Social media is great! It connects us with friends, family, and businesses all over the world. It helps us express thoughts and feelings we think might help someone else. For some, it serves as an opportunity for much needed catharsis.
So, why be mindful of how you use social media? Because what you put out there can be permanent! Creating a digital footprint can be helpful in some ways, especially if you make a living from being well known through various social media outlets. But, being mindful, or careful, of the digital footprint you create really matters. Creating the wrong kind of social media presence can have life altering consequences (for kids, teens, college kids, and adults alike) and can have some long-term effects.
Here are 6 really good ways to practice mindful social media use:
1. Think twice about it.
Is this an impulsive post or can I get in some hot water for posting this? If the answer to either one of those is "maybe". Don't post it. Walk away for an hour and think about your post again. If you still aren't sure about posting it, you probably shouldn't.
2. Ask yourself some questions about what you want to post.
Is this something I want my parents to see?
Is this something I want my boss to see?
Is this something I want my kids to see?
Is this something I want my spouse to read?
Could I say this on national television?
If the answer to any of these questions is "no", keep the post off of social media. If you feel like the post is really something you need to get off your chest, try journaling (you know...that thing we did before social media!).
3. What's the purpose of your post?
Not everything needs a reason right? Sometimes posts are light-hearted and funny. A story about a cute conversation between your kiddos, a funny laugh-at-yourself moment. But, if you discover your post serves a less than honorable purpose (making fun of others, gossipping, or defaming an authority figure in your life), think about leaving that off of social media. It might sound like a good idea to use social media to vent, but it's a decision you could pay for over and over again for years and years down the road.
4. Who's your audience?
Are you posting for an audience of one (yourself) or for the masses? There are benefits to both. If you're posting for yourself (for a recommendation about a business provider or a doctor) you could get a lot of great feedback in one place. If you are posting for the masses (sharing a tough experience and how you have overcome your struggle), this can be a great way to reach a lot of people at once. But, there are also dangers for both. Posting to social media for self-satisfaction or for external validation (ie: how many likes we can get for our posts) can have a negative effects on our brains. The Association for Psychological Science says, "the same brain circuits that are activated by eating chocolate or winning money are activated when teenagers see a large number of "likes" [on their social media]. (read the article here)
5. Beware of adding your older children to social media without their permission.
We all do it, we have a great moment with our teenager and want to post about it (with a photo as evidence that our teenager IS actually who we're posting about). But, we forget about the identities our kids are creating for themselves. Posting as a parent is ok, but if you have a teen who would rather not be on social media (rare these days I know) make sure to talk to them about how you can share the awesome experience you had together. Either way, if your teen is a social butterfly or one who likes to keep to themselves, just talk it over with them first. They'll appreciate it later and you will be glad you asked.
6. Ask yourself, "Am I using social media to connect with others in place of real-world relationships?"
If the answer to that question is yes, maybe, or sometimes, it's time to take a breather from social media. If the idea of disconnecting from social media fills you with a major case of FOMO, maybe ask yourself why and think about talking to a friend or counselor about how nervous this makes you feel. There may be something else going on like social anxiety or maybe even a specific fear (phobia) you didn't know you had.
About the Author: Hi I'm Alexie (Lexie) Belle. I'm a licensed mental health counselor in Florida. I'm also a wife, a mommy to three great kids, a Christ follower, and a food allergy mom. I provide counseling and therapy to women and teenage girls who struggle with depression, anxiety, postpartum depression, and food allergy related anxiety. If you have any questions about what you've read, feel free to send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 561·600·8764.