors in some way. There are common courtesies about noise and privacy (don’t stare in the window!), as our actions affect everyone directly. It’s also an ecological issue, as we’ve learned to be mindful of how much water we use and the garbage we produce. Have you ever heard of grey water? It’s the shower and sink water you use that gets dumped right back into the lake – yup, right where you swim and kayak. When we fully grasped that concept, we no longer let water run endlessly or put “garbage” or chemicals down the sink/drain because we know exactly where they’re going and don’t want to be bad citizens in our marina.
In social media, the same concept applies in knowing that what we put out there affects everyone, so we quickly learn to be considerate and respectful of our audience. Twitter has a built-in control as we only get 140 characters – we can’t waste a single one! But for those that retweet 20 things in a row, or share 10 posts on their Facebook wall in an hour, they swiftly experience the wrath of their community – right? We have to be mindful of the basic guidelines and not be wasteful with our actions, all for the good of our community.
Privacy is a Myth – When you live literally feet (or even inches!) from your neighbors, everything you do or say can be observed. Living in a close-knit community, we know everything is (or seems!) public and there’s no taking anything back. We’ve learned to monitor our behavior and honor the space around us closely, because it’s a shared experience for everyone. Someone is always watching… This is a big lesson to learn on social media, as many people struggle to keep their personal and professional lives separate, or hide certain info from certain people. However, remember that we joined social media platforms because we wanted to share and interact with others – not to hide things. Sorry to say, no matter our settings and restrictions, almost anyone can see whatever they really set their mind to finding out. So we adjust by putting out better content that we’d be proud for anyone (not just our audience) to see and learning to engage more with those we attract. As they say, if you wouldn’t want your mother to know something, don’t put it on Facebook!
Balance is Everything – Living on the water teaches you a great deal about balance, from how many people can come aboard to where they actually sit or stand! Items have to be secured to walls and tables, because the weather and waves change within minutes, and things may no longer be in place when you return! Life on the water is fluid (no pun intended), things are constantly moving and changing, and you must adjust constantly to stay balanced.
We demonstrate this principle on social media not only by the platforms we choose to participate in, but with how much “noise” we put out. There’s a balance not only in where we spend our time but with how much time we spend on each platform. We need balance in how much or how often we post, because oversharing causes people to unfollow us and too little content may mean they forget about us entirely.
Community is Key – In a houseboat community, everyone has to learn to get along as there’s little privacy (see above!) and engagement is essentially demanded. We rarely pass a neighbor on the dock without greeting them, nor would we watch idly if their patio furniture fell off the deck into the water. In a small marina, it’s a shared experience and people watch out for each other, all for the common good. “Who are you? Do you belong on the dock? What’s your story? Do you need to borrow a kayak? Here, use mine!” This is our communal space and people genuinely pull together and are generous with each other.
Similarly in social media, we work hard to build a community of caring, interested, motivated people and they need care and attention. We can’t ignore them for days, or choose not to respond to questions or comments. We learn to care about what our community wants from us and our goal becomes to determine how to deliver that and be a good member. We are constantly giving and making the environment a better place for our fans and followers.
Economy is King – I’m convinced no one needs as much “stuff” as they have! Even after we downsized to live on the boat, and were very proud of our minimalistic efforts, we found that we only use 4-5 cups and dishes, we wear the same few items of clothing, and we eat the same basic foods over and over! The things we gave away, sold, or put in storage are a distant memory and we’ve learn to use what we have on board and enjoy it. The funny thing is, it’s always enough.
In social media, this translates into not obsessing about how many followers we have or how many likes our posts get. Our goal is to post concise, quality content that people actually want, rather than an endless stream of our own propaganda. Quality not quantity! What we strive to attract are people who show up every day to consume what we have to offer, and are fully engaged with who we are. That’s really all you need…along with an awesome houseboat with a killer view of downtown Seattle – LOL!
So I’d love to hear your reactions to my parallel lives on the houseboat and social media – and I’d especially love to hear from you if you’ve ever lived on a house boat…we have so much more to learn!