Who doesn’t love sifting through some sort of social media? Whether you’re a Facebook junkie, Instagram lover, Pinterest-aholic, Reddit reader, or Twitter tweeter, social media gives us access to friends, family, businesses, and interests from all over the world in real time. It has made the world more connected, smaller, and more accessible. Some of us have even used the features of social media to replace classic invitations, phone calls, or services. In short, social media is extremely beneficial, until it’s not.
Along with all of the joys of social media, there is a harboring presence of “trolls,” political rampages, bigotry, and worse. If used incorrectly, social media can become a black hole of bullying and the worst part of ourselves. The most important point to remember about social media is that it’s never truly anonymous. Even with pseudonyms, private profiles, and blocking, social media has shown us how closely each person in the world is actually connected; if there is something you don’t want noted as part of your personal perception or branding, it does not belong on the internet.
For those of us who are professionals, or those of us who are seeking professional careers, acceptance into programs, or generally want to be perceived as a likable person, there are some distinct steps you can take to ensure your presence on social media is comprised of etiquette and professionalism.
- Spell-checking, grammar-checking, and fact-checking. You don’t want to present yourself as ignorant by offering incorrect or incomprehensible information.
- Staying out of politics and heavily controversial issues. Unless you or your brand is based on this controversy, it’s best to keep personal opinions and heated topics off your social media to avoid isolating any groups or people.
- If you receive a negative comment on something you post, bear in mind the audience. Sometimes it’s best to delete the comment altogether, sometimes it’s best to professionally respond that you would like to discuss the matter further through a private messenger.
- Keep home and job problems off the internet. Remember empathy in this circumstance. You may have had an argument with your husband or wife, or maybe you had a tough day at work, it’s tempting to post your feelings online as a form of venting, but is that truly productive? All it will create is further animosity. Keep personal issues personal. Be an adult and speak to the person face-to-face after you’ve cooled off. If you truly need to vent, call your best friend.
- Remember to keep social media both personal and polite. Share your joys, accomplishments, fun family photos, but be mindful and respectful of who else is part of the post. A fun family barbecue may be a great photo to post, but maybe your uncle or sister would prefer not to have his/her picture of him/her holding a beer online.
- Your indirect actions count, too. Maybe you’re not the one posting memes against a certain political figure or group, but if you’re “liking” or commenting, you are still associating your presence with that image or post. If it’s not something professional or polite to begin with, it’s best to scroll past and just ignore.
- Remove or unfollow people who are consistently posting negative or harmful content. Sometimes even associating yourself with a person who demonstrates that type of behavior can negatively affect you. Think about it in terms of being a teenager – if you’re hanging out with the “bad” crowd, even if you’re not participating in their actions, you are automatically lumped into the group.
- Recognize that perception and intention are not the same, and no, it’s not fair. Be mindful of your comments and actions, taking special heed to how it will and could be perceived by others. You may not intend to offend or hurt someone, but if it’s perceived in such a way, that’s how the message will be digested.
- Be an active participant. Social media is only as engaging as you make it. Be sure to like, comment, and commend your friends and families for their accomplishments and proud posts. Respond to people with positive feedback and meaningful commentary.
- Find the happy medium of posting. You don’t want to be a braggart or a negative nancy; no one likes either. Keep your posts relevant and pertinent to your life, and definitely highlight happy moments, but also break up the monotony with clean and funny jokes, a great recipe, sharing insight on a book you’ve read or movie you’ve watched, something general that is neither a complaint nor a compliment.