Social media such as Facebook and Twitter experience both a growth in numbers and influence in American society. These electronic tools allow us to stay in touch, learn of others lives, and expose ourselves and others to different ideas.
But the phenomenon is not without risk. As Michael Hyatt has written, “we live in a transparent world.” What you say online is not private. Even if a few read it, they can forwarded in the blink of an eye to thousands.
It’s a mixed bag. Recently, I was following the sad story of a woman missing who was found murdered by her husband. The compassion of people writing on their Facebook page touched me in special ways.
Sadly, many people approach social media with an adolescent attitude. In the physical world, a ticked-off teenager can yell at his parent, go into his room, and slam the door. The problem is confined within the walls of a home where the tension can be discussed and resolved. Yet, in the cloud environment, the same temper tantrum brings terrible consequences to relationships. As with many things, it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle.
If you use social media, you are standing in a public place and speaking in a voice loud enough for others to hear. That means you have to use social media responsibly. What does that include?
Learn new things. On Twitter and Facebook, I follow astronauts, authors, journalists, and web designers. From each I get new insights into areas in which I have little expeience. I am indebted to them from things I learn everyday.
Contribute to the lives of others. Since social media uses “friend” as a key component, remember the meaning does not change just because you use a keyboard. Friendship contributes to the betterment of both in the relationship. Keep up your part.
Be positive, not negative. If you need to talk to someone face-to-face, do it. Don’t use a post or an email as a dodge for difficult conversations. Posts should inform, encourage, and even entertain.
Evaluate your friends and following lists. Just because you clicked on a button doesn’t make someone your friend. If you are not growing from the relationship, stop following. Remember, those on the other side should make the same evaluate of you..
Don’t use social media as your personal journal. There is a place for getting things off your chest. Put it in a journal or diary where no one can read it. You get the therapeutic value of the release without the collateral damage to others who are the target or your hurt or pique.
Realize that social media is a megaphone in a crowded mall. Everyone who reads it can forward it, and consider it. If you would not say it aloud in a crowd, don’t put it on your social site. It’s one thing to express an opinion and but its another thing to commit character assassination.
I enjoy Twitter and Facebook. I’ve learned so much. But the oath of Hippocrates should govern: in your healing do no harm.