I love social media. I’ve worked in it for a long time, in one form or another, and kind of grew up with it. It’s been fun watching the career evolve and change as society required it. It’s definitely not the same thing it was when I started, but that’s okay; it’s better now, though I like to think the basics are still the same, which is that we’re making online connections and building ourselves a community of people from all over, from all lifestyles, all sizes, shapes, colors and interests, and we’re benefiting.
However, there are days I don’t feel like I’m benefiting. I’m not getting anything out of it when someone I’ve friended posts in a way that’s intended to chastise everyone else. I have a few Facebook peeves that ruin the positive experience (for me) and probably my biggest is when someone says “Parents/co-workers/moms/<insert category>, you MUST xxx…or your children will go to hell/die/turn purple!”
My finger hovers over the unfriend button almost every time this happens, no matter who it is. There’s a way to share information and there’s a way to tell people that your way is the only way and they should do it your way…and those two ways are entirely different.Using social media as a bully pulpit is misuse of the technology. If you’ve read my blog for long, you’ll see I wrote about women empowering each other and how we need to use social media for good. I really believe that. We can uplift and support, and if we don’t agree, we can at least respect. We fight for freedom of choice and tolerance, and that tolerance means tolerating different opinions.
I teach my kids the basic credo: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, but we’re being desensitized by the ability to throw out a few random phrases and walk away knowing we’ll likely never really see that person in real life. We can get away with it, but is it right?
Social media serves so many positive purposes. Business use aside, as I always stand behind its complete necessity for business, the list of reasons we need it is long. I’ll put the majority of those reasons in the following four buckets:
Networking for jobs, services, products.
On a typical day, I chat with a friend cross-country. I look at pictures of another friend’s children. I seek out some recipes and read up on the latest of social media tools and tips. I research products I want to buy, where to get the best price, and read reviews. I talk to friends, either in town or another state, about what’s going on with the kids and we support each other. We listen. We give advice and answer questions for each other. We laugh together.
And that’s probably the thing I ought to put first: laughter. I like my social media experience to be fun, first and foremost, and if you drag that down, well, that unfriend button is there. Why do I say that so cavalierly? Because if you’re someone who is negative and not fun, complaining about the same things over and over again that we ALL deal with and don’t need to read about, then chances are that we aren’t close friends anyway.
So one day not too long ago, I went a little crazy. I’d seen one too many bully pulpit and chastising posts and decided that I really had a say in what I had to read; it’s MY feed, and I can choose what I let clutter it up. I clicked on my Friends list and worked my way down, unfriending quite a few people. I didn’t announce it on Facebook – what purpose would that serve, and those who made the cut, per se, wouldn’t notice anything different anyway. I’m not one to talk about people publicly. Most people see through that anyway, and see your attack on someone else for what it is, a way to make yourself feel superior or bash someone, and it’s just so unnecessary. And unprofessional.
In the end, I unfriended about 45 people. And you know what? It felt great. I don’t dread seeing my feed, and I don’t scroll super-fast, missing cool things because I don’t want to see another “Not having a good day” post by the same person who can’t just speak her mind and say “I need support today.” (I’m a big fan of being honest, speak up and tell people where they stand or what you need. Better for everyone. Life’s too short!)
My list of friends is short by choice. Facebook, like any social media page, is an option. We don’t have to be on it. We also don’t have to use it to allow things into our lives that we don’t want. I won’t unfriend someone for a different political view, a different health viewpoint or a different parenting viewpoint; we are all entitled and what a boring place it would be if we all agreed. However, I will unfriend if you allow nastiness towards your friends in conversations or if all of your feed is bashing the ‘other side.’
Life’s stressful enough but we don’t need to let the mental drain make it worse. Take a stand for yourself and make your social media pages work for you. (And don’t get me started on how I feel about following a personal page only to have it turn into a spam sales page or a professional/business page that segues into a political soapbox. Click.)
Go crazy now and then…and I mean in a non-violent, non-harmful kind of way. Clean up your Facebook feed. Shut out the constant negativity or attacks. Surround yourself with your favorite things and people and see if you don’t have a better day.