Review Your Social Media Etiquette

Despite your best efforts, you may cause someone pain with that Tweet or Facebook post. Here’s a refresher on social media best practices, along with advice for some pandemic-only dilemmas.

By Courtney Rubin

In an ideal world, your followers would think every photo, video or thought you post on social media is like a little gift to them. In reality, it’s hard to predict how posts on Instagram, Facebook and other social media will land, especially during the pandemic. After so much loss and isolation over the past year, people are on edge. That vaccine selfie may feel joyous and hopeful to you, but it could be a digital slap in the face to someone who hasn’t received a vaccine shot or who has suffered a grave loss.

“Someone could be experiencing loss in such a way that there’s no way someone else won’t post something that compounds their grief,” said Catherine Newman, who has written the Modern Manners etiquette column for Real Simple magazine for 10 years. “That’s how grief is.”

Still, it’s hard not to overthink things — and to worry that despite your best efforts, you may cause someone pain. Some social media experts say you should review your sharing practices periodically, so here’s a refresher on social media etiquette, along with advice for some pandemic-only situations.

Ask why are you posting.

First, identify your motivations. Are you sharing that picture of the exquisite cake you baked because you want praise, or do you want people to feel bad that what they made themselves wasn’t as good? If it is to receive affirmation, that’s OK. But if you find yourself trying to get all your needs met by social media likes, it might be time to think about what else is missing in your life.

Second, focus on your friends. If you tried to consider every possible person who might be hurt by a post — your seemingly unobjectionable photo of tulips could very well remind a follower of someone they have lost — you might never post anything on social media. But absolutely think about your inner circle carefully.

Ms. Newman, for one, hasn’t posted about her own post-vaccination visits with family because so many in her immediate friend group have lost a parent in the past year. If you’re in a similar situation and you still want to post your vaccine selfie or the first time you’ve hugged your father in a year, consider acknowledging your own good fortune.

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