If you don’t watch the show, here’s a brief intro to him: Daryl appears to be your typical rough “redneck.” When we first met him, he was horrified his crew left behind his older brother, Merle, in zombie-infested Atlanta. Daryl seems like he is about ready to blow a fuse at any minute. He seems racist, ignorant, and pretty much represents every negative stereotype of a “redneck” you could find. But as the show wears on, and as you get to know Daryl a little better, you see that there’s a lot more to the character than meets the eye.
My friends say that I may be hinging on an unhealthy relationship with this fictional character (I DO know he is fictional. Unfortunately.) But I think Daryl can also help us learn some valuable lessons that can come in handy in this crazy online world.
To prove my point, here are three things that I think Daryl Dixon wants you to know about social media.
1. Return the Favor
In a bleak world where there are very few humans left, and Daryl, the outcast, has to learn how to get along with the few humans he managed to find. Somewhat similarly, when you join the online world you need to try to find the people who are going to support you, help you achieve your goals, and be there for you when the going gets tough.
I’m not saying the online world is filled with zombies but . . . there are some dangers out here. Daryl integrates himself into his new group (his family) by making sure that he returns favors. This is tough for him at first (again, he held it against these folks that they left his brother handcuffed to a building that was surrounded by zombies), but eventually Daryl understands that returning favors is a good way to build relationships.
Tip: In the online world, you can build relationships by sharing peoples’ blog posts if they show a consistent interest in yours, by supporting people who have supported you when they launch projects, and by cheering up a person who has cheered you up in the past. These things come naturally to a lot of us in the offline world, but they’re just as important to do in the online world.
2. Keep an Open Mind
When Daryl first starts engaging with the people around him, he relies on his old stereotypes. But Daryl shows a willingness to change his mind about people. Slowly, he allows his perspective on his new friends to change to the point where he really does view them as his equals, as his partners, and as his friends. He is not so tied to his original way of thinking that he is unwilling to change.
The same willingness to change your mind is really important in the online world. Not only must you be willing to change your mind about people, you need to be willing to keep an open mind about the platforms. Just about everybody gets ready to quit Twitter or Facebook or blogging at one time or another. Often, though, people change their minds because they are open to other possibilities.
Tip: In the online world, your mind needs to be like moldable clay. It can be influenced by others, and it should never “set.”
3. Don’t Judge Based On a First Impression
Much like Daryl, a lot of people in the online world like to represent a certain kind of persona. They may present themselves as being a little cold and distant, or they may represent themselves as being super happy and confident when really they are not.
As I mentioned earlier, when you first meet Daryl you assume he’s just going to be a dumb, racist, waste of a character, but he turns out, over time, to be a lot more. This can be a double-edged sword in the online world. Investing a lot of trust in a person you meet can be a dangerous proposition if it turns out they aren’t as trustworthy as they appeared. By the same token, however, you can miss out on some great people if you judge them based on one tweet or one blog post.
Tip: People in the online world can seem as easy to understand as their never-changing avatars. Never forget there are real people beyond that computer screen, and they are just as complex online as they are in real life.
Daryl and I hope these tips help you out in your social media journey. What tips would you add?