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Monday, February 9, 2015

Social Media-Manners, Etiquette and What Not To Do

I'd like to speak to an issue that I see talked about all too often and I feel-in the wrong ways. What I'd like to talk with you about today is the issue of when, if and who it is appropriate to unfriend on Facebook and other social media sites. Social media is now a huge part of our culture and day to day lives. Knowing how to act and interact on it can save you a lot of trouble as well as bringing some pretty cool people and new knowledge into your life, so stay tuned if you will for my addition to the topic of social media.
  Let me first start by saying this in no uncertain terms. Social media is now-I would argue-nearly as important as our day-to-day "real life" personal interactions. You might be friends with people from high school and college who you don't particularly care about and I get that. They're not part of your daily life, so why should you-care, that is? It's simple. You now have an opportunity to expand your world. While you might not want to know what they ate for breakfast every morning, what their bowel movements consist of or what their vital statistics are, why would it ever be a bad thing for you to learn a new recipe or hear about a great new restaurant that serves that special something that you like? In that same vein, why is it so off putting to so many of us to hear what other people's lives and experiences are like? The answer to this question is simple: because as human beings, we have the insatiable urge to relentlessly compare ourselves to other people. It's a matter of keeping up with the Joneses times a thousand. So, let me posit this question: is it really that we don't care what so and so had for breakfast or what so and so did as a workout? Or is that we are made to feel inferior by comparison? I believe that this is the explanation for said discomfort with what others are doing and saying daily. Is it that we are innocent in comparison? Do we refrain at all times from posting anything that might bore, upset or otherwise put off another human being? I think not. We are all guilty of posting about what our day was like, what are opinions are on certain matters and, yes, we have all been guilty of posting about what we had for breakfast...or lunch...or dinner at some point in our social media experience.
 Let me put it to you this way and you can let me know what you think. I'm going to share with you, dear readers, what a wise friend once told me, and something that I have seen posted in social media memes in various forms. When you look at someone's social media history and compare you life to theirs thusly, you are quite literally comparing your blooper reel to someone else's highlights. That is inherently unfair, and I'll tell you something else. It's not your friend so and so who's being unfair by posting about their life experiences, interests and opinions. It is actually you who are doing yourself a great disservice in that regard.
 Although I can completely understand the urge to eliminate the poster (your social media friend) themselves from your sphere (goddamn it Sophie! Eggs for breakfast again? I can't take it any longer! You're outta my life for good doll, sionara!), let me let you in on a little secret, and I'll be honest with you, this one's a doozy. It's straight up impolite at best, rude usually and hurtful-even relationship endiningly hurtful at worst to unfriend someone from Facebook and other such social media sites because of your own insecurities. Now, if you truly disagree with what they think or say, then that's a different matter altogether, but it's a matter that can be easily handled. If I've ever experienced this type of behavior personally, I'm unaware of it and I certainly wouldn't do this to someone myself.
 If it's that tough for you to see-to even consider other people's opinions because they differ from yours, then not only are you in desperate need of friends and acquaintances who's opinions and experiences differ from yours, but you seriously need to check yourself because it's likely YOU that has the problem and NOT the person posting about their own opinions and experiences. Unless someone is using abusive language that is directed toward you or another person (and even so, why not simply assume that the person doesn't know any better, give them the benefit of the doubt and attempt to help them understand why what they're saying is not okay?), then there's no reason to unfriend. I personally have one of the most diverse groups of friends you could probably ever imagine and though we disagree on some things, we still manage to remain friends. I appreciate having friends that challenge me and encourage me to be my best self, but as life goes on, it becomes more and more apparent to me that many of us don't.
 Complaints about being callously unfriended for some unspecified reason have been brought to me by friends and clients for quite awhile now. I hear stories of people who have been "unfriended" by their social media followers and friends with no explanation quite often. Certainly there are people who we all wouldn't give a second thought to if they unfriended us, but I would argue that Facebook and social media have become so ingrained in our culture that it's actually become quite impolite to do this to people and could end up harming the unfriender more than the unfriendee. For the life of me, I can't seem to understand why someone might be offended that another person *gasp* believes differently than they do and wants to share that part of themselves openly and honestly. If you don't like it, DON'T CLICK LIKE-or better yet, tell that person respectfully that you disagree and see if you can't find some common ground and maybe even some newfound respect for one another. Communicate. Isn't that what social media is for? This is human interaction 101 here kiddos, not neurosurgery. The upshot? I would urge you to think (and act) before unfriending--especially a friend or colleague, but really anyone at all. It's called having manners--being polite. It's a whole thing. I see nothing wrong with voicing ones truth and having a polite discourse with a person who believes differently than you might. It may seem comforting to surround ourselves with those who think, speak, act and believe similarly to ourselves, but isn't the whole idea of social media-and in fact life itself, human interaction specifically, to expand our world and expand our world views,  and not to shrink them? Who wants to be in an echo chamber?
Me? I'd much rather get out there, get dirty and live life.

**More to come on the subject of appropriate manners when texting and using social media soon. For now, I'd like to collect your thoughts on this issue. What are your social media and/or texting pet peeves? What are your suggestions? What experiences have you had that we might all be able to learn from? Email me or contact me here for said info. I'm happy to give credit where credit is due.**