What I wish I knew when social media became a thing

I am often described as an old soul. A bit set in my ways. Slightly suspicious and nervous about how to use new technology. Tending to be the one in focus groups who checks off the “maybe would try” box for a new and improved version of a product I already liked. When something new bursts onto the market with viral appeal, my default reaction is to distrust it, although I have been making an effort to be more open minded these days.

When Facebook first became a thing, I begrudgingly made an account around 2008 after numerous friends invited me to, but let it sit dormant with a profile picture for almost a year. “I’m sure it’s a passing phase!” I remember thinking to myself.

Now? I can’t imagine not regularly checking all my social media platforms and utilizing them both personally and professionally. But in the scene years since I began immersing myself into the world of social media, I have learned a lifetime worth of knowledge. Here are some of the things I wish I had known when it all launched.

It’s important to think carefully about what you’re posting

Years ago when I had a corporate job, I really only had a MySpace page but I kept the settings private, worried that my interactions with friends in posts and comments would characterize me as unprofessional to potential bosses.

Now I have a public Twitter and Instagram and the freedom of a freelance lifestyle but my caution is of a different nature. Because anyone at anytime could be reading my words, anything could be misconstrued. Tone is not always to decipher when you don’t know someone. Even between friends, a text message can be completely misunderstood. Imagine thousands of people you’ve never met having no idea about your mindset, and using their own to deduce your point from what may just be an ambiguous statement. That’s a little scary! And something to take into account.

Surprise! You might actually make friends via these sites/apps. Good ones!

When all the social media platforms became so mainstream, they still seemed to me in the same category as the old chat groups I would dabble in on AOL when my internet still operated on a phone line dial up. Unless you were conversing with friends or family, I was positive that these people were strangers whom you would never meet. And while I’ve never online dated (though who knows?), I can now proudly say I’ve “online friended” and met some of the most incredible people as a result. Even one friend who turned serious boyfriend via Twitter! The same heed of meeting strangers applies of course, but important relationships have resulted from me connecting online and that’s something I would have never predicted.

It’s ok to be cautious, but it’s also ok to try new things

Exercising a little bit of prudence rather than jumping blindly headlong into anything new is always going to be wise. But refusing to even attempt something new because it’s different than what you’re used to is just silly. How do you know you’re not going to like it unless you try? My arrogant stance at first that this was all just a temporary craze has obviously been proven to be incorrect. And even though social media sometimes seems exhausting or like another job, it’s greatly benefitted my work and keeping in long distance touch with friends and family. Things I would have missed out on knowing if I hadn’t tried it.

The birthday reminder will save your life

As someone who has always been terrible at writing down important dates, getting a notification reminder of a friend or family member birthday has been one of my favorite parts of social media existence. Plus when it’s your own birthday, the universal love is pretty spectacular.

Instant communication is a responsibility

We respond to anything and everything instantaneously now. Sometimes this is a positive and sometimes it is a negative. Having a thought and immediately expressing it might feel satisfying in the moment, but as more information becomes available, we may change our minds, or realize we were wrong. Thanks to caching, even if you delete a previous post, it’s still recorded and you’re still responsible for it.

You don’t have to put up with anyone who’s bringing you down

This seems obvious now, but in my first foray into social media, I was mostly accepting friend requests from people I knew or at the very least friends of friends. When I was discovering Twitter, and more so when I was sharing links to my work there, I was astounded by the hostility and negativity that people were capable of while hiding behind a fake name and no identifying picture. I also know now to block those people and steer clear of anyone who feels compelled to insult or degrade other people online.

It’s essential to check sources

Maybe your best friend and your Aunt Clara both posted it, but it’s still wise to check on the accuracy of articles and “news” items before blindly sharing. It only takes a couple minutes to google things and fact check and it’s worth it. I never would have expected one of my best friends to post the equivalent of a chain letter as a serious news story, but it happens.

It can get all-consuming

I can be guilty of being glued at times to my phone or iPad but then I realize: IT CAN WAIT. Social media isn’t going anywhere and that notification of someone liking your post will still be there when you’re not stepping out into traffic or operating heavy machinery. For me, it’s important to take a break.

Whether you’re social media savvy or don’t care to be, I don’t think anyone can deny how it’s changed the landscape for communication worldwide. And I will do my best to remain open to all the improvements that I’m sure will come in the future.

[Image via Fox]