As a communications professional and social media manager, I often see all of the positives that social media can bring. I engage on social media primarily for business and I am always thrilled about my results. Even in my personal social media account, I made a decision to change my strategy from aggregating a large following, to a strategy to fit my own growth purposes. It has been an excellent experience. But, quite often because I am so pleased with the usefulness of social media as a professional, I often forget that for some, social media is not all roses. And while initially this was difficult for me to wrap my head around, I realize that my experiences on social media are guided by certain industry or safety principals. That is why I am going to do a 5-part series on social media. In this article, I am going to give you five tips on how you can make social media the best experience of your life. We will delve into each tip a little more in depth in the coming weeks as we move through the series.
Tip 1: Have a social media policy. Whether you are a parent, individual or teen, you need a social media policy for yourself. That means, you need hard fast rules about what you will and will not do on social media. This is important because anyone can log onto Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and create a profile. Whether the individual is a senior 6000 miles away, a sociopath, a coworker or an unscrupulous child molester; they may have access to you at the click of a button. According to the website, GaurdChild.com, social media related sexual assults are up 300 percent. That means the bad people are out there and they are logging on to make a not-so friendly connection. Be mindful of the information you post.
Tip 2: Understand the Network. Every social media application has its own logic and method for connecting users. Some sites send notifications, link people with similar interests, suggests friends of followers and more. You need to understand how the social media sites you use actually work. When I used to have a Facebook account, I noticed that developers kept changing its algorithms and other features. I began to get suggestions to meet befriend the friends of people I had randomly met at a cocktail party or a Meetup event that I had attended that year. Then I started to do the math. If I was being connected to the friends and family of a casual acquaintance, isn’t it possible they are being connected to my friends and family members? Yeah, and that’s exactly what was happening. What made it worse, was that even my attempts to the change settings to ensure my personal privacy, every 3-6 months Facebook would change something else and reset everything and I would have to go back to attempt to reconfigure to the correct settings. After a while I realized it was a rabbit whole, with endless changes that always reset my preferences and left my privacy at risk. I deleted my personal account. And since that time, I have not had a personal social media account.
Tip 3. A lot has been said about protecting yourself online; but what if you are becoming the bad guy? Don’t let social media turn you into a troll, stalker or perv. According to Pew Research statistics, 95 percent of teens in the US have access to a smart phone. Despite the dangers to the teen, many teens take a toxic turn on social media and begin acting out against other adolescents online. In fact, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram (respectively) are the top sites for teens; and many of these social media hubs have no content or contact filter. But even beyond teens, adults are interacting on sites like Reddit, Facebook and YouTube among many others in very detrimental ways. The first thing to understand is that social media is not real and hense any negative feelings you might have about someone must be temepred by the fact that you don’t
really know them. Social media gives the illusion that you know or understand someone, but you are only seeing a tiny, controlled portion of their life and personality. Even if you have a favorite social media personality or person you like to visit, TAKE BREAKS, don’t watch ALL of their content. Ask yourself questions like, “Am I over invested in the life of this person?” “If I do not live with them, how do I know my assessment and hense my feelings about them are accurate?”
Moderate your negative posts, comments, shares, uploads and videos. Do you only upload, comment or post criticisms, rants and negativity. Do you respond to ideas & content or attack the content producer personally? Are you stuck on only ONE negative subject? Do you “hate watch,” or “hate follow” someone? These are negative behaviors you want to discontinue and may be signs of an important health issue. Often personal issues, life difficulties, depression and other mental health issues may be at play when one begins to fixate on a stranger or even a casual acquaintances’ social media profile. You need to be able to identify that in yourself and step away. If a particular social media user produces strong negative feelings in you or you do not like their content, your first course of action is to block them. Boundaries are GOOD.
As a social media professional, I regularly block people who I do not wish to see their content or whom I feel the connection would be counterproductive. It’s not a declaration of hate, its the smart thing to do. And it’s something we do in the real world All of the time. When we meet someone at a party that that we don’t particularly enjoy, we simply go find someone else to talk to and do not make an effort to reconnect. Have you ever met someone at a party you DID NOT like and you angrily followed them around the room all night shouting, saying nasty things about them, watching them sip wine; and attempting to interfere in their conversations with other No! If we did, we might be arrested on the spot and declared insane. Yet some people do this on social media. If you find yourself constantly thinking about someone online or in real life and posting to social media, stalking their “page” or feed, constantly commenting negatively or seeking payback and defamation, you may wish to seek a health professional to help you work through the issues instead. Don’t be afraid to get help.
Tip 4. All My Exes Live in Texas, and I never visit.
Perhaps one of the growing areas of social media stalking, is in romantic relationships and social acquaintance. People often go looking for their Exes online, and they often use social media to do it. Whether it is an ex romantic partner, ex-boss, ex-friend or ex-associate many people go in search of people who had some level of personal or social impact on their lives. While general curiosity is normal, often that can slide into something a bit more sinister if strong emotions and negative thoughts proliferate. Evaluate why you wish to reconnect, especially if the cause for the break was not amicable. As a social media manager, I understand that there are some sites, some connections and some information I really don’t want. We’ve all stumbled upon a websites we wish we could un-see; looking up your exes can be similar.
I suggest, if its a new break–whether from a romantic partner or a platonic friendship, don’t revisit their social media soon after. unfollow, unfriend, block an delete: a clean break can be a good thing. You need time to heal and grow from whatever caused the break–even if you were the cause! As a realistic optimist, I’ve always understood the importance of identifying what is not healthy in my life and then cutting it off immediately and without need to revisit. It’s something one needs to learn when interacting on social media.
Not everyone will get along, or agree, but that doesn’t mean interactions must turn nasty, violent or dangerous. If you are following a coworker, ex-friend or church group you no longer find supportive, simply hit delete or block. Don’t make attempts to contact for closure or revenge; don’t use social media to attack or malign people. Simply MOVE ON! Get therapy in private, not all things must be conducted online. However, Social media can make it difficult to move on if you are constantly getting updates and notifications about the person on your mobile device.
Psychologically speaking, it’s not a good idea to keep someone’s memory alive when they are NOT in your life and DO NOT want to be in it. If you have a friend or family member that you care about, and you see them engaging in such behavior, try to be the catalyst for change. Encourage them to delete connections that no longer serve them and stop discussing the person in real life and on social media. If you love your friend or family member, have the courage to intervene and find a way to get them help.
Tip 5: Take a Break. Keeping yourself from turning into a stalker, the crap-talker and the pervy perv takes some vigilance. Don’t use social media when you are depressed, sad, angry, inebriated or feeling negatively. You should not be overly invested in anything or anyone on social media. Remember, social media is especially designed to make you want to come back, look, interact and post. It’s the business of app developers to make sure their product is appealing. As a communications professional, I get that. But its important to understand how that can have a negative affect if you are not vigilant. Don’t follow every post, think before you post. Ask yourself if you would make the same comment to someone in a group of people you care about with the president of your country and your grandparents watching. If you would not be proud to post, upload or comment in their presence–then don’t do it. Respect the privacy of others. Just because they live in Iowa like you, doesn’t mean you need to find and meet them. If you do want to make a connection, ask respectfully. If they decline or ignore you; delete or block you, accept it and move on. People have the right to choose with whom they wish to interact. No one gets to dictate that or take away their choice. So accept a rejection or refusal and move on.
When I was in high school, I worked in sales one hot summer. It was a great experience because it taught me to handle rejection well and to get over refusals, denials or bad breaks. I learned that even if one person said no, there would always be someone else who said yes. It taught me not to obsess over losses or downturns in fortune or relationship; it gave me perseverance and grit–I understood that rejection was a part of life. You just kept going until you got to yes. That experience, along with the wise counsel of older adults, parents and my deep faith in God, has helped me see things clearly and move on rather quickly from disappointments or rejection. To be on social media or any people-oriented media, you need to have thick skin and you need to be able to keep things moving.
You need to know your limits and respect the limits of others. Limit the negative or lurid imagery you take in, no matter how titillating it is, remember it will have a negative impact on your psyche. Lay off of the fight videos, controversial topics, porn and rants. Go to the movies, read a book, talk to a friend meet someone new and fall in love. It really is a wonderful life. Find yours.
If you need help with your social media management, contact me. Stay tuned for Part 2 in our series on social media next week.