Each time a new technology alters our society there is a necessary adjustment period. This was true centuries ago with the introduction of a written alphabet, and it was true only a few decades ago with the introduction of computers and the internet. These things are completely standard today, but that came with growing pains for many. Wonderful and terrible things have been done with all of these technologies. In a similar vein, social media has become an integrated part of our contemporary social landscape, and as a society we are continually grappling with how it is affecting us individually and collectively.
There was a time when I always kept an open Facebook tab on my internet browser. I was never a super active user in the sense that I didn’t serially post, but I liked to check in and share things that interested me. Checking Facebook was something I did when I didn’t want to think about what to do—a way to relax. One day after realizing I had been scrolling through my newsfeed for two hours, it occurred to me that I was looking for something and I hadn’t found it. I don’t know what specifically I was in search of, only that I had some emotional desire that wasn’t being met. It was a striking realization for me, and it has had a substantial impact on my approach to social media since then. I aim to be intentional. I go to my social media platforms with a purpose and leave them when I have completed that purpose. It takes work to develop this attitude. I still find that I’ll slip into media dazes if I leave my page open, but the effort has led to some really enriching experiences.
Here are an amateur’s suggestions on how to be an intentional social media user:
- When you post, think about your audience. Who do intend to see this post? You may even consider if your chosen social media platform is the most appropriate place to communicate to that audience.
- Think about your message. What is the tone? What is its purpose—what are you trying to achieve by posting it?
- Think about how people will be affected and how they will respond. I have really benefited from people bringing up difficult topics through social media posts that have then been constructively discussed in the comments.
The repercussions of intentionality in our use of social media are exponential. Being purposeful will aid our emotional security, it will set an example for our families (and likely create more time for them), and it will foster more positive online communications with friends and community members. As with other technologies that have been introduced and become societal standards, we can be empowered to enrich our own lives and the lives of those around us through thoughtful use of these new platforms.
Written by Elisabeth S. Weagel