“Don’t Quote Yourself.” – Mitch Joel

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Do you like those social media posts?

The posts where an individual creates an image, and fills it with a quote of something that they said? They then attribute that quote to themselves, write more copy about it in the post and share it across their social feeds. 

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”Maya Angelou.

Are you Maya Angelou?

Brilliant words. A truism. This must be shared and understood by all. Did you know that the actual quote is, “They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Did you know that this saying is actually from 1971 and it is ascribed to Carl W. Buehner who was a high-level official in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (according to Quote Investigator). But it’s not just the quote. The quote must be played out on a picture of a distant sunrise, or placed next to a tree glowing in the spring sun, or maybe it’s an image of a baby blue stream in the woods… you get the idea. Look, it’s one thing to share a classic or a great quote. It’s another thing to not attribute it (either to the right person or at all). It’s a whole other ball of wax, if we’ve devolved to the point where we think that whatever we say is worthy of being quotable (and then sharable). It’s a little much, isn’t it?

Let’s try to stay positive.

I’ve done my best to be graceful about these posts (even the ones that have spelling mistakes in them), but it’s coming to the point where people actually believe that there’s an audience that wants and demands these self-quotes. I don’t know if social media has normalized this level of narcissism, or if it’s that the design technology makes it so easy to create these images… I’m just not sure. But here is what I believe: if you say, write or speak something so profound and powerful, the audience will pick it up, share it, create the graphic for you, and turn it into something much bigger than your words. These quotation graphics should be a tribute from others to the value of your words. While we can never put the genie back in the bottle of how we share the best “us” to the world, we’ve suddenly taking this self-quoting to an entirely different stratosphere when we, ourselves, believe that something we said is so profound that we must be created into a graphic and shared. How can the world move forward and not know about how brilliant I am?

Deep breaths.

Are we truly this quotable? I don’t believe that we are. I do believe that when someone says something, does something or pushes an idea out there, that the most powerful thing that can happen is when people share it. Is there harm in individuals creating these JPGs of their own words and sharing them? Of course not. Are there bigger fish to fry? Of course there are. Still, we are all trying to get better at marketing ourselves. Because of that, we will try everything/anything to get the word. Self-quoting is not the ideal way to do this. It could be the worst.

The eternal optimist.

The truth is that I am not being pessimistic or mean. I’m trying to be an optimist here. I’m trying to shine a light on a practice with a sense of “we can do better,” instead of the big eyeroll that these self-quote images usually generate. Instead, here’s a bigger idea: Create great content. Say brilliant things. If, indeed, the content is great and the words are brilliant, have trust and faith that the community and audience will service it by creating these JPGs, and sharing what you say with the world. Ask yourself this question: Would you rather have someone else tell the world how great you are, or would you rather tell everyone yourself?

Ideas that are meant to fly, always fly. Great thoughts that are spoken, always get traction. There’s no need to force it. Keep producing and the thinking will find its audience.