Make Your Social Media Health and Wellbeing a Priority
Whether you are an early adopter of social media, or new to it all together, maintaining your mental and emotional social media health and wellbeing is vital.
While there are positive things about social media use, for users it can cause harm to varying degrees. For many, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and stressed with social media due to information overload, bad information, or user behavior. For some, these platforms can create damaging negative feelings, become addictive, and can even be dangerous (declines in mental and emotional health, cyberbullying, data breaches, and/or disturbing content).
I spent many years as a nonprofit communications manager, with a big part of my job being social media creation and moderation for my organization.
I’ve seen many social media posts on multiple social media platforms nearly every day, due to my duties, and of course, I have my own personal social media on top of that.
The best part of both experiences is that I got to see social media at its best and brightest.
However, I did, more regularly than I’d like, get to see the worst it has to offer, in my professional and personal settings.
It’s the bad stuff that I learned the most from, and that’s a good thing.
This will sound odd, but I am so thankful I got a good taste of the bad stuff at the beginning of my social media use.
I began my personal social media experience in 2009, not the earliest of the adopters, but early enough. The first thing I decided at the beginning was what conversations and topics are best had in social media platforms publicly, by private message, one-to-one (or small group), voice to voice (by phone or video conferencing) or in-person.
I have stuck by this decisions firmly. It works and works well.
For posting and sharing, I know what I like and stick to that, too. I post the things that I love: beautiful photographs (especially nature), family memories, humor, holiday fare and every day best wishes to others.
I have a distinct personal brand that I have crafted, that showcases who I am, what I believe in, and how I approach online writing, engagement, and conversation. I am proud of the look and feel that I project on my pages. I find that my personal brand has helped alleviate the pitfalls of social media.
It doesn’t mean that my system is perfect, I haven’t made mistakes or haven’t any regrets. It isn’t perfect and I have made mistakes and have a few regrets. I’ve created some content that I regretted, as well as let the bad behavior of others online hurt me. I also took it personally when someone deleted me from their account. Occasionally, I’d feel a little (secretly) salty if I didn’t get the likes on something I posted.
My profound gratitude: I learned early on the harm that social media can cause to my wellbeing: I could get overwhelmed with content (too much) and I let others bother and frustrate me. I also learned to not take it personally when people let me go from their social media platforms or if people didn’t respond or like something I shared. There are so many reasons behind the scenes of why people do what they do with their social media accounts. Yes, I’ve had old childhood friends let me go and even a relative that I thought I had a good relationship with. However, the thing that I remember: 1. it’s their account and they can do whatever they want. 2. I am not everyone’s cup of tea. People are not always going to like me or like what I do and that’s okay.
I took these lessons to heart.
And through these early lessons, I created a sequence of questions I ask myself to determine what and how I put out thoughts into the ether.
When it comes to producing content and social media shares, I ask myself the following questions:
1. Do I have a clear goal with my post (Examples: do I want to entertain, enlighten, educate or engage)?
2. Do these words honestly and accurately represent who I am as a person, and can I stand behind them?
3. Will my content cause hurt or damage to others?
4. Am I willing and able to accept feedback and conversation about this content from those I know and from those I don’t know, even if I don’t agree? Am I prepared to be unfollowed, deleted, or defriended? Is this okay with me?
If the answer is no to any one of these questions, I invoke one or more of the four Rs:
I also use the four Rs when it comes to contemplating a response to someone via public social media, especially if the material is sensitive.
While perhaps this may seem way overly cautious for some, and while not perfect by any means, I’ve found this strategy successful, and it gets my words, thoughts and ideas out there in the best way possible.
I think it’s critically important to put our best and most earnest efforts into our online written words, content and social media shares, today and every day. It matters to our personal health because we are crafting an experience, our experience. When we don’t craft our experience, our health suffers, consciously and subconsciously.
Getting likes and comments on social media, can end up being falsely equivalent to our personal value; we just don’t see it right away (and sometimes, not at all). You far exceed in value than what you post on social media and how it’s reacted to.
Words, images and shares are tools in a toolkit of our own making. Use a thoughtful process to share your words. Embrace the magic, meaning and power of the social media communication and use it to good purpose for yourself. You won’t regret it, I promise.
Additional Tips and Strategies
Following is an excerpt of piece that I wrote I’ve reworked just a little for this format. The original article appeared for the nonprofit I served, the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST). BEST provides vital support to adults with traumatic brain injury, their caregivers and their families with peer support, education and advocacy. The organization has kindly granted me the permission to share this piece on this platform.
Many of the people I had the honor to work with as a communications manager for the organization, shared concerns with me over social media and how to make it a healthy experience for them.
Following, are ways to maximize your health and well-being in your social media use and execution.
First, the basics.
Social media means lots of things to lots of people.
Here are some of the ways people use social media:
1. To keep in touch with family and friends.
2. To connect with others.
3. To have conversations.
4. To find information and resources.
5. For entertainment.
6. For education.
7. To promote businesses, products and services (if applicable to them).
In a perfect world, our personal social media use would run smoothly, overflow with kindness, care, support, love, understanding, and positivity. Clearly, the world is far from perfect, and it is up to us to create the experience we want.
Of course, some of our experience is dependent on other people.
While social media can bring out the best in people, it can also bring out the worst.
Arguments. Ugly, inappropriate, or uncomfortable posts and tweets. Negativity. Making you feel bad about yourself and others. And the list goes on.
So, what does a social media user do to balance the good, the not-so-good things and the downright ugly stuff, that come with social media use?
Here are some helpful tips and strategies to help you manage social media successfully, safely and positively.
Let’s get started.
Keep your social media safe with these important tips from experts:
1. To keep your experience on social media secure and safe, learn about your platform’s safety and privacy settings and revisit these topics often. That way you keep control of what you want people to see, who you interact with, and how to protect your accounts.
2. Really think about what content and people you are interacting with and what personal details you will share in your social media platforms. Unfortunately, hackers and other cyber criminals are not going away. Create unique passwords, keep your software and apps up to date, and if a link looks or seems unusual, don’t click on it. Trust your instincts.
3. If you are feeling harassed, note unusual activity on your social media account, or anything else that you are seeing that makes you feel uncomfortable, visit your social media platform’s help section to learn how to block and report people, handle suspicious activity and address the concerns you have.
Keeping Social Media Positive
How do you keep social media a positive experience?
Here are some important things questions to ask yourself about your social media use:
1. How do I want to see the online world? How do I want the online world to see me?
2. How often do I want to participate in social media activities? How much time am I willing to spend on it?
3. What are some of things are I am passionate about seeing and interacting with on social media? How does seeing and interacting with these things make me feel?
4. What are some of the things I don’t want to see on social media? How do those things make me feel?
The beauty of social media, and the most important thing that we can remember, is that we do really have control over what we see and who we interact with.
With that, use your social media tools to filter out what you do not want. If there’s a person, group or page that bothers you, you can unfriend, unfollow and/or stop seeing their posts temporarily and/or permanently (depending on the platform). Please consult the help section of your social media platforms to learn more specifics.
Remember, you are in control and you know what’s best for you; don’t feel bad about taking these actions.
Once you’ve determined what isn’t working, add more of what is! This is one of the joys of social media. Add the people, groups, things and organizations that really give you a positive spark.
You also have another great superpower on social media: encouraging others. Reinforce great posts and give others kindness, inspiration and hope with likes and positive comments. Model the kinds of posts you want to see, by creating posts of your own.
Now that you’ve tailored your social media to be safe and positive, what should be done if something negative happens?
If you are the recipient of a negative comment or find yourself in a tense exchange, here are some tips to help defuse the situation.
1. Explain the situation in different words. Example: “Thank you for sharing for your concerns about this topic. I tend to feel passionate about this issue.”
2. Remind the person about a positive interaction you had with them or a positive attribute they have (if you can, of course). Example: “I know when we talked about this topic a few months ago, you really brought up some good and thoughtful debate points. Let’s discuss offline.”
3. If it’s appropriate and comfortable for you, give people a chance to make things right. Example: “I wonder if there’s another way to say that, so we can have an engaging and helpful discussion?”
4. Politely end the conversation if it’s not getting anywhere. Example: “I think it might be best to end this conversation at this time.” Don’t continue the conversation in the comment section.
Here are some final strategies to keep your social media experience a positive and healthy one.
1. Take frequent breaks all together from social media.
2. Limit your time on social media. Figure out how much time you are willing to spend daily, weekly, or monthly and stick to your goals. Set a timer if you need to.
3. Don’t feel like you must comment, like, share, and interact with everything you see. Social media is an endless stream of information; understand you can’t get to everything and that’s okay.
4. Do your best to not get wrapped up in how many likes, comments, shares, and so on that YOU get on your personal social media. If you’ve spent the time building your personal brand, sticking with your personal brand, and being proud of your personal brand, these things shouldn’t be that important. Again, not everyone is going to like what you put out or have time to see your shares. It happens, and it’s okay. Don’t let these things sap your spirit or energy; it’s just not worth it. Again, this tip is for personal accounts. Business related objectives are different.
5. Periodically review your settings, privacy, friends/follower lists, and profile information. Wash, rinse, repeat.