I’ve been contemplating what integrity means in the age of social media. In my own life, I’ve been somewhat reluctant to open social media accounts.
I like a certain amount of privacy. The rate at which people overshare does not entice me. In other words, regular status updates about bowel movements, and the Kardashians, have not been encouraging.
We have been witness to celebrities’ social media meltdowns, as well as public shaming through social media.
Sadly, “cyberbullying” has become a commonly referenced term and something that has warranted numerous awareness campaigns and real estate on law enforcement websites. Overall, there seems to be a heightened level of meanness that abounds the social media sphere, and it feels strange to be a spectator to all of this.
On top of that, we’ve become so connected; it’s almost like an addiction. We’ve seen in our own lives how the way we communicate has changed. What will the long-term impact of the shift in the way we communicate be to human development? As a side note: over the years, I have received fewer and fewer birthday calls, and I don’t think I realized how important those calls were to me until they were becoming replaced more and more by text messages and tweets. Don’t get me wrong – I am entirely grateful for being remembered with a birthday greeting in whatever form, but I miss the connection that comes from the human voice!
Despite my resistance to social media, I have come to appreciate that it’s not going anywhere. In fact, it’s becoming more and more of the way to do business and reach people. It’s sort of a world that floats around us parallel to our physical world. I’ve been thinking about how I want to present myself in that world and I’ve been realizing that it’s not significantly different from how I aim to present myself in my day-to-day, non-digital life.
Below are some of the things I’ve learned and observed. I guess in totality you can call it something of a “personal social media constitution”.
Like with all things, there are negatives and positives. I’ve highlighted what I see as some of the negative aspects of social media in this post. On the other hand, I have to acknowledge how easy social media has made it to find and share information, it’s ability to bring news to our devices in real time, and how it’s contributed to raising the profile of worthy causes like this past summer’s hugely successful Ice Bucket Challenge.
Treat others the way you want to be treated. As I said earlier, I feel like social media has made it easier for people to up their level of mean. Not having a person in front of us can make us feel more powerful to say just whatever it is we want; however, the people we may be sending messages to or posting about are people. If we wouldn’t say whatever we want to say to them face-to-face, why do it at all? When in doubt, it’s a good practice to check in with ourselves and notice how we would feel on the receiving end of a comment before posting it.
Set boundaries. Here are a few questions I’ve asked myself:
- How much time do I want to spend on social media? I generally try to take a physical break from my phone and computer from 6 p.m. on each night. I admit I’ve been a little lax with this recently, especially since I started blogging :). Overall though, taking a regularly scheduled break helps prevent that constant need to check my social media feeds.
- What interactions am I willing to have through social media? I got to a point where I felt I needed to tell certain people in my life how important traditional human communication is to me and that, for example, I wanted them to call me for my birthday, meet for lunch/dinner/coffee to catch up, have certain types of conversations in person or over the phone, etc.
- What am I willing to share through social media? This is about privacy and how we choose to present ourselves. I don’t post many pictures of myself or my family and I don’t divulge an extensive amount of information about myself or my life online. Having said that, this is my personal choice and everyone is entitled to choose what works best for them.
If you wouldn’t want it to come back to haunt you should you run for political office, don’t post it. Enough said.
Check your facts. Anyone can post anything on social media, and unfortunately this means there are people out there who aim for maximum shock value and sensationalism to drive traffic and gain followers. Before we share facts with our followers, like any good publisher, we have a responsibility to ensure we’ve verified them and that they’re accurate.
Follow/unfollow. We can all choose to follow what people and organizations we want to follow. If we consistently don’t like what someone or some organization is feeding us, we can easily unfollow, unfriend, or whatever un- is available for the particular social network we’re using. It’s powerful stuff and one way to consciously choose the information we want to engage with – just as we would be careful in selecting our friends and relationships.
I turn it over to you. What kinds of things have you contemplated about the digital realm? Are there certain practices you engage in in your social media interactions?