Years ago, in real life, the one outside of screens I found social interactions messy. So it was no surprise that when my interactions moved onto social platforms that was messy too. How I acted in my relationships was reflected on my social networks.
I have found it easy to find fault with social media itself, to judge it's users and to let it affect my opinion of myself. Over time that has changed. I've grown to really love using social media, and found it helpful in connecting, which is one of my favorite things.
A Practical Approach
If, like me, you've had your ups and downs navigating this world of interaction, I hope this resonates. This is my practical approach to using social media.
1. Be Inclusive
When I was in high school, we used Myspace, and in our early teenage years it seemed rather brilliant to list the names of our best friends in order from best to . . . well, to worst. It was innocent enough. See, I have always wanted a group of sisters, ride-or-die best friends. Girls who were always going to have my back, check on me, care for me, fight with me and always love me. The Myspace list of best friends was my way of proving these girls were my group. I felt protected this way, I could prove to everyone, including myself, that my life was secure because I had people around me. I never thought of this as being exclusive until I was on the receiving end of other people's lists. Luckily, my friend Anna called me one day and said that maybe our 'best friend lists' were exclusive and mean. So we decided to take them down.
Myspace gave way to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. "Best friend lists" became pictures and captions. Inevitably, pictures of my friends without me would pop up, Tweets about getting ice cream together, or Facebook posts about girls nights in, and I would feel excluded.
In the last 10 years, I've been on both sides, excluding and feeling excluded. But, as I've grow up, my perspective has shifted. I've learned that exclusivity creates loneliness. So, instead of using social media as a place to collect and show off my best friends, I approach it as a place to make new connections.
Being inclusive is my number one practice on social media.
I believe that social media/texting is a tool for communication, a tool just like talking to someone face-to-face. Now, it might not seem as personal but that seems like a lame excuse to just let all rules of proper communication go. I am sure I am not alone in thinking that communication via screen is sub par. Whose job is it to fix that? I say the users! If I were talking to someone in person, I would acknowledge what they were saying. In social media terms, a like or a comment. Communication is a combination of sharing and listening. Likes, comments, and responses show you listened. They show you saw something and responded. Posting is sharing, it's as simple as that! So I do my best to listen to my fellow community members in real life and online.
and to be honest the line between real life and online life is starting to blur.
3. Take responsibility
In my life I have been judgmental, critical, hateful, angry, jealous, manipulative, controlling and hurtful. I have procrastinated on assignments and chores. I have felt less than. I have sought approval and it's not social media's fault. Social media isn't the root of all evil. It didn't force me to waste time scrolling. It's not Instagram's fault that I felt bad about myself. Facebook didn't make me jealous. It wasn't the cause of my hate, it wasn't the cause of my insecurities. Those things already existed. I was already that way. Social media magnified it. It made me more connected therefore it gave me more opportunities to compare and judge. If I don't like the way I feel using social media, it only makes sense to take responsibility for why and stop blaming it for my actions.
4. Let it be good
In the last few years I have changed, I feel more loving, I feel more open, I feel less judgemental, I feel less critical of myself, and I feel less negative. As a result my relationships have changed which has changed the way use social media. I have created genuine, meaningful relationships with people I wouldn't have otherwise been able to meet, through my social platforms. I look forward to messages from my funny friend Sarah and I feel truly connected to her even though I've never actually met her. If I am willing to hold possibility that social media could bring people together than... well just look at me and Maddie. We connected on social media after 5 years of not talking. Or my friend Kelsey who read my blog post and offered to show me around my new town. Or my friends Harmony and Seth who have kindly given me a local community of people I admire. I use social media to create many meaningful connections and I am grateful for it.
5. Take a Break
Too much connection is too much connection. It doesn't matter if it's on social media or at a party. Life is all about connecting. Outside of food, water, and shelter humans want to be connected to one another. There is the blurred line. Social media provides an outlet for us to do that. When it become too much for me, and it does, I take a break. I turn off my phone and I go outside. I do the same exact thing when I am overstimulated by face to face time with people.
I am reminded of a thing yoga teachers say about yoga "Who you are on your mat is who you are everywhere." Well, that means who I am on social media is who I am everywhere. I am inclusive, involved, responsible, positive and balanced in my life, so I am doing it on social media too.