Social media can be a great tool. It allows family members who live across the country from one another to exchange Christmas photographs without having to ship a box full of pictures across state lines. It lets a group of friends plan surprise birthday parties for another mutual friend. It helps couples who have been forced to live apart keep track of what is going on in each other’s lives. It allows old college friends to keep in touch after graduation.
Social media can also be a lot of fun. Facebook has numerous games that you can play, and Pinterest is full of wacky humour and beautiful images. Twitter can drown in memes, and Tumblr is practically overflowing with ridiculous conversations that only get funnier as more people respond to them.
Despite its advantages, social media is more than capable of getting people into trouble. Everyone has at least one friend who posted something they should not have and abruptly found themselves in over their head. What are those social media no-no’s? What are the actions that are almost guaranteed to get you in trouble? Here are four things you should never do on social media.
Say You Are Out of Town or Home Alone
Most people recognize that announcing you are home alone is not the smartest idea, much less doing so in a space where you know someone who is more or less a complete stranger is or could be listening. Yet for some reason, people do not hesitate to announce that they are home alone to their 3,256 friends on Facebook. This is likely because social media simultaneously fosters an illusion of distance and one of intimacy. People truly believe that they know and are friends with all of their Facebook “friends” despite having never met more than half of those people in real life. At the same time, the keyboard and screen make it seem like those people are very far away. Those people, however, are strangers who could be anywhere in real life and have any sort of ill intentions.
Announcing to the digital world that you are out of town for a week is practically an invitation that says “rob me.” Once again, you probably do not know all of your Facebook friends. They are acquaintances or near strangers. As such, posting pictures of yourself when you are clearly out of town tells anyone will poor intentions that your house and all your things are sitting there defenseless. Wait to upload the photos until you get home instead of posting pictures of yourself in Honolulu on Instagram when all your other photos are tagged #MinnesotaHome.
Argue With People
The trolls and idiots live in legions on social media. They lurk between posts of cute otters and hide behind inspirational quotes. They are just waiting for you to comment on that picture of the cat dressed like Hillary Clinton or the dog wearing a Donald Trump wig. Then, the trolls pounce. They call you terrible names and force you to defend yourself against their usually baseless accusations. It’s a twisted sort of game to them. How long will it take you to lose your cool and start “shouting” back? How far can they push? How many insults can they fit in 150 characters? Bonus points if your response includes foul language. Then, they can really lay into you.
No one has ever changed their mind because of an argument they saw on social media. Usually, all it does is descend into insults and name-calling and leave both people simultaneously livid and emotionally rung out. Save yourself the trouble and avoid arguments with keyboard warriors. Even if you win, it’s a pyrrhic victory given how much time and energy it will take, and honestly, who wants to spend time with someone who tells them to drive their car off a cliff just because they disagree with the other person about whether Opera would make a good president?
Post Anything You Don’t Want the Whole World to See
Everyone has heard that once something is out on the internet, it is there forever. This makes a lot of people think back to what they were told as teenagers to try and keep them from sending each other racy pictures on MySpace. That does not make it untrue. Although most adults know better than to send nude pictures to a significant other through Facebook, that does not mean that teens are the only ones who get themselves in trouble with impulsive posts. Adults may post pictures of themselves or their friends doing something truly embarrassing that they do not want their parents to see. They might comment on a post with a snide remark about their boss, only for their boss to find said post. They might talk about how they love getting drunk every weekend and be denied a job they are interviewing for because of it. Colleges and employers often check your social media to see what you really do with your time, and if your profile is covered in pictures of you doing body shots, you can bet your interviewer will not be impressed.
Use It Constantly
Social media addiction is a real thing. It is currently unknown how many people suffer from it, but social media is all but built to create addiction. Getting “likes” releases dopamine, the “feel-good chemical” that the brain naturally produces in response to a person doing something pleasant such as eating or having sex. Social media creates an artificial high of dopamine followed by a crash. The same phenomenon occurs with hard drugs such as cocaine. The crash makes a person feel bad, so they go looking for another hit, another like. Slowly, a self-perpetuating cycle is created and an addiction is formed.
Social media addiction may not have a hard number attached to it yet, but it can be self-diagnosed. Do you lose complete track of time on social media? Do you open Facebook or Instagram even though you know you need to be doing something else? Do you lose valuable sleep because you are on social media late at night? Do you get irritated or nervous when something keeps you from checking your social media for too long? If the answer to one or more of those is yes, you might be dealing with a social media addiction. In which case, it’s time to close out Twitter and detox from the virtual drug before it damages your life seriously, and yes, social media addiction can do plenty of damage to your life and health. Placing overwhelming importance on virtual friends can lead to lost relationships with real friends. Social media is also tied to low self-esteem and increased risks for depression.
Social media is a useful tool. It has its advantages, but it is more than capable of getting people into heaps and heaps of trouble. There is a great deal of power in social media, but that means there can also be a great deal of danger. Whether that danger causes you to miss a promotion because your drunken antics are on display for anyone with a computer to see or causes an addiction to form, social media can do serious damage. Make sure your life is not totally wrapped up in social media. Failing to comment on a friend’s picture is not worth risking your health.