I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with social media, but after taking a 40-day Lent hiatus from Facebook, I came back with a new perspective. During that time, I had time to reflect on how I was using the tool and what I wanted to do differently. From that came the 5 question test.
1. Who will benefit from this post?
If you can’t think of a single person on your friends list that will legitimately gain a benefit from your post, don’t post it.
Benefits could include:
- Making someone laugh.
- Inspiring someone.
- Encouraging thought and positive and meaningful dialogue.
- Giving a far-away family member or friend joy by giving them a glimpse of what is going on in your life.
- Giving someone support.
2. Is this post attention-seeking on my part?
This is a big one and is heavily related to the other question, “Who will benefit from this post?”. If you can’t think of a single person your post will benefit, other than you, it’s probably an attention-seeking post.
Attention-seeking posts can take several forms:
- Seeking-out praise/encouragement. Example: “Here’s my project, isn’t it awesome?”
- Self-pitying. Examples: “Feeling sad today :-(“ or “I can’t believe I’m sick again” or “Why does this always happen to me?”
- Photos. Photos deserve their own attention under this category. Posting a nice photo of you as your profile pic is great, changing it often to seek praise on new photos is not. Similarly, selfies, photos with friends, etc. that serve no purpose other than to seek comments, favorites, or likes are attention-seeking.
3, Will anyone be harmed by this post?
Our posts can cause harm, whether we mean them to or not. For this one, you have to think beyond your immediate friends and think of friends of friends, who might see your post when it is liked, shared, or commented on. You also have to think about self-harm.
Ways your posts could harm include:
- Posting pictures and making someone feel bad that they weren’t included in something.
- Posting negative or hatred posts, such as unfounded criticisms of political figures. This one not only spreads negativity (which harms others) but also harms you by harming your relationships with your friends.
- Posting disturbing images or text.
- Posting information that someone else might not want shared, such as announcing a friend’s pregnancy before they get a chance to or travel plans (more on this below).
4, Did I ask everyone’s permission to tag them?
Some may argue with me on this one, but I think it’s important. Some people don’t like to be tagged. A good rule of thumb is to ask the person, “ May I tag/mention you?” prior to tagging them.
Examples of how this could go awry:
- Law enforcement experts, time and time again, have said not to post to social media if you are away on a trip. When I’m traveling, I will never post anything prior or during the trip that indicates that I’m away from home. I realize others may not feel as strongly about this as I do, but some do, so you should always ask.
- Although they shouldn’t do this, a friend may have turned-down other plans with a white lie or called-in sick to work to spend time with you. It could be disastrous if you tag them in a photo or with details of something you are doing with them.
5, Am I avoiding a conversation that needs to happen?
Often, I see or hear about people posting things to social media that can be categorized as passive-aggressive and an avoidance of a conversation that needs to happen. If you find yourself tempted to do this, stop, and have the conversation instead.
- Having just went through a bad break-up, you have the urge to post updates about how happy you are or post a higher-than-usual amount of photos with people of the opposite sex in order to make your ex jealous.
- “Oh! Those flowers you got are so pretty! I wish someone would give me flowers.”
- “I wish certain people would learn how to not talk crap behind other people’s backs!!!”
What would you personally add to this list? Is there anything you would take out?