Several years ago, when I was supposed to be at Beer Club at The Second Chance Saloon, I was actually in the emergency room at Howard County General. Several friends, whom I had encouraged to attend Beer Club, were puzzled at my absence. When my daughter arrived at the Second Chance she explained what was going on: chest pains, just precautionary, no indication of anything major. (And it wasn't.)
"But how can that be? I didn't see anything on Facebook!" someone said.
Alice joked, "I know, right? She's famous on the internet."
It has become a family joke. You know, "You have to take my word on this because I'm famous on the internet..."
It is true that I probably spend too much time on social media. You wouldn't know it, but I do have other hobbies. But something about how social media functions has appealed to me as a shy person who hangs back from picking up the telephone. It very well may have laid the groundwork for me to spend more time with people in real life.
We all know there's plenty of junk on the internet. And as appealing as social media can be, it's also filled with minefields: trolls, toxic attitudes, outright falsehoods dressed in appealing visual form. Possibilities for connecting are also possibilities for misunderstanding and argument. And I have had those experiences and made those mistakes.
But social media didn't create that kind of behavior. I have also had those experiences and made those mistakes in my high school cafeteria, church youth group, the faculty lounge, and on my Village Board. Humans: we're a flawed, fallible lot. So, with that in mind...
Here are my three simple rules for social media:
- Listen up
- Link up
- Lift up
Listen up--Truly listen in your exchanges with others. Your responses should show you were paying attention. Human beings crave the validation of being heard. Social media doesn't change that. Perhaps it only amplifies it.
Link up--Make connections. This is easily one of the biggest benefits of social media. You have the power to make the match between the friend who is parting with a sofa and the group that is seeking furniture to help clients get back on their feet. It could be a recommendation for a great electrician, the possibility of employment, or meals for a new mother. Social media expands your reach to do good. Use it.
Lift up--My favorite people online are the ones who take the time to lift up others. It's rarer than I'd like. Many people are online to say their thing, or to sell their thing. It is truly beautiful to see the outstretched hand of friendship, a pat or the back, and offer of help, a word of comfort. This is not a one-size-fits-all cheeriness. It is a way of being that affirms the value of others.
Have you learned something good from your experiences on social media? What advice would you give?