20 Tips for a Positive Relationship with Social Media
It appears that social media is here to stay, whether we like it or not. While some choose to abstain, the overwhelming majority of us engage in social media in one form or another. Scrolling through facebook or instagram can connect you to people like never before, but it can leave you feeling disconnected. In fact, social media can leave you feeling totally crappy. You can choose to unplug completely but if you don’t want to go totally off the grid, there are ways to use social media without feeling awful. Here are 20 tips to have a positive experience with social media.
1. Encourage or compliment at least one person everyday – One complaint most people have with social media is how negative everything feels. Everyone shares memes and articles loudly proclaiming what they are against. Comments are filled with attacks, bullying and other ugliness. You don’t have to be a part of that nonsense. You can’t control how other people behave but you can control yourself. Fill your social media with positivity. Make it a habit to encourage someone on social media every day. Even if that just means that you like someone’s photo, that’s great. Take 1 minute and leave someone an encouraging comment. Compliment one of your friends. Just use your time on social media to be positive and not negative. You could start a snowball effect. Your friends will see your positive interactions and may start being more positive as well. That will spread faster than ugliness any day!
2. Schedule your social media usage daily – Don’t allow yourself to check in on your social media accounts constantly throughout the day. It is addictive. We are all scrolling through our feeds all the time and it can feel uncontrollable. If you check your accounts every time you grab your phone, you are on social media too much. Try strictly limiting yourself. Schedule time to check in on social media. It won’t control you if you control it. For example, only allow yourself to check in after your kids go to bed and limit your time to half an hour. You can wait to post those cute photos of your kids until they’ve gone to sleep. You will find that if you stick to a schedule and time limits with social media, it won’t drag you down so much. When it isn’t such a large part of your day, it won’t control how you feel all day.
3. Unfollow Negative Nelly – You can’t always unfriend everyone who fills your feed up with things that are negative or offensive. Your crazy Uncle Dave loves seeing the updates on his nephew but if you have to see one more post from him complaining about immigration or how much he hates his job, you might never talk to him again! You don’t have to cause an awkward moment at the next family reunion by un-friending him. Just unfollow him and he won’t show up in your feed anymore. Problem solved!
4. Avoid political debates – Nothing sucks the life out of your day more than political debates. We all have our beliefs and convictions that drive our political leanings and facebook posts aren’t going to change those. As much as you want all your friends to vote for Hillary, if they already support Trump, you aren’t going to change their mind with HuffPost articles about how awful their candidate is, and you are not going to make or keep any friends by engaging in political debates with them on their posts. You get to exercise your political power in the voting booth; you don’t have to do so all day long on facebook.
5. You Can Keep Your Opinions to Yourself – Avoid facebook drama and debates by keeping your unsolicited opinion to yourself. You don’t need to make an issue out of everything you disagree with on social media. If you are of the opinion that kids should not watch TV or eat sugar, that’s fine. However, you don’t need to share that opinion on a picture a friend posts of her kids eating candy and watching Paw Patrol. She obviously thinks television and sugar are okay for her kids. Just let that go. You might have the ability to easily share your thoughts and feelings because of social media but that does not mean that it is wise or helpful to do so. You run the risk of losing friends and you set yourself up for arguments online.
6. Before you share, fact check – Don’t just hit “Share Post Now” on posts and memes making claims that align with what you believe. Guess what? Not everything online is true. People spread lies via social media all the time. Good people, who wouldn’t normally lie, give lies their stamp of approval by sharing them on social media. Take a couple minutes and do a google search on that quote or story. You will be shocked at how often those things are not true at all. Hold yourself to a higher standard when you use social media.
7. Choose Your Friends Wisely – You do not have to accept every friend request or follow every person who requests it. If you truly desire to use social media in a positive way to stay connected, only connect with those you desire connection with. Here is a good rule of thumb for people you should connect with: If you ran into a person in the grocery store, would you stop and say hello or would you just go on with your shopping? You don’t need to connect online with those you would walk past in the grocery store.
8. Turn Notifications Off – Don’t become a slave to your social media on your smartphone. Turn notifications off so you won’t be tempted to check in everytime your phone commands you to do so. Reading a comment on a photo you posted yesterday can wait. Enjoy real life in real time and let social media wait until you are truly ready to check in.
9. Don’t air your dirty laundry – Facebook is not the place to discuss personal conflicts you have going on at the moment. In no way will complaining about problems or other people ever give you a positive experience on social media. Reading those type of posts on social media leave a bad taste in your mouth so don’t do that to your friends. If you genuinely need advice on a problem, talk to trusted friends privately. A status update is not appropriate.
10. Avoid vagueness – Only share things you legitimately want to share on social media. Skip the vague updates that only cause curiosity at best and rumors at worst. If you just went through a breakup or got some bad medical news, don’t post “heartbroken” or “scared” as an update and then expect people to not ask you what is going on. Here’s the thing about social media, you choose what you share and what you don’t, so go ahead and just share all the information you want to share. If you don’t want to talk about a situation online, then don’t share anything about it at all. If your heartbreak is private, leave it that way. If you do post something vague, be prepared to answer questions and don’t be annoyed about that. You chose to put it out there.
11. Social media is not the place to address conflicts – If you have an issue with someone, deal with it in person. Social media is not the place to solve problems or deal with conflicts. There is nothing private about social media, and some things need to be dealt with in privacy. If you address a conflict publicly, the person you have an issue with will not think you really want to reconcile. He will just feel singled out and attacked, in front of all his friends. You really can’t resolve things on social media. Go old school and call or meet face to face. Social media is meant to connect generically and stay in touch to an extent but serious stuff needs to be handled away from the laptop or smart phone.
12. Don’t post things for affirmation – Don’t post things on social media to receive the praise and affirmation of others. You know if you are posting for the approval of others if you start checking for likes and comments right after you hit “share.” Break the cycle of needing instant approval. After you post something, set a timer on your phone for 2 hours and do not check in on your post and how it is “performing” for those 2 hours. This will help you kick the habit of counting likes and obsessing over comments.
13. Don’t overthink responses or lack thereof – Do you get offended if someone doesn’t like your photos? Do you find yourself reading responses from others on social media with a negative tone and find yourself totally annoyed? Stop that! First, a lot of people look at social media and never like or comment anything. This goes back to the previous tip, stop valuing the affirmation of others. You can avoid being offended by responses if you stop reading into them. Read things with a nice tone of voice. You lose context when things are written down. Don’t add an attitude that isn’t even there. Give people the benefit of the doubt and read things in a positive light unless it is completely clear that they are in fact being negative. Quit analyzing short posts and comments. Social media is designed for short, casual connections. Approach it that way and don’t look for any offenses that don’t exist.
14. Remember that social media can be forever – Don’t deal with regret years down the road for something you impulsively shared online today. Social media is very public and it can be forever. Sure, you might delete your instagram, but it is never really gone. Anyone who can see your social media can save anything you post on there and use it however they please. Your words, your photos, your videos, they can all be saved and shared without your permission. Share things that you won’t mind your children seeing when they are older. It is ok to keep some things private. It is probably a good idea in fact.
15. Apply the same values you apply to real life – Don’t get tricked into thinking you are anonymous, or not really yourself when interacting with people online. Please refrain from engaging in arguments with strangers. Don’t insult people. Don’t be a bully. Glennon Doyle Melton said, “If you are not kind on the internet, then you’re not kind.” The point is, the internet you and the real life you are the same person. You cannot separate the two. If you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, you should not under any circumstances say it to them online. Be nice. Period.
16. Don’t start and end your day with social media – Social media should not be the first thing and last thing you do everyday. You are setting yourself up for a day where you are totally focused on it. Change up your routine. Pick a new habit to start and end your days with. For example, start your day by making the bed and drinking your first cup of coffee before you open anything online. End your day by reading a chapter in a book. Any opportunity you have to swap out a social media check in with a real life activity, take it. Be conscious of what you are taking into your mind for the majority of your day. Pick things that will bring you peace to begin and end each day. Facebook has never left anyone feeling peaceful.
17. Never choose social media over real social interaction – When you are with your friends, family and loved ones, do not check your social media. It is rude. Real life is always more important and more valuable than social media.
18. Take social media vacations – Unplugging for a little while is a good way to hate social media less. We are connected 24-7 so it makes sense that it would make us crazy. Pick one day a week that you don’t use social media at all. If that is too much, just pick one day a month. If you find yourself feeling particularly annoyed with social media, take a longer break. The political fighting might be making you crazy now. Deactivate your accounts until after the election if that is what you need to do for your mental health. Breaks are good. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Try applying that to your online life.
19. Remember it is a highlight reel – Don’t compare yourself to what your friends share online. The easiest way to feel awful using social media is to use it to compare your life to what you think another person’s life is like. Someone’s facebook profile is not a true summary of their real life. It is a highlight reel. They only share the best stuff. That mom you think has it all together when you feel like a hot mess is not posting the drive-thru dinners, she only posts the organic made from scratch ones. She isn’t posting her child throwing a fit in Target, just photos of him smiling in the cart. She doesn’t share when she has a huge argument with her husband, she just shares a sweet selfie from their first date night in months. Remind yourself that you don’t share it all either. We keep the behind the scenes to ourselves and only show the best parts. Social media should not be something you measure your worth by for this very reason.
20. Stop being so annoyed by everything – Do you find yourself rolling your eyes or speaking poorly of the majority of things that your friends share online? If that is the case, the problem isn’t social media and your friends. The problem is you. Stop being so grumpy! If your friend shares a lot of pictures of her baby, that’s because she loves her baby. What’s wrong with that? If you are truly friends with someone, you will enjoy her sharing about the things she loves. Challenge yourself to drop the negative attitude you are carrying and find the good in everything your friends share about their personal lives.
If you can just apply a few of these ideas to your use of social media, you will see an improvement in your relationship with social media and with your friends in real life and online! Don’t let the way other people behave change your behavior. Rise above the mess. Skip the drama and use your time on social media to do what you actually intended to do in the first place, stay connected!
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