Social media was supposed to be this wonderful platform that improved our lives. It was supposed to rekindle old relationships, keep us updated with friends far away, meet new people around the world over common interests, and create some sense of a global community.
In many ways it has done that.
But it seems to be more commonly known for narcissists and trolls. It’s the place where we compare our lives to each other, seek attention in the form of digital hearts and thumbs, argue for the sake of arguing, share sensational yet false news, and spend the majority of our time just scrolling.
It’s that way because that’s the way we made it. Social media isn’t inherently bad. I believe the platform has enormous positive potential. We just need to use it more intentionally in ways that benefit us and the people around us.
Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or some other platform, here are a few guidelines that will help.
Don’t Be a Passive Scroller
Don’t just scroll endlessly through the list of pictures, updates and articles. You’re not really using social media or engagement in it. You’re just numbing your mind and wasting time. Just turn off your phone.
Do Be an Active Commentator
When you see a post from a friend, take the time to comment, even if it’s just a few words. Offer congratulations, encouragement, sympathy, advice, affirmation – whatever’s appropriate. Especially for those people who you want to stay connected with, commenting keeps you on their mind and keeps their posts in your feed.
Don’t Sit Back in Envy and Self Doubt
Some people post incredible pictures. You know who they are. Whether they’re friends or influencers you follow, they always have epic shots. Pictures of them climbing a huge mountain or watching picturesque sunset. They’re having the time of their life in Europe or some tropical island. They’re hanging out with famous people. They’re always with a group of laughing friends eating gourmet food perfectly laid out on the table.
It’s common that social media causes people to be jealous, depressed, and disengaged. Don’t compare your life to their pictures.
Do Post Normal & Genuine Updates
Exciting things in your life do matter to people, and the majority of your friends who are normal will appreciate it and celebrate with you. Did you take a nice walk in the morning? Post it. Crushed a project at work? Post it. Cook a halfway-decent meal on your own? Post it. See your kid do something funny? Post it.
Share what’s important in your life. It’ll help you appreciate the little things in life, and helps to create authentic interaction with other people.
Don’t Get into Pointless Debates
You see one of your friends publish a controversial comment or article that you disagree with. Your blood gets hot and you feel the urge to furiously type a scathing rebuttal. Don’t. No one ever won an argument online. You’re not going to prove anything or convince anyone. It just gets you mad. It gets them mad. It brings other people into the argument and gets them mad. No one learns anything. Everyone just gets more bitter and divided.
The best response to angry posts is to just ignore it. The engagement algorithm kicks in, their post doesn’t get much exposure, and they just scream into emptiness. But that doesn’t mean you steer away from important conversations.
Do Have Meaningful Dialogue
One of the great things about social media is the ability to have real conversations with friends and strangers over important issues. If someone posts a well thought out opinion, respond with a well thought out comment. Validate their opinion. Restate their position to make sure you understood it correctly, and ask for clarification. Affirm what you both do agree on. Present your side of the argument. Use facts and logic. Admit that you could be wrong, but this is what you believe. Kindly ask for their thoughts on your view. Thank them for starting this conversation.
Yeah, it’s a lot more to write, but it produces more fruitful dialogue. This is basic freshman communications class and common decency. If necessary, take it into a private direct message chat where you don’t have to protect your pride in front of the public.
Don’t Post Sensational Articles
If you’re going to share an article, take the time to read it and make sure it’s legit, rather than just sharing it because of the title. Don’t share fake news. And that phrase has been overused and abused. Fake news is not an opinion you disagree with. Fake news is an article that contains information that is unverified and factually untrue. Fake news makes everyone angry and dumb, so don’t share it.
And don’t share graphics with “data” and numbers on a picture with a statement reaffirming your belief. You haven’t checked that it’s true, and any kid can make that in photoshop. Don’t sink to that level.
Do Post Interesting Articles with Your Opinion
Fully read an article, and if it’s interesting and you’ve verified that it’s true and from a legitimate source, go ahead and post it. But don’t just share it as is. Add your own commentary, even if it’s just a sentence or two. Say why you’re sharing the article, what specific part of it you agree and resonate with, and ask people for their response.
Don’t Replace Human Relationships
Don’t let connecting online get in the way of connecting in real life. When you’re with people, don’t be on social media unless you’re snapping a pic. You can post it and hashtag it later after you hang out. Don’t choose being at home on social over being with someone in real life. Your phone is not a person.
Do Use it To Foster Real Relationships
Commenting on someone you haven’t seen in a long time? Hit them up for lunch. Traveling to a city you have a friend in? Let them know you’re coming. Part of a local interest group? Plan a meetup in person.
With social media, lean more on the social and less on the media.