I am not a hater of social media. I actually quite enjoy it, though I must admit that I have decreased my use of it since my initial flurry of activity. Upon further reflection though, I note an alarming trend in social media which causes me to question what the proper use of tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest might be. Accordingly, I offer the following 10 points as my social media manifesto. After much thought, I have decided to live by the following rules in posting to social media sites.
Note: I originally wrote this post in August of 2013. Much has changed since then, and social media has become even more contentious than it was when I originally penned this manifesto with people abandoning platforms for others where they feel “heard” and “understood.” This fragmentation on social media is indicative of a wider fragmentation in our society. I would suggest though that instead of insisting that others change the way they use social media or asking that social media platform allow us to do whatever we want, perhaps what we need to do is examine how we as individuals use social media. After all, change has to start on a personal level. With that said, here is my personal social media manifesto.
1. Social media should be used to build people up, not tear them down.
If I have a grievance with someone, I should deal with that in person. The internet is not a place to air dirty laundry, and I will not use social media to take shots at any person. Nor will I post things about people just to embarrass them or laugh at them. When my kids were a little younger, I felt free to post their exploits online the same way you might tell your friend about them at a dinner party. Now that they are getting older, I generally seek their permission before posting anything that might embarrass them or that they might get flack from their friends about.
2. Social media can be fun.
It is ok to use social media as a temporary escape. If you want to spend 30 minutes browsing through your friends statuses as a way of amusing yourself, this is no worse than spending that time watching television. However, I will not let social media consume an inordinate amount of my time, nor will the time spent aimlessly floating around social media be a significant portion of the total time I use the services for what I consider worthwhile causes.
3. Social media is not about creating a fake personality.
I am who I am. I will not contrive posts or concentrate on posting things that make me seem different than who I really am. I do not have it all together. I do not have the perfect family. My wife and I do not walk around town holding hands while love songs play and butterflies swoon around us (you try that with four kids). And, despite what I tell my kids, I am not perfect. Accordingly, I will not try to portray myself as such on the internet. I am who I am. It’s not all good.
4. Social media is a tool, not a way of life.
There is nothing wrong with being online and engaging in social media. They are tools the same way that the corded phone was a tool when it was first invented. However, you need only have seen Maximum Overdrive to understand what happens when that which was created as tool beings to rule (yes, I did go there and cite a B-Rate 1980’s movie as support for this point – see number 6 below).
5. Social media should contribute to the greater good.
As a tool, the majority of my time on social media should be used to contribute to something good. For me that means utilizing social media to let people know about the work I do with children of divorce, offering up useful and thoughtful information and sharing things with people that I hope can help them out.
6. Laughter contributes to the greater good.
I believe in the old adage that “laughter is the best medicine.” I like to hear people laugh, and I like to make people laugh. If I can do that in a respectful way online, that contributes to the greater good. This does not mean sharing every funny cartoon I see or videos of double rainbows, but if something funny happens to me or in my family you’re likely to see it online, and I hope it brings you some enjoyment.
7. It’s not about influence.
The day social media becomes about the number of followers I can have or my “klout” with people behind a computer screen, I’ve lost sight of the real reason for using social media. I enjoy connecting with people online, but my sole purposes in using social media will never be because I feel like I’m important enough that people would do well to follow me. Facebook, and the like, are great for connecting with people and reconnecting with old friends. Do that, and stop worrying about how many friends or followers or likes you have.
8. I will know my followers.
Social media is not about followers, but it is important that you know your followers. Because of my work with kids and teens, I have a lot of younger people who follow me on Facebook. That means if something is a little more mature or off color, I might think it’s funny, but I won’t post it on my site because of who is following me. If you choose to post those types of things, more power to you, but don’t accept kids as followers. It’s that simple.
9. The “Walking Down the Street” rule.
My rule for all social media has always been, “I won’t post anything that I wouldn’t feel comfortable yelling as I walk down the street.” This alleviates all kinds of privacy concerns and makes me check myself before I hit the post/send button. If you’re not willing to announce it to your neighbors (those you know and those you don’t) while walking down the street, don’t put it online.
10. It’s all about God.
I am a Christian which means that everything I do good and bad reflects on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Everything I post on social media provides me with an opportunity to glorify the God who gave himself up for me. Unfortunately, it also allows me an opportunity to tarnish His name if I am not careful. When I remember that God is ultimately my audience of one for all that I do, it changes the way I approach social media.