I’m a product of the 80s raised in 90s so, sometimes, I still yearn for the days of ozone-depleting and self-esteem enhancing hairstyles. I miss the days when it was okay to mix plaid with flower patterns and wear combat boots. I miss those days mostly because of how authentically we used to communicate back then.
For those who find it difficult to convey a message in less than 140 characters on Twitter, I challenge you to try confessing your love and adoration through encoded numeric messages on a beeper. Back then, we didn’t depend so highly on color themes and likes; our social following depended on our ability to write good letters and then fold them into complicated origami hearts and triangles. We didn’t need Wi-Fi to communicate, but we did need to encrypt our messages and rely on a trusty middle-man to deliver our letters. Our biggest fear wasn’t that our Instagram account would be hacked, but that our slam book might end up in the wrong hands. And we could go weeks without knowing what outfits our friends wore. Our most sophisticated photographic devices consisted of disposable drug store cameras where ugly pictures could never be deleted. I cringe just at the thought, but not as much as I cringe daily when I witness the way we interact online today.
In an effort to preserve a little of those simpler times, I want to share some of my tips for showing love on social media. If you read on, you might find that the basic etiquette of informal communication has not changed that much.
- Be reciprocal. Do you remember the agony of being given someone’s phone number in the 90s only to find that the person was screening your call on their caller id? It was awful! You’d hang up the receiver confused; why would they give you their phone number if they never intended on engaging in a conversation with you? I cannot tell you how many times I have been followed by someone online, then unfollowed, then followed again, etc. Even in this decade, the confusion is still there. Why reach out to someone if you have no intentions of engaging with them online? No, see the good in others. It’s a simple formula, follow back, comment back, like back.
- Be more social, less business. Even if your social media presence is your business, be more social. The point of social media is to connect with an audience you might not normally be able to reach. Put more simply, the point of social media is to connect. So even if you are online with the purpose of selling your amazing product or providing a necessary service, take the time to actually interact with the people who have believed in your brand enough to follow and engage with you online. We are still human enough to tell when a bot is commenting for you or sending your direct messages. And quite frankly, as much as our technology may advance, no one wants to befriend an inanimate robot.
- Be kind and well-mannered. Sometimes, because we are in the confines of our home when we post online, we forget that we are not alone on the internet. The internet is a vast world that is intricately connected. We may erroneously think we can write sarcastic hurtful comments and that the tone will transfer as light. In reality, by doing that you will come across as rude, temperamental, and unkind. When online, conduct yourself in the same way you would in person, with your boss or your mom standing right next to you.
- Be ethical. It has never been acceptable, or even legal, to steal someone’s intellectual property. Being allowed into someone’s online space is like being allowed into their home. As a guest, you wouldn’t pocket someone’s belongings to then display proudly in your home as if they were yours. Likewise, don’t take captions, photos, or ideas without crediting the proper source. This infringement will reflect very badly on your common sense and overall morality.
- Be collaborative not competitive. As a writer, I have learned that we all have a unique voice; a story to tell that is all our own. Social media gives us free access to publish all our stories and, just like no two people can lead the same life, no two accounts can publish the same story. That is why you shouldn’t see the rest of the people in your niche as competition. On the contrary, they can be your inspiration and muse to help you find your voice and tell your story. So if you admire your co-worker’s Facebook album from her trip to Japan, don’t give rise to jealous thoughts. Instead, express your admiration and ask for their travel recommendations. If you see a new mom whose baby photos are to die for, send a message asking for the photographer’s number. And if your friend posts about a great event, find out how you can tag along. In my experience, they will all gladly share because, as we have been discussing, the point of social media is to connect with others.
I think back to the things I did in the 90s that I wouldn’t dare do now. I would never again put Sun In in my hair. I will not ever bring a razor near my eyebrows. I will not write another five page letter and I will probably never memorize a phone number again (unless the person was very special). But I think back to all the things we did do right, the bonds we created, and the friendships we made through the original social platforms (school, recess, the bowling alley). I think back to valuable lessons I learned through trial and error about making friends by being genuine, authentic, and kind. And, I realize, that no matter how much technology advances, some things will simply never go out of style.
What are your social media pet peeves?