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You get what you give on social media

There are so many ways to show you my dog.

I could share an adorable, Like-laden picture on Facebook, or even get a little artsy with it on Instagram (curved border included). Or I could just tweet some hilarious anecdote about her -- something so hysterically funny, I'm hard-pressed to fit it into 140 characters.

I could even attach a gallery of her to this column. In fact, I'll do that.

But should I? What should we be sharing on social media?

It's a conversation my wife and I have often. She has a different approach to Web activity, posting the occasional, cutesy decoration shot or telling a friend she's looking forward to seeing her this weekend.

I, despite maintaining that it's all so silly, put a good bit of thought into my Internet persona. Maybe it's the writer in me, convinced I must maintain my social media presence in order to move forward to literary stardom. Mostly, it's just fun. I take a great deal of joy in composing short, entirely inoffensive "jokes" in the form of self-deprecating observations, stories and yes, the occasional picture of Macy, our prized pup.

Sometimes they work well, and other times, they completely bomb. But in all honesty, I love either outcome.

Many of my friends use social media quite differently. Tender family moments, political charges, odd outrage over the yearly Daylight Saving Time - much of my Newsfeed is full of sincere thoughts designed to convey strong feelings and vent very real frustrations.

Frankly, it's hard for me to do that. Not because I'm above it all; it's just not what I choose to offer. And that goes back to the big question.

Whenever I fume over a friend's post, I give myself that same, old reminder: "If I don't like, I don't have to read it." I'll then either hide the post or just go have a muffin, returning to find an entirely new set of opinions. And when I have those introspective moments, I remind myself that there's really no right way to use social media.

However, there is a wrong way, and it goes back to being a pleasant, social human being in real life: Know your intention.

If I'm writing to hurt someone or "call out" an entire restaurant chain after one worker left those pickles on the sandwich, perhaps I should reconsider. If the point is to have some fun, reconnect or even give a little insight for those who may be interested, that's an entirely different case. And that's what I must remember in the endless flow of infant pics, election-year rallying and unshared endorsements.

Social media can provide a lot of joy, whether you're connecting with a relative outside the area or just need a laugh. But you get out of it what you give.

If you don't want your relationships dictated by tweets, it's probably not a great idea to rant about Cousin Greg's lesser attributes. If you want to be a champion for a cause, be prepared to have your uncle tell you why you're wrong. That's not to dissuade inserting any strong emotions on the Internet - it's more of an advisory for how it can be returned.

Like I said, I enjoy getting laughs and hearing those status update crickets. But I only began to feel entertained by both after I stopped treating it as though my self-worth was at stake.

You can't try to inject something lighthearted and expect anything but a few moments of fun and puppy appreciation in return.  

And for the record, my Twitter username is andysmith_lol, and I do follow back.


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