This post will not be for everyone. But I am writing this for the person who needs the encouragement to make their personal social media account more meaningful. If your social media account is the social proofing you professionally need, then these suggestions will not apply to you.
I recently started a new Facebook account because the old one was out of control. As an early adopter and as someone who wanted to accept every Friend invite the account had grown in sheer number because of the number of people I met. I had also followed too many pages of brands and celebrities. For the last couple of years I have been un-following people and pages thinking this would help clear things up but it has not. I should have done this years ago but I thought it would be rude and couldn’t justify it even from a selfish point of view. I struggled with making this decision because that account is my social carbon print. It contained memories in the form of photos that were physically lost to me due to a rainstorm during a move and to a computer crashing. There were both professional and personal reasons holding me back.
Is Social Media to Blame?
Years ago for a speech project I talked about the impact of social media. The research I presented dealt with how people used it and whether it was the cause for the way people behaved, in regards to depression and bullying. The gist of which comes down to whether a person is using the platform to connect with others in a meaningful way that aligns with their values. Hiding who you are to impress others creates unhealthy behavior cycles such as depression or trolling. After too many cycles we become insensitive to what we are doing. We don’t even realize when we do this. The other half of the research proved that social media could increase a person’s happiness and well-being if it was used in alignment with who that person was in real life. Afterwards I watched the grand social experiment we were a part of verify what I talked about. I also watched social media and the users transform it. It doesn’t help that there are more tool s given to people who can manipulate the experience, but I came away with realization that if we were aware of options and willing to try them we could take back the control. We could be happy if we were aware of what we wanted from social media.
I was still very excited about the up and coming-ness of social media and the part it plays in our lives, but with this knowledge I decided to take a step back and evaluate my own part of that. Going forward I want to share what I found works with those who want to have a healthy or helpful social media tool in their lives.
What reinforces healthy usage of social media?
The research had interesting things to say about the impact of social media being a reflection of our in real life mental well-being. Especially how we are influenced to believe social media should be used in a certain way. The reality is, those who are happiest are those who;
- Connected with a smaller group of people who they knew and they cared about the people they were connected to. These are the people you are willing to send greeting cards to or have a beer with.
- Connecting with people who presented themselves online as they are in real life.
- Social media was not a replacement for relationship but used as a extension, a tool to enhance their In Real Life relationships.
Basically here is my interpretation: if you are excited about a thing you did, you are equally likely to share it in real life with these same people. But just like in real life there is a thing called oversharing and boring people. Unfortunately there is no real online cues to this. Your friends will cue you in. And that is something that is missing in the designs of all social media platforms currently available. In a healthy community you should be able to give and take feedback. Your connections should be able to see you and engage with you on their own terms. Not just when the algorithm says the thing you shared is popular enough to share with more than the first 6.
Hitting the Reset Button
I chose to stick it out with Facebook because there are certain family members are leery with experimenting with other apps. So I made this new account with the singular purpose of being personal. When I decided to restart my Facebook account I set new guidelines.
- People who I have had a drink with and ended up coming home safe. This signified to me I could trust them and as a woman in the age of “Me too” this is an important qualifier for me.
- People who I did or could have a heated, contested, and even unpopular debate with and after all is said and done can still can be friends with. This meant we could share ideas and while we did not need to agree on everything all the time, we could continue in mutual respectful.
If you decide to hit the restart button, think about who you want to invite and why.
When to Say No
If you are a person who want to invite everyone to the party it can be hard to say no. Saying no is healthy and sometimes necessary. Here are a few reasons I did not accept invites;
I have had some interesting relationships with friends and lovers that made me realize there are crazy people out there who are not wearing warning signs. I spent the last couple of years learning everything about healthy boundaries in relationships and what that looks like. From that I created the following guidelines for when to say No;
Sharing things that matter to us is important for our physical and interweb communities. Those who did not demonstrate they could speak their mind and could explain their thoughts got a No, to the thoughtless sensationalism. If you are not open to discussing it, I don’t want your soap box. Having intelligent and engaging conversations is important to me.
There is a huge pressure to present yourself in a certain light. Somehow we got the idea we have to be picture perfect and that is the wrong message to encourage. Especially if the only purpose of that is to stroke your own ego. Your personal social media life is healthy when we are engaging in a way that is of value to both of us. A One-Way relationship is not healthy for either of us. I said No to the Fakery if I knew you were posting stuff that was inconsistent with who I know you to be in real life. You do you, but this isn’t healthy for me and I am not going to help validate it out of some false notion of being polite.
Those who I am connected to on every other platform also made me take a step back. Social proof is a thing and it is not going away, but there are much better platforms to help you keep in touch. Your customer doesn’t need you to put on a show for them. They do not need to see every waking moment of your life to know you are a “good person” or someone they want to do business with. That is where Instagram and LinkedIn shine. Use it. When people who have too much access to your personal, it can change the way we engage on social media. Instead of addressing those boundaries in a healthy way we instead redefine how we present ourselves. To keep social media healthy we need to have a space where you can be yourself, so I said No to the Expectation and invited people I could be comfortable with.
No to the toxic relationships were reserved for people who caused doubt, insecurity, and gas lighted me. They were not the loud mouth Karens that we seem to all know. At times they even appeared to be supportive and comforting because they did it under the cover of lover or friend. It was misleading and the end result was devastating. Some of these peeps I still have to be in contact with but I don’t need people I don’t trust to have unfettered access to my personal life. I don’t need the drama and neither do you. We don’t have to pretend to be Friends to communicate.
Look. Seeing everything about a person from every possible angle, do we really need to meetup with them in real life? What would you even talk about if you did? If we don’t need to or want to meetup, why are we connecting there in the first place?
Moving forward let’s put the mystery and excitement back in to our relationship. Let’s make social media an extension of our relationship.
Redefining What Social Media means
Like Amazon, Facebook doesn’t allow a bulk delete or offer a reset button. And maybe in 6 months it will and this is all for naught. But today, this week I had to make a decision that was in my best interest at this time. I made this new account because I would rather chose to connect with people as I would in real life then stalk the fantasy they have presented. It is a better use of my social media time. So far I have enjoyed the relaunch. My newsfeed isn’t saturated with things I outgrew. Instead of spending time deleting things I am no longer interested in, I am adding and seeing more of what makes me smile. I am cultivating a space online that is meaningful to me and I invite you to do the same.