Social networking on the Internet is a worldwide phenomenon. The number of us who use social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is staggering.We are attracted to social networking for various reasons. Most commonly we enjoy seeing what our friends and family are doing. We also use these sites to reconnect with old friends, share our opinions and stay up to date with current events. Social networking sites are also used to promote businesses and for professional networking.
As much as we love using social media could there be a downside to this activity? There have been studies that have linked social networking to depression and social isolation. These studies note that people who frequently use these sites may face feelings of insecurity, envy and low self-esteem. How jealous may we feel when we view other’s vacation photos or in comparing what others are doing socially, feel lonely and isolated. Do you feel badly when you realize you were not invited to a social event you see on your Facebook page? What happens when you do not get the expected likes and comments for your post?
In addition to negative emotional responses related to social networking there are other possible problems to be aware of. We need to remember that there is no guarantee of privacy on the internet. Would you post that picture of your bachelor party if you knew a potential employer would see it? There is also the issue of cyber bullying which often happens with adolescents. Finally, we must remember that this is a virtual world and these connections cannot replace our real time relationships. Your time may be better spent nurturing and attending to those “real” relationships.
Here are some tips to help you use social media in ways that are healthy and safe:
• Make sure you have realistic expectations. Determine what you are looking to get out of this activity.
• Look at how much time you are spending on social networking. Do you have a healthy balance between virtual and real world activities? Are you less productive because you are spending too much time on Facebook?
• Look to strengthen your relationships in a variety of ways. If you limit your interactions with others by only connecting through social networking you may miss out on opportunities to develop deeper connections that may be more fulfilling. Consider texting or sending a private message which is a more personal way to communicate. Make sure you try to schedule time to see family and friends in the real world.
• Be careful about what information or photos you share as they may not be as private as you’d like. Make sure you check your privacy settings on these sites to limit who can access your information.
• Only become friends with people you know in real life to insure your safety when using social media.
• Be aware of your employer’s policies regarding social networking. Could you be in trouble for using these sites while at work? Also be careful about posting negative comments about your employer/company on line. You don’t want to risk reprimand or dismissal because you violate acceptable use policies.