The Dos and Don’ts of Social Media Consumption
The events of the last few months have been like nothing we’ve ever experienced. Regardless of how you personally feel about what’s happening, it’s hard to argue that the effects of the global pandemic and most recently, nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd while in police custody have touched just about every American life in one way or another.
Times like these can bring out the best in people. Stories of heroism, community action, and kindness can be found in every corner of the country. Unfortunately, trying times can also bring out the worst in people. Nowhere is that more evident than on social media platforms like Facebook.
Throughout the last decade, many of us have built large, extended networks on Facebook. It is, after all, a powerful tool for connecting with friends, acquaintances, family and community. However it can also be a source of stress, anxiety and seemingly endless conflict.
How should we be navigating the social landscape during volatile times? While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, here are a few best practices we can all try to incorporate.
DO be honest with yourself about how the content you’re viewing makes you feel. If you find yourself feeling angry, anxious, frustrated or argumentative frequently, pay attention to which posts, people, pages and groups inspire these feelings. There’s no rule that you must maintain every connection indefinitely. Give yourself permission to remove these sources of stress from your social sphere. You can be friendly with someone in real life and NOT be friends with them on Facebook.
DON’T share controversial, divisive, or disrespectful content on any page you use for professional purposes. This should be a no-brainer. If you’re a solo entrepreneur who serves clients directly (such as hairdressers, coaches, consultants, photographers, etc.), your personal page is often your primary platform for communication with your network. No matter how strongly you feel about an issue, sharing content that alienates people is bad for your image, and bad for business. If you choose to ignore this suggestion, don’t be surprised when people take their business elsewhere.
DO re-evaluate the role social media plays in your life. Are you consciously engaging with people, brands, businesses and communities that bring value to your experience? Or are you spending your time passively scrolling? Your relationship with social media is like any other relationship — you get out of it what you put into it. If you find yourself longing for more connection and real conversation, make an effort to engage by commenting and messaging more often with the people, pages and groups who bring something positive to your life.
DON’T allow yourself to get sucked into the social media vortex without pausing to recognize that your engagement is the fuel that keeps this machine running. Often, the content and comments we’re seeing as we scroll through our feed are designed to agitate and instigate. After all, we’re a culture that places high value on markers of popularity and engagement, such as “likes,” “comments” or “shares.” When shared, this content is sometimes layered with our own personal biases. This can amplify a perceived message of division when others don’t agree with the opinion represented.
Instead of having a conversation about the issue, like we might do in real life, many of us feel empowered and emboldened to make passive aggressive, dismissive or downright inflammatory statements.
DO be willing to self-evaluate. When you see something that bothers, enrages, or resonates with you - be willing to go one step further before you engage. Do a Google Search on the topic, and take a few minutes to learn more by following up with legitimate sources. For the record, a YouTube video rant by a random pundit is not a legitimate source. Chances are good, once you start digging into the topic, you’ll learn something.
Maybe you’re mad because you’re tired of bad news. That’s not the same as something not being true. Maybe you prefer a different approach to solving the problem at hand. That doesn't mean there’s not more than one way to solve the problem. Maybe you feel there’s a different root cause to a controversial issue. That doesn’t mean your viewpoint is the only one. Be willing to learn, listen, and approach each interaction and conversation with compassion and an open mind.
DON’T confuse social media with real life. People often feel emboldened to say things, share things, or otherwise behave in ways they wouldn’t in real life through social media. This can take many forms — from something as dangerous as verbal abuse and slander, to something as innocuous as oversharing or editing your photos to perfection with filters. If who you are behind your keyboard is different from who you are in person, it’s time to address that. The world — both the real life and social media versions — is enhanced by your honesty, self-control, vulnerability and authenticity.
The path to societal healing passes through discomfort. It requires learning to listen, and being willing to slow our reactive response. You don’t have to agree with everyone about everything — divergence is what makes life interesting. However, if what you want is to collectively move past this era of divided animosity, you do have to be willing to consider the other side of the coin, and to do so from a place of compassion.
Michelle Mulak owns Good Vibrations Creative + Consulting, a boutique marketing, public relations and communications consulting firm based in Cocoa Beach. She works with entrepreneurs, businesses, brands, events and organizations of all sizes to help them develop and implement authentic, effective content marketing, advertising and publicity strategies.
Instagram: @GoodVibrations321 // @Workout.Wanderlust
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