Social media can easily make us feel invincible as we type and post behind our phones and keyboards, but our online lives do impact reality. Makes the experience better for yourself and everyone else around you, and ditch these annoying social media habits.
We can’t ignore that social media reigns supreme in the digital world—as of January 2017, it is estimated that approximately 2.8 billion people around the world are active on some type of social media platform. Even with so many virtual neighbors, it’s easy to think of the internet as an informal place. After all, many of those neighbors are our real-life family and friends—shouldn’t they be okay with anything we have to say and share?
That might be the case in an ideal situation, but here in the real world, your message just might be seen by a much bigger audience than you intend. When it comes down to it, there are plenty of things you should and shouldn’t do online.
Remember, What You Say Won’t Go Away
There are those who believe that their page is their space to say whatever they want (which it is), but they often forget that it’s not without consequence. Because of the nature of social media, it feels like randomly liking something or posting a quick comment isn’t really that big of a deal. But unless you’ve made your accounts completely private, there’s a good chance the public can see what you’re sharing, liking, and posting.
Deleting something you regret isn’t always effective because screenshotting something is now easier than ever. When in doubt, don’t post something online if you wouldn’t want it to come back to bite you in the future. Oh, and stop saying something rude prefaced by “just saying” or “no offense”—it doesn’t mean you’ll be off the hook for your comments.
Just Stop Being Negative In General
Whether it’s a professional writer being paid for their life story or a next-door neighbor talking about her kids, someone sharing an aspect of their life or personality on social media can be scary enough on its own. It doesn’t make it any better when people with keyboard courage come along to tear them down in a way that’s not even constructive.
“It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and share parts of your life or your inspirations, so when people are rude or unkind, it makes it a less fun thing to do,” Oh Joy! creator Joy Deangdeelert said in an interview with Design*Sponge.
Even when someone shares a religious belief you don’t understand or a particularly controversial political opinion, fight the urge to type out that snarky remark or counterpoint. Your views probably won’t be swayed by someone hiding behind their computer, and other people won’t change their minds either. Poorly executed online rants reflect badly on you, not them.
Ditch the Dramatics
Whether your mom’s annoying you or you got into a fight with your significant other, social media isn’t the place to air your dirty laundry. Not only does it reek of immaturity and attention-seeking, but it only adds more fuel to the fire that you’re most likely complaining you don’t want.
If you have to get a second opinion on a situation, this is where direct messaging a friend comes in. Or, you know, hopping off social media for a second and having a chat in person.
Speaking of Friends…
Choose the people who get to follow you wisely. Sure, you might have a coworker that you’re pretty good friends with at work, but do you feel comfortable sharing your personal life with that person? If it’s someone who’s known for being gossipy, know that the information they have about you will be shared when they feel like it, and it’s a little naive to think otherwise.
Family and acquaintances aren’t exempt from this either—just because your dad, cousin, or your best friend’s aunt friend request you, that doesn’t mean you have to accept. You don’t owe them access to your life. If they confront you, you can always pretend you don’t use that platform a lot anyway; alternatively, just be honest and tell them your social media accounts are only for people you’re really close to. If you truly don’t want to leave anyone out, you could even make a separate profile that contains less personal information.
Mind Your Tone
When you type something online, it’s obviously different from speaking with your voice. People aren’t there in person to pick up on changes in your tone or see you smile as you say something sarcastic, and it can be easy to others to take things the wrong way. Before you post a comment, whether on your page or someone else’s, take a second to read it through again to check your tone and overall message.
“If we take a moment to consider the reactions of others and how our messages might be interpreted, each platform will likely become more enjoyable for all,” says Erin Loechner, founder of Design for Mankind. The same goes for images—because one snapshot doesn’t always convey the exact situation that was happening when it was taken, anything can be taken out of context.
When used correctly, hashtags can add a little extra humor or flair to a post that wouldn’t have had it otherwise. Unfortunately, that’s not usually what happens.
“Hashtags should be used thoughtfully and sparingly; otherwise, they’re the Twitter/Instagram equivalent of wearing a ‘LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!’ t-shirt,” said Apartment Therapy tech editor Gregory Han.
We hate to be the bearers of bad news here, but consider this: If you have to use 50 hashtags on one post to get it seen, perhaps it’s just really not that compelling to begin with.
Go Easy On the Pitches
These days, it seems like most people are involved with some type of multilevel marketing company, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. However, if you’re one of these people, don’t force your friends and family to be interested in your product!
Sure, the lip gloss you’re selling might truly be revolutionary, but if your best friend doesn’t actually like lip gloss, asking her to buy some 20 times is only going to make her annoyed. You can absolutely make a private group or feed that anyone interested can subscribe to if they want to, but don’t fill up your friends’ pages with advertisements for what you sell.
Take It Seriously, But Not Too Seriously
Ultimately, most people are using social media platforms because they’re fun, they’re a good way to stay up-to-date on current events, and they can be a great place to cultivate community. However, privacy is a touchy subject these days. Ultimately, you should stay aware of what you are putting out there because you never truly know who’s going to see it.
In fact, many employers these days make a point to search for their potential employees on social media sites to see if any red flags are raised. Before they get the chance to, try doing it yourself with a quick Google search and see what comes up. Whether you like it or hate it, what seems like a quick comment made online can play a big role in how people think of you for years to come.
Use your space online for positivity, thoughtful discussion, and community building, and we can pretty much guarantee you won’t encounter many problems, if any at all.