Everything we say and do communicates the kind of people that we are, and now that almost everything we say and do is posted publicly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the list goes on…we ought to put some deeper thought into the content. The trouble with social media is that it distances us from our audience, which causes us to be more daring and frankly more careless about the things we say and do online. This distance opens us up to bash on other users and be unnecessarily nasty and disrespectful, and also to get too personal with our own posts and status updates—boldly stating what a lonely wreck we are, etc., a.k.a. attention seeking. It’s one thing to be ironic. It’s another to actually fall into these unhealthy habits.
The entire purpose of social media and social networking is to connect us with our friends and relatives and users with similar interests, and to express ourselves and share different ideas. The challenge is to share content that’s actually worth sharing. It’s easy to get carried away with status updates and emoticons and selfies, but be careful not to overdo it. Like I said, we tend to have bigger cojones behind the safety of a screen than an in-person confrontation, but everything we say and do online is on the record, which is exactly why we should take extra care not to say anything too crazy.
Quality vs. Quantity
When it comes to social media, as with everything else in life, generally speaking: Less is more. Saving up for one amazing tweet a week is more impactful than forcing your followers to sift through an avalanche of hourly updates and mundane developments or observations many users post compulsively. We don’t want to scroll through endless selfies documenting the progress of your morning: starting with your bedhead, then getting in the shower, eating breakfast, deciding on an outfit, and finally snapping a selfie of the finished masterpiece as you embark on a new day, at least a dozen selfies later. News flash: no one cares. No one wants an online scrapbook of every waking moment of your morning. I challenge you not to post anything less than profound.
Another reason to crank down the quantity of content you distribute is this: The more time you spend online, the less time you spend living, which leads me to my next point.
Behind the Screens
Don’t let documenting every moment of your life get in the way of actually living it. For instance, when I went to Benihana earlier this year, a group of men around the table next to us whipped out their phones and pixelated the live performance right in front of them, rather than actually watching it. Why sacrifice a real-life experience for something secondhand? Why deprive your mind a memory just to preserve the moment in your phone? Especially if all your buddies already caught it on camera. Slip your smart phone back where it belongs, in your back pocket. Use your eyes for once. When someone serves you a delicious plate of food, don’t instagram it. Eat it.
Tell Me About It
One of my number one pet peeves is when I’m messaging a friend and he or she refers to something unfamiliar to me, and instead of just explaining what it is, they shoot me a link to a website with a bunch of different tabs and hours’ worth of text that I don’t plan to read, or even worse, a video. In this sense, social media is teaching us to NOT communicate, but rather to rely on social media as a means of explaining things for us, so we don’t have to. In real life, when we’re conversing in person, face to face, and someone doesn’t know what we’re talking about, we tell them. Plain and simple. Short and sweet. No time is wasted sifting indefinitely through a bunch of text just to reply something like “totally” or “lol” (translation: “I don’t care, and I for damn sure didn’t read or watch what you just sent me, and if I did, then it was done begrudgingly.”)
In fact, it’s a valuable skill to be able to communicate a concept in its simplest terms and deliver a description or explanation catered to your audience—to find the relevance in what you’re referencing so that your listener or reader actually cares to hear about it. Relying on external sources and social media to do the talking for you hinders you from practicing this skill.
Tag, You’re It
Never abuse your ability to tag your friends in posts. Every time you tag a person in a post, you smack a stamp of ownership over their name, which is okay to some extent, but in excess, it can become a real nuisance. I see this a lot with friends who tag their crush in every post. Every time they’re in the presence of their crush, they snap a photo, upload, tag and publicize it to show the world that they spend time together. Or they post a status update, locked and loaded with their crush’s name. It’s obvious these users have something to prove, if not to their friends and followers, then to themselves. Personally, it will take more than a tidal wave of tags to convince me that the feeling’s mutual, so here’s a handy rule for you to follow: If they don’t return the tag, quit tagging them. No tagsies backsies? Then it’s time to take the hint.
Are You Getting Likes or Yikes?
Attention-seeking happens naturally online. Often, we go online because we’re lonely, so we overcompensate for the attention we’re not getting in person by looking for it virtually. Sometimes it’s easier to open up about our feelings to our laptop than it is to a real living, breathing human being, but there’s such a thing as too much honesty. I see this a lot online. In middle school, it was standard procedure to post MySpace bulletins dripping with drama, not-so-subtly accusing somebody of some social injustice or another. Very passive aggressive, if you ask me, not to mention immature. It’s just a handy way to avoid a direct confrontation and still enjoy the satisfaction of addressing whatever drama may be going down. Don’t do it. If you really have a problem that you’re seeking to resolve, don’t rely on social media to solve it. Be an adult and discuss it privately, in person, and try to be respectful and understanding. No one wants to hear you bitch and moan and whine all day online.
Essentially, the best way to ensure the quality of your content is this: Every time you’re clicking publish, post, reply, or tweet – ask yourself, what is the purpose of this comment, tweet or post? What are you seeking to accomplish? What is the underlying message that you’re sending? For instance, sexy bathroom selfies are fundamentally attention-seeking. So are posts commemorating your accomplishments, but those receive attention that you’ve earned. Accomplishments like graduating college, getting a promotion, finishing a song or work of art — that’s recognition you deserve, unlike a naked selfie, which is nothing but a cheap and easy way to score a lotta likes. Don’t just flaunt how hot you look — celebrate the things you do. Publish original ideas, not clichés. Promote yourself and others you support and want to see succeed. Don’t post content just to boast or brag, or just to put somebody down or make somebody look bad. Only post content that you’re proud of, that might positively change somebody’s life. Don’t just regurgitate the same old crap that’s always streaming through your news feed.
Are there any repeat social media offenses that drive you crazy? Vent about it in the comments!