Social media are one of the best places on the internet to be. It helps you connect with friends and family over long distances, meet new people, stay up to date with the latest info and provides entertainment for you all at once.
But where does the problem start?
Despite how beneficial it is, social media can also cause confusion, lead to trauma, brainwash individuals and have negative impacts on their users when used irresponsibly.
We cannot control what is displayed on social media, but we can control how much of it we want to see and how to use the information we let ourselves receive. Thus, here are a few ways to responsibly use social media.
Choose the right platforms
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Believe it or not, there are wrong social media platforms to be on, and this doesn't depend on the platforms themselves, but on the person that is using them.
There are tons of social media apps and you don't need to be on every single one. In fact, I'd recommend that you select only a few that you really use. This will depend on your personality, as well as the type of content you wish to consume.
For instance, if you purely want entertaining videos with few to no pictures, then Tiktok is probably the right place for you.
If you want a great place to chat and create groups with your friends, I suggest using WhatsApp or telegram.
If you want to get closer to your friends and share things like photos daily, Snapchat seems like the way to go.
But if you just want photo inspiration, designs and other pictures, then instagram and Pinterest are good options.
Likewise, YouTube has longer video content with some shorts.
Twitter is more text based than others, and its usually great for short updates and memes.
Now, a lot of social media apps have integrated different features from one another, like instagram reels, Facebook stories, etc. However, most of these apps still have their primary purposes, which I think is really necessary when selecting which one to use.
Be careful of who you follow.
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If and when you create new social media accounts, don't follow every single account you come across because you want your feed to be filled quickly. Take the time to discern the people and brands you actually want to follow, because this can be crucial.
Just because someone has one good post we resonate with doesn't mean we will automatically like all their future posts. So, take your time to explore their pages and make sure that you actually like the majority of their posts before hitting that following button.
Moreover, social media apps like TikTok and Instagram usually use info from the people you follow to recommend new content for you. This is what the algorithm does. For instance, if you follow a couple of basketball or music artists on Tiktok, the tiktok algorithm will start showing more of this type of content on your page. So you should be mindful of who you follow.
Have a goal anytime you open an app
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One of the biggest accusations made on social media is that it's a time stealer and this isn't entirely false. But again, it's up to you and how you use it.
Before you open a social media app, be clear and certain about what you're using it for. Is it to get a quick update, to like a friend's post, to see if your favourite content creator has made a new post, or if you just took a break from work and need a place to cool off?
It is essential to know what you're doing online, or else social media will be the one using you, instead of the other way.
Avoid the comparison hole
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Often times, social media display the highlights of what people are passing through - the good moments, the wins, the luxury, the entertainment. As you use social media often, it's easy to start thinking that what you see is exactly how they live, which isn't true for most people.
Human beings rarely post their troubles on social media, they don't post the struggles, the hard work and the sacrifices they have to make in their journey. Rather, they share the final outcome for everyone to see. If you start comparing your ordinary life to their daily filtered and edited masterpiece, you may lose sight of reality and enter the trap of comparison.
Again, be careful who you follow on social media. There are very few people who are open about the bad aspects of their lives and not just the good, and perhaps these are the people you should be following.
More importantly, if you can't handle other people's success without falling into self-pity or envy, it's better to stay off completely.
Make sure your posts are things you can be proud of years from now.
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Social media trends are mostly fun, but they can be deadly too, both in the present and the future. When indulging in social media trends, it's important to have these two questions in mind:
- Is it morally sound and beneficial to both my viewers and society at large?
- Does it have the potential to mar or tarnish my reputation in years to come?
This is a good question to ask, especially if you're a content creator with a good number of followers. There are young, impressionable children who easily accept whatever is thrown at them, especially if it's trendy. Thus, you want to make sure that what you're putting out for them to see is good.
Remember that trends do not last. That's why they are called Trends. Don't do something stupid or drastic just for clout, because sooner or later those numbers and likes won't matter anymore and you'll be left to face the consequences.
Don't be scared to use the 'report' button
Most social media apps have moral restrictions that prevent harmful content from being released on their platforms. Sadly, these policies aren't always enforced and we still end up seeing a lot of inappropriate content on the internet. As an ideal member of society, it is up to you to report such content whenever you come across it.
Using the 'report' button may sound bizarre to some people because, to them, it's just easier to scroll past. Of course, this should not be your go-to anytime you see a post you don't like, and there may be times when it's a YOU problem and not the content itself or the creator. However, there are situations where using the report button instead of scrolling is the right thing to do.
To determine if a content is appropriate, consider the following:
- Is it misleading? E.g a video that claims to teach you how to make money from legit side hustles, but is really advertising a Ponzi scheme platform.
- Is it dangerous? E.g someone jumping off an airplane with no parachute (why this is inappropriate is that it may give false hopes to viewers who are younger and immature)
- Is it repulsing or willfully disgraceful? E.g a person eating an excretion.
- Is it hateful or prejudiced in some way? (Note, this isn't always something you just don't agree on. If the content preaches against a simple personal belief, then there's no need to report as everyone has the right to their opinions. However, if it is arrogantly hateful and seems to incite violence, then use the report button.)
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Know when to stay off the media
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Social media are great, but they should have limits. There are certain hours, days or even seasons in our lives where the internet is the last place we should be.
This could be something as simple as preparing for serious exams and going off social media for a while, or a difficult situation like depression.
At all times, we must be watchful to ensure that we are only using social media when it will be beneficial and productive. You don't want to be in a place with altered reality when the real world around you is desperately seeking your attention.
Here are a few scenarios of when to limit/not using social media.
- When having a serious event coming up, like an exam, job interview or conference, and social media are distracting you from your preparations (Feel free to use social media if it's aiding the process though)
- When you're anxious or depressed about something happening to or around you. (Social media can be a temporary cure for sadness if you engage in the comic side. Nevertheless, the chances of seeing something bad are equal, so it's best to stay off completely)
- When you've spent too much time on social media at the expense of your daily obligations (It's time to get off and fix the mess you've left for so long)
- During retreats and willful isolation, when you need time to refocus and set your mind straight.
Also, embrace the habit of periodically giving up social media, even if it's for a day or two, in order to build discipline and self-control.
Beware of false information
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The internet is the hub for most of our daily information and this goes for false information as well. Unfortunately, social media platforms have features and integrations that facilitate the spread of false news. Features like forwarding, sharing and reposting are enemies when it comes to curtailing the spread of false news, and this is because these features are so easy to use that it only takes a click or more to share any post.
Be careful of what you read and listen to on social media, because there are lots of fake stories going around that are masked and perfectly orchestrated to pass off as genuine.
Don't be a carrier of false information. Always verify news that you see on the internet by checking its source and making sure that other credible information sources confirm the news.
If your comment has no value, don't comment
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Cyberbullying is a very terrible crime. Don't be a coward to make bitter comments on people's posts. If you don't like a post for some personal reason, scroll past. If you must comment, do so politely and diplomatically.
We live in a world of hypersensitivity and any comment that isn't sweet-sounding and 'nice' can easily come off as being a hate comment, but it shouldn't be. As a human being, be open to correction and constructive criticism. I've had people caution me about some of the things I post on social media, and though it often made me feel sad, I later realised how true and beneficial what they told me was.
In short, don't be a coward, but don't be too sensitive to unpopular feedback either.
Finally, moderation is key when it comes to using social media. Whatever you do, take these tips to make sure that you're making the most of these platforms.