Written by: Jessica Rutkowski
A few weeks ago, Jeff and I were having a conversation about some of the trends that we see on our Facebook news feeds.
I brought up how most of the people that I’m friends with on Facebook share way too much information about their personal lives and don’t know how to use social media the right way.
“So is there a wrong way to use social media?” Jeff asked. I thought about it for a second (as Jeff’s questions usually make me do).
Of course, we all know that there are things we definitely should not post on social media: criminal activity, pornographic photos, harassing comments, etc. Not only are those things against most social platforms’ user policies, but what if your employer or university saw that embarrassing photo of you from your friend’s bachelor party in Vegas?
But what about some of the other types of posts that are technically allowed, but may raise some eyebrows? I’m talking about angry political rants, overly aggressive networking, or photos of new mothers breastfeeding their child. Is it wrong to use social media platforms to publish these things?
We hear people complain all the time about what people are posting, sharing, and engaging with on social media. I myself am guilty of this. Nothing makes me roll my eyes quite like seeing someone share their dirty laundry with hundreds of their followers.
We all have our own set of annoyances on social media. Many articles have been written on what guidelines you should follow when using it. Inevitably, we’ve all had the same thought at some point- that some people just aren’t using social media right.
What is Social Media?
Wikipedia explains social media as “computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks.”
Most other resources describe it similarly, very broad and vague. But the essential idea is that social media is meant to be a space for users to connect with each other, share stories and ideas, and consume information. Its very nature is to be open to everyone with no bounds to time, space, or viewpoint.
Social media’s entire existence relies on the condition that its users post, share, and engage with one another. There’s no limit or regulations to what users can post (aside from the obvious illegal activities mentioned earlier), so who is to say what is the right or wrong way to use social media?
When you scroll through your feed and see posts that annoy you or don’t think are appropriate, who’s actually in the wrong? Is it the person who gave TMI about their relationship, or is it you for judging them?
The Blurred Lines of Social Media
Social media has also evolved into much more than just a way to connect with our friends and family. It’s now a way that we can present and market ourselves in the world. Therefore, it has crept its way into our professional lives.
It’s becoming increasingly more common for employers and universities to implement social media policies. These policies don’t just serve as guidelines pertaining to language or information that can or cannot be used and shared. It’s a way to actually encourage employees and students to be more involved and advocate on their behalf.
This type of policy further blurs the line between personal and professional social media use. It also indirectly gives cause and reason to act a certain way on our social channels because our networks of friends, family, and coworkers are intertwined (hence, don’t post about how annoying your coworkers are).
So is There a Wrong Way to Use Social Media?
Yes and no.
As with most things in life, it’s not black and white.
If whatever you’re posting is in accordance with the law and the social channel’s policies, there’s technically no wrong way to use social media. How you choose to voice yourself and build a community on social media is completely up to you (despite those who may judge and roll their eyes).
However, the majority of people probably want to adhere to the cultural dos and don’ts of social media. Regardless of your age, job, title, or any other status, how you present yourself on social media absolutely affects how much people respect you in real life. It reflects who you are as an individual, an employee, a spouse, and a friend.
A good rule of thumb for social media: use the golden rule. Only post to social media what you would want to see posted from your followers.
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