A few years back I used to watch a show called "1000 Ways To Die," which highlighted the unbelievable ways people exit from this world. Social media can be much the same - the list of potential mistakes is endless.
For example, recently I shared that my social media posts, especially on Facebook, give some people the impression that I literally never go offline. And noted that when you're online a lot, it can make people think you aren't focused enough on work.
Truthfully as a workaholic, that hasn't been my problem.
But I've definitely made a lot of other mistakes. And for every one you see here, I'm sure I've made many more. While it's true that social media involves a lot of trial and error, there are some very obvious ones you want to avoid from the get-go. Hopefully these tips will help you through the doozies:
- Seeming "self-promotional." When I first started blogging nearly ten years ago, relatively few others were online as much. As a result, to those outside my organization I had assembled an impressive portfolio of work online, but on the inside the reaction was "who does she think she is?" The way out of this conundrum is to keep writing, but focus on helping others - while being honest and human about mistakes made along the path to learning.
- Emotional posting: Every day brings with it a tragedy of some kind - a terrorist attack, a travesty of justice, a bad thing that shouldn't have ever happened. It's easy to go online and vent - you will have the world with you - but that doesn't mean losing self-control. For me, personally, this happened most recently when a friend's nephew was murdered in a terrorist attack in Israel. To that I could not help but respond, and my response was very strong - I said that terrorists should "drop dead." It's probably better to wait a little bit when you are overcome, and be more eloquent. And when you post something ill-advised, go back immediately and delete it.
- Strong disagreements: Emotional postings involve feelings. But Facebook is a place for strong intellectual beliefs to emerge as well - and often, they are polarizing. In a serious disagreement, unless the other person is rude, try to articulate clearly why you believe the way you do. Allow the other person to have their say as well. But there are some people who are just plain nasty - and unfortunately I have been nasty in response. It's better never to talk to people like that, and if you choose to, never let them visibly get to you.
- Confronting the "dark side": Twitter impersonators are annoying, but you really have no choice but to check for them regularly - they directly affect your reputation online - and Twitter is very good about removing them from the service. At first I didn't realize that these spammers target lots of people, and I allowed it to get me very upset, as though someone were personally after me. I've also dealt with Israel-haters and Jew-haters on Twitter, and some of those interactions were astoundingly unproductive. Eventually I learned that many so-called "trolls" are willing to engage in conversation. Which, surprisingly, has mostly ended in protracted debate, followed by "peace" and "have a nice day."
- Digital detritus. There is no reason you absolutely must keep your Twitter feed from five years ago live on the Internet, or all your Facebook posts from forever. Again, this is something I did not realize. But the truth is, they're mostly irrelevant. Once every few years, you can wipe your Twitter feed completely; once every few months, you can go through your Facebook feed and prune posts out. (Photos, on the other hand, can last forever.) You want to save only those things that truly add value to the world.
In the end, it's true what the worriers say - social media does have its pitfalls. But it's also a truly wonderful gift. You should be yourself online, you should express yourself, you should allow others to glimpse the real you - the joy, the thinking, and the pain. Just remember the recipe:
- Common sense
So get out there and have your say.
The world is waiting to hear from you.
All opinions my own. Photo by Martin Taylor via Flickr (Creative Commons)