If you hate social media, maybe you are using it wrong.
I get the pitfalls of social media very well. I, too, get sick of endless pictures of babies, engagement rings, and the steady stream of humble bragging (“Guess who got a 4.0!”) It’s annoying and overwhelming. Also, the drama created and displayed on the network is enough to make anyone puke. Add the annoying need to creep on your ex-boyfriend and you’ll wonder why anyone thought we needed to advance past the 1800’s when the world was small. Like I said, I get it.
Still, underneath all the piles of crap, there are a ton of good things about social media, too. For example, I recently read about a kid who anonymously created an Instagram account and posted pictures of everyone in his school along with words of encouragement towards each. Humans of New York is a daily reminder that we aren’t alone, but rather, are all imperfect humans working on making our lives better. This is not to mention the amount of fundraisers I’ve attended as a result of acquaintances posting about it, the friends from high school I recently re-connected with via Facebook, and the endless laughs I’ve shared with long-distance friends that I don’t see every day. For these reasons, I have not deleted my Facebook.
I think it is also important to note that many people who haven’t watched the news in years keep up with current events using social networks. When I took a break from Facebook last year, I felt a little out of the loop when people were talking about the latest viral video or article. So, as much as people complain that social networks are the end-all of human contact, I beg to differ. I actually think it gives us some material to talk about when we see each other face-to-face!
Still, as with every type of communication, it depends more on how you use it rather than if you do. I know that in order to keep myself on track and live a balanced life, both on social media and off, I’ve compiled my own list of rules that I follow.
No ex-boyfriends. (This includes ex-hook-ups.)
This one is seemingly simple to me, but surprisingly many people disagree. It’s kind of confusing to me, though. If you stop speaking with a person in real life, why would you continue to torture yourself with updates on their life via Instagram and Facebook? Why would you want them to know about your life?
As a rule of thumb, if I date a guy – whether it is casually for a month or serious for years, once it is over, they get deleted from all social media. It saves me from those icky, confusing feelings I get when I see them in pictures with females that aren’t me.
I do realize that some people do not need to do this because they are not as sensitive as me and that is totally cool. But as someone who has a hard time with break-ups and good-byes, “out of sight – out of mind” is a great way for me to focus on the positive aspects of my life.
Scrub your friend’s list often.
If I haven’t communicated with a person in ~2 years, it is no longer necessary for me to be Facebook friends with them. Of course there are exceptions, like distant family and some high school friends, but that obnoxious girl that lived in my dorm freshman year of college gets the hack. Because truthfully, I post on Facebook fairly frequently, and as weird as it is for me to see her updates, I find it weirder that she sees mine.
This rule usually cuts down on the sensory overload you can get from seeing so many people on vacation while you are stuck in your gray cubicle. It’s okay to delete people – most times they won’t even notice. (However, a friend of mine uses the Birthday updates to find friends she lost touch with and deletes them on their birthday – this is a little cruel.)
Careful with the personal emotions and details.
We are not robots and we have emotions, which is why I do not suggest never posting an emotional status on Facebook. I know some people will disagree, but I think showing some emotion is okay. After all, emotions are great ways to bond with other people and not feel so alone.
That being said, there is a fine line between showing a bit of emotion and creating a status you will regret. Just as you would not walk into your high school reunion and start screaming about what an asshole your ex is, creating a status about it is also frowned upon.
My rule of thumb for this one is a lot like my rule of thumb when picking out professional clothing: If there is even a chance that it will be considered inappropriate, don’t buy it (in this case, don’t post it!) We’ve all been out-of-control angry or ugly-cry heartbroken, and it almost feels necessary to pour out our emotions immediately. Facebook provides a great outlet for this when no one else is around. Still, do whatever you can to stop yourself from posting in the heat of the moment. You will never regret not posting that angry tweet.
Live and let live.
In geek terms – do not be a troll. Nobody wants to know that they spelled “your” wrong. The amount of people on the internet who feel the need to prove that their spelling is above average is amazing to me these days. Did you know what the post meant? Yes? Good, now if my spelling bothers you, please go to your journal and write all the mean thoughts there.
For real, though. People post stupid shit all the time and it’s annoying, but publically berating someone for it is pretty unkind. Let’s go back to the high school reunion scenario. If someone is being obnoxious/bragging/what-have-you to your face, you are very unlikely to tell them to shut-the-fuck-up. Rather, you will probably politely excuse yourself from the conversation and walk away, or continue to put up with their bullshit. If you are annoyed by a person’s constant bullshit on Facebook, politely delete them and move along. Otherwise, live and let live. Who cares what your neighbor down the street posts, anyway? Your ability to rise above the nonsense says more about your character than their obnoxious Facebook post says about theirs.
Use social networking as a valuable tool for more than posting selfies.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s always nice to feel pretty in a picture and want to post it for a little confidence-boost. I really do not think there is anything wrong with that. However, please realize that social networking could also be used as a tool to spread ideas, make contacts, and shed light on some of the positive events happening in our lives.
People post about their engagements because the world mostly sucks and is boring, so when something significant happens, they want to sing about it. And why shouldn’t they be excited anyway?
Not only that, but social media has gotten me more than a few friendships in the past. Sometimes, when you meet someone at a party, you hit it off just as friends. Asking for someone’s number can be seemingly forward, but if you send them a message afterwards with, “Hey, I had a great time meeting you, let’s get lunch!” you may be on your way to a new friendship.
Used the right way, Facebook can be a tool used to promote fundraisers, community events, and friendships. Twitter is a way for you to see how other people are reacting to crazy world events, and Instagram has a way of telling beautiful stories with pictures. As with all aspects in life, see the good.
Know when to take a break.
This could mean just simply putting down your phone to have dinner with a friend or taking a month hiatus.
Truthfully, not many of my friends are on the phone all the time anymore. I used to notice it more in college, but I’ve found that it’s becoming common knowledge that it’s rude to neglect company in favor of checking your Facebook or Instagram.
In regards to taking a longer break, last year I deleted my social media accounts for most of the summer. It was a time when I was going through a ton of big changes and felt a bit depressed. In order to focus on myself and healing, I needed to take a breath of fresh air from social media. It was constructive and it helped and I would do it again. The great thing about many platforms is that you can delete your account and open it up again when you are ready (there is a way to permanently delete Facebook, too, just FYI!)
Social media isn’t for everyone, but used with a bit of self-discipline, I think it is mostly a positive medium that has impacted the world in more ways that in harmed it. Feel free to share your thoughts and/or rules!