Social media has absolutely revolutionized our world. It’s crazy to think that Facebook has been around for less than 20 years and has been accessible to everyone for even less time than that. After the introduction of Facebook, it began a snowball effect of social media platforms. From Instagram to snapchat and from LinkedIn to Alignable, social media sites are everywhere and serve just about every purpose possible when it comes to connecting individuals.
Teens have a not-so-great reputation when it comes to knowing how to use social media responsibly, but it’s incredibly important that adults everywhere teach younger generations how to be wise about their social media usage and general internet behavior. Not only does the world need good online citizens, but irresponsibility in social media use can bring about serious and significant damage to an individual’s reputation and can even ruin their chances of getting into their dream school or landing that perfect job. Whether you’re just entering the world of social media or you’re just looking to brush up on some tips on how to use social media responsibly, here are the best pieces of advice we’ve found to make social media benefit you rather than harm you.
Be Friends with Your Parents
Yeah, we know this sounds awful. We know we got a bunch of eye rolls when you read this. But students need accountability, and that should start with your parents. If your parents aren’t on social media, find another (or several) trustworthy adult who can help you with accountability and wise social media usage. Consider the fact that your parents will see everything you post and share, and they can probably even see what you like and comment on if they try hard enough. You parents will hopefully call you out if you post something you shouldn’t, and they can possibly even help you through some relational struggles that occur on social media if needed.
Consider the “Front Yard Test”
The front yard test is a great way to stay accountable to yourself and really think about what you’re posting. The test is simply this: is this post (or picture, comment, response, etc.) appropriate to be put on a giant sign and posted in your front yard (or another very public space)? If it’s not, it shouldn’t go online. If it would embarrass anyone (not just you) or you wouldn’t want a future teacher or employer to see it, it shouldn’t be posted.
Remember That the Internet Never Forgets
This is hard for teens to grasp sometimes because life moves so quickly and it just doesn’t seem possible that something posted today could impact anyone in 10 years. But the cold hard truth is that the internet is indeed forever. It never forgets. Even if you delete a photo or a post or an entire social media account, there are ways to find all of that information and those pages again. And if you’re up for a bigwig job or acceptance to an elite university, rest assured that those organizations have people who can pull up decades-old social media posts. Even if something is funny or seems incredibly important right now, think about the fact that once it’s posted, it will never ever go away and think twice about your decision.
Take an Inventory of Your Time
Social media and the internet, in general, both have a way of sucking away valuable time without us even realizing it. Allow your phone to track your screen time or set limits for yourself on your tablet when it comes to how much time you’re on social media. Sometimes it’s nice to relax by looking through memes or keep up with friends via their Instagram pages, but one huge part of knowing how to use social media responsibly is about your time management. Social media has almost nothing to do with being productive, so your time spent on it should be very limited.
Check Your Emotions
When everyone you know is on social media, it can be easy to get caught up in online drama. Whether someone posted a horrible picture of someone else or people are simply arguing about politics, you need to stay as uninvolved in the drama as possible and really check your emotions before saying or doing anything. It’s okay to be passionate about causes or stick up for your friends, but you need to do so wisely, responsibly, and respectfully. Don’t react with pure emotion or even with the first thing that comes to mind. Think through your response and be as level-headed as possible so that you are above reproach when it comes to online interactions.
Make Wise Decisions About Followers & Friends
This tidbit is half about being safe and half about making social media work for you. First, don’t follow or be friends with anyone that you don’t know personally or who doesn’t have a lot of information on their profile. This is a red flag and unless this individual has a specific reason for sending you a friend request or asking you to follow them, you should simply avoid strangers online. Additionally, if someone from school or work that is incredibly dramatic or that you don’t get along with asks to be your friend, it’s okay to say no. If you’re concerned about declining their request starting drama, you can always add them as a friend but opt to have their information not show up on your feeds in order to avoid a trigger that may bring about an argument. Second, and on the other hand, it can be beneficial to follow or befriend well-known individuals in your areas of interest. If you want to work in a certain industry, for example, you can follow higher-ups in that industry to stay aware of current trends within that field. Additionally, if you’re a sports fanatic, an astronomy nerd, or obsessed with working out, it can benefit you to display your passions online by being friends with well-known individuals in those areas of interest.
Before posting anything online, go through the THINK acronym and ensure that what you want to post will benefit you and those who see it. T stands for true – Is this post/picture/comment truthful or is it possibly based on a rumor? H is for helpful – Will this help someone or will it potentially bring harm or hurt to someone? I is information – Is this actual information based on fact or is it gossip or unnecessary chatter? N is for needed – Is this something that people need to hear or it is irrelevant? K stands for kind – Is what you want to post kind and nice, or is it harsh or rude?
Be Wary of Oversharing
It can be fun to “check in” to various locations or share the details of your upcoming beach trip, but knowing how to use social media responsibly has a lot to do with not oversharing. You don’t need to post pictures of every single place you visited on your school trip or give specific details about where you work, where you go to school, and what you do on the weekends. While this is a big safety concern, it is also about establishing boundaries and protecting your information. People don’t need to know when you’re not home or where you go after school every Friday. They also don’t need to know every emotion you have or what you have for lunch on Sundays. Some oversharing truly is a safety issue and some is just about understanding that every detail of your life is not the most fascinating tidbit of information to exist.
Be Intentional About What & Where You Post
Social media can absolutely offer advantages to those who know how to use it wisely and responsibly. Choosing the right platform for certain posts and ensuring you are wise about what you post will help you make the most of social media. For example, if you’re a great athlete or an amazing artist or a budding author, you can use social media to “publish” what you’re doing. This not only shows your passion and aptitude, but it also puts your talent out there in a public setting where potential universities or employers could come across it.