This is not a post about how terrible social media are or how fake the online world is. I have been researching online media for almost four years now and I have very few negative things to say about it. I love online media and love the opportunities these media bring. However, I do feel there’s a right and a wrong way to use social media and that’s what this post is about.
I feel kind of lucky that Facebook, Instagram and other social media weren’t around when I was in high school, because I would have been in trouble. Like you could read in my embarrassing moments post last week, high school wasn’t my favorite time and I’m sure I would have broadcasted many of my unfortunate decisions online. I also feel that social media have added an extra dimension to parenting; many young people don’t realize that what they put online will be there forever. FOREVER PEOPLE! No throwing it away, burning it, or locking it away in a safe. What’s online is there forever, for the whole world to see.
I love social media!
OK, so now that that’s out of the way, I really believe social media present soooo many great opportunities for all of us. That’s if you use it the right way. The thing is, social media and its users are constantly changing and if you’re online a lot you’ll also realize you see a LOT of duplicate content floating around. People like to repost stuff, retweet or share funny images or just simply take credit for them. The online world is highly competitive and we all want to stand out in some way. The good news is: you can! But NOT by doing what everybody else is doing.
Think about it: when you scroll through your Instagram feed or Facebook wall or watch some Instagram stories (I don’t use Snapchat) what stands out for you? Which photos catch your eye? This is sooo similar to what I wrote in last week’s post about being your best self (I told you, it applies to everything in life!). For me, it’s originality and authenticity. Also, the photos need to be of good quality. In my opinion, in a medium like Instagram you just can’t get away with blurry or dark photos anymore. There’s SO much competition, you might as well check the photo quality box. But originality is key. My best-liked photos are by far my vegan recipes, the recipes I come up with myself. They come from my mind and the photos are my own vision.
Of course, these ‘rules’ are only relevant if you’re trying to make a name for yourself online. If you’re just online to share your own photos, or out of boredom, or to browse other people’s content then by all means, post whatever you want. I’ve just noticed that there’s so many people doing exactly what everybody else is doing. If there’s a vegan food blogger who’s gaining a lot of online popularity, you can be sure there will be many “wannabes” following closely behind, doing almost the exact same thing. And some of them may even be successful, but I wonder how happy they are….
Four rules to live by
With so much of our lives taking place online it’s important to make a distinction between our online and offline lives and follow a few important rules for our social presence online. Number one: don’t share everything. As I said, it’s going to be online FOREVER. Number two: be authentic. Don’t post the same stuff as everyone else. Number three: be yourself. We all have unique and special qualities about us, so use those! Share your drawings, your workouts, your recipes, your music, your make-up skills, as long as it’s what you really love and are good at. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not because you think it will gain you a following. It won’t if it’s not real. And that brings me to number four: BE REAL. PLEASE! I know this goes hand in hand with number two and three but it’s so important. We (or is it just me?) are tired of seeing beautiful photos of skinny girls on a beach holding a cocktail with a yacht in the distance, pretending their life is glossy and perfect. Life is not perfect and it’s fine to show some of that imperfection online. People relate to that and they will respect you for it.
Following these rules are almost guaranteed to make your online experience much more enjoyable. I’ve met so many great people through my blog and social media accounts by being as real as I can be. I don’t pretend to be anything I’m not. Of course I edit my photos, use filters to make myself look good and take 70 food pictures before finding the right one. That’s no secret. But I don’t edit my life or make it seem better than it is – just a little lighter. Like I said: I love social media but I won’t post a photo of me smiling when I feel like crying. I use social media as an extension of my offline life, not a platform to be someone I’m not. That’s the only way it works for me.