By GGTW Contributing editor Jessi Behrendsen
Social media can be a powerful tool. Whether you’re career-hunting or in the midst of building your own personal brand, it can be a great asset.
The problem is, it’s very easy to take it too seriously — to look at your own life through the lens of a platform like Facebook — and start to build every move around it.
I’m not claiming to be an expert. I’m still trying to wrap my head around where social media fits in both my career and in life; however, I thought it might be nice to share a few things I’ve learned. As a late millennial, I remember (very clearly) a time before Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, when the closest thing we had were giant notebooks. We wrote letters to our friends in the notebooks and then exchanged them in the hallway. (Hey, mom, can we dig those up?) It was 2004 by the time Facebook landed at Bowling Green State University and I jumped on the bandwagon. New, shiny and INSANELY ADDICTING, I had the luxury of navigating it through the early days. (And also, the luxury of only having Facebook to navigate since Twitter didn’t even exist yet!)
“JOIN ALL THE GROUPS!”
“ALWAYS POST WHAT YOU’RE THINKING!
“FRIEND AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE!”
It was exhilarating…and exhausting.
Now, in my 30s, I have a different relationship with social media. Take it for what you will, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
- Don’t let social media run your life. We’ve all been there. You’re on vacation, planning what to do with your day. One person suggests a local museum. The other suggests the beach. Your deciding vote goes to the fact that photos of the beach would be more aesthetically pleasing on Instagram (but you kinda prefer the museum). This is a high-level example of how we’re living in a society that’s building entire lifestyle narratives out of social media. We’re making minute-to-minute decisions around what we can post next, and that can very easily slip to a place where your mind is tricked into thinking something doesn’t matter (or happen) unless it gets posted.
My advice? Follow the same rules we did in the 90s and document the big stuff. After a while you’ll have a meaningful scrapbook of memories, moments and anecdotes to look back on. (Seriously, pretend you’re wandering around with a disposable camera and have a limited number of shots.) Post a group photo of your family at the beach. Enjoy art? Drawing? Build your platform around that. Post a paragraph from a book you love (or a story you wrote!). Trying to nail your dream job? Use LinkedIn to share relevant articles that prove to employers you understand their mission and core values. #RealLifeMatters
- Be the person you want to be friends with. In short, don’t be an ass. Don’t bully people from behind your screen. I don’t care how worked up you are. Would you say to someone’s face the thing you’re about to type? OK, maybe you would, but that doesn’t make it right either way. The Internet has made it all too easy to say whatever we want and hit send without fear of face-to-face retribution. You always have a choice. BE A NICE PERSON. FULL STOP.
- You still have to call your mom. I have no idea why this one drives me crazy. Social media is not a substitute for calling or visiting a friend or family member on a special day. I would say it’s at least an added bonus that you can post a photo of your favorite aunt on her birthday with a special memory captioned underneath, but I promise she also wants a hug. A high-five. To see your face or hear your voice. Think about it in 360. Your best friend just got the job of her dreams. What if it were you? A post on your Facebook page is nice, but wouldn’t a congrats call be better? Or a celebratory brunch? #CallYourMom
- It should make you happy. I reached a point when I realized that Facebook was doing the opposite of making me happy. It was consistently stressing me out. Between arguments in the comments section that had absolutely nothing to do with me, and the fact that I was literally getting my news through Facebook, I found myself on edge every time I closed the app.
So (shrug) I stopped using it. I still hop on occasionally, but now I go directly to NPR for news so I can select the articles that matter to me instead of reading what pops up on a feed. More important, though, I realized platforms like Snapchat where I can engage with the people I love, or Instagram where I can view photos of pretty yoga poses and adorable cats, simply made me happier. #dowhatmakesyouhappy
Social media inevitably is going to be frustrating at some point, it’s unavoidable — but remember it’s how you CHOOSE to engage with it that dictates what you get out of it. Now, Go Get The World!
Do you have a story or anecdote about how you controlled the social media beast? Tell us about it and we’ll send you a GGTW sticker for your phone or computer!