Social media plays a big role in our lives today. We use social media to connect with friends, family, and colleagues, we use it to learn the news and we simply use it for entertainment often times. It’s fair to say that social media has amplified an existing need for mankind which is belonging and connecting to one another.
I can’t think of anyone I know today that doesn’t use social media in one way or another. Even those who used to oppose it early on, now have not one but several social media accounts on several platforms.
I have used social media since early 2000s, I got to see early attempts such as Myspace, Bulletin Boards, and messengers such as Yahoo! and MSN. In the beginning these platforms were merely meant for entertainment — creating communities and helping people to find others who share the same interests as theirs.
But these platforms needed to survive, they needed to scale. Their free-to-use model wasn’t sustainable without other sources of funding. So, they turned to advertisers, businesses and organizations that had interest in the terabytes of data generated from these platforms.
Throughout the years of using social media platforms, I learned a lot about the nature of these platforms. From the early days of using IRC all the way to this day and age of Mastodon, TikTok and many others.
This article is about the rules I follow when engaging on social media. Let’s get started.
First and foremost, I realized early on that I needed to define a purpose in my engagements on social media. My overall life purpose is to maximize my contribution to the survival, evolution, and fulfillment of mankind. Social media is just a tool that helps me achieve these very goals in one way or another.
When we define goals without rules to follow to enable us to achieve these goals, we become vulnerable to compromising our goals and the principles and values we try to share with the world. Ergo, I had to write some principles and rules to help me safely navigate the wide ocean of social media while maintaining focus on my goals and aspirations for spreading a positive message out there.
Rule 0: Useful Contents
This is the most important rule on social media. Before posting anything or engaging in a discussion of any type — is what you’re saying useful?
How do we define what’s useful?
From my perspective, a useful social media engagement is a any engagement that directly contributes to someone’s survival, evolution, or fulfillment. For instance, posting a job opening or an opportunity is a clear survival post. It should help someone find a job, pay rent, and maybe build a house and have family.
As a software engineer, I like to post about new patterns, ideas and systems that helps evolve the reader of these posts into making them smarter, faster, and hopefully help them create better opportunities for themselves and others who work with them. That’s an example for a post that aims towards evolution. It mainly focuses on making someone smarter, faster, more efficient, and so on.
But there are also types of posts that aims towards fulfillment. Like posts that brings people happiness such as random acts of kindness (hopefully by strangers not you) — or laughter such as internet memes. I personally find that posting memes can change the state of someone out there from being sad or having a bad day into making things less intense and a bit more tolerable.
The aforementioned are just simple examples for what is considered useful. Now let me show you some examples of what’s not really useful to anyone on social media. In general, bragging doesn’t really help anyone. Bragging about your new job, your new house, or some possessions you may have doesn’t really inspire anyone. These posts generate negative feelings such as envy, jealously and sometimes disappointments. Bragging posts are more damaging than this. It severely damages the mental health of individuals who may not be capable of navigating social media or dealing with contentment.
Another example are posts that spread misinformation. I call them the devolution posts. Spreading lies, misinforming individuals is one of the most dangerous threats that faces humanity today. That’s simply because these posts warrant actions based on false information that could cause conflicts, crimes, or harm in any way, shape, or form.
The worst of them all are posts that threaten our survival, such as posts that encourage people to use drugs, smoking, or something as simple as encouraging others to take selfies from a high and dangerous place which has resulted in so many instances to fatalities amongst younger individuals especially.
In summary, a useful content is a content that warrants a positive action; may it be getting someone to find a job, learn and implement something new or just get a positive feeling of happiness, laughter or excitement.
Rule 1: Choose Your Audience
It doesn’t make sense to walk into a football game and start talking to people about chemistry. It also doesn’t make sense to walk into a physics lecture and start talking to people about poetry!
Every community has a purpose. It’s quite important to understand the purpose of the platforms, groups, or communities you are a part of so you can see if your goals align with the community purposes or not.
If your purpose is to share a certain practice, idea or generate compassion for some topic, it’s important that you find the right audience for what you’re trying to share. From my personal experience, even those who may be excited about a certain topic, they found themselves in disagreement when they see certain posts put in the wrong community or targeting unsuspecting audience.
It’s not just about the platform, community, or the place in general. The timing is also important. Some social media posts from popular influencers get marked as tone-deaf simply because of the timing of the post. You must choose the right timing for certain posts by being aware of the current events and the overall group state in terms of discussed topics.
It’s important to choose the audience that aligns with your goals and aspirations. Social media is full of all different types of communities. Going back to Rule 0 about useful contents, you have to be able to define the community that best fits these aspirations and engage with these communities accordingly.
It’s not always important that you join a group, using simple mechanisms like hashtags can gravitate the right audience to you. You have to make sure you choose the right hashtags that matches the content you post so those who share your interests can find you and follow you.
On social media, there are those who want to survive, those who want to evolve and those who are seeking fulfillment in every form. If you can see users on social media through these lenses it will help you better understand the type of contents you ought to post and who the audience, you’re posting that content for.
Rule 2: Don’t Fall for It
One of the biggest problems that you may face on social media is getting emotionally invested or agitated by an existing post or a comment on one of yours. Don’t fall for it. Learn to detach yourself from rage, anger, and toxicity on social media.
For the most part, you are either learning or teaching. Taking or giving. Take with grace and give with grace. Your anger isn’t going to help anyone, neither will triggering others to fall into the same trap.
It’s also important to know the difference between someone who’s disagreeing with you, versus someone who’s trying to attack you, agitate you or spread toxicity in general. Sometimes it can be quite hard to know the difference. I usually assume the best intents until the conversation goes into an irrational direction.
For instance, you may post about some new technology that is newly invented. Someone who would say something like: “This new thing is stupid” isn’t a rational person who wants to have a useful discussion. Don’t get engaged, block, mute or avoid at all costs — it’s not worth your mental or emotional energy.
On the same example, if someone comments something like: “Is this new thing better than the other thing?” that’s a rational question. That’s someone that you may choose to engage and discuss the topic with.
More importantly, beware of those who comment on every post, dim down the lights on every inspiration or find a war in every peace. These are the ones that you can’t just ignore their comments, but you may fully block their accounts and move on without engaging in their toxicity.
Know that argument on the internet never changed anyone’s mind. A vocally irrational person on the internet isn’t someone you want to spend time trying to convince with anything. This way we minimize toxicity on the internet by minimizing arguments and irrational engagements.
These three rules are what I have been following for as long as I could remember on social media. If I were to summarize it for you, I would say that if you don’t have anything useful to share or say, then don’t share anything at all. You are not obligated by any means to participate on social media if you don’t have to. But you should also know that you can use these platforms to spread the light of happiness, success, and prosperity.
Things that you post on the web never goes away, even if you delete them — they either get archived or soft deleted or they get saved on websites like archieve.org. So, make sure that what you post is something that you’re proud of. Something you wouldn’t mind showing the entire world. Share something genuine, interesting and from your own personal experiences. Consider that your family or loved ones now or in the future will get see what you share and think about how you’d want them to feel when watching or reading your content.
Social media can be such a powerful tool in sharing ideas — use it to help someone feed their family, use it to help someone be smarter, and use it to help someone feel happier. Make it more about those who will consume your content than about you personally. Afterall, they say sharing is caring. Is what you’re sharing shows caring?
Light up the darkness — spread the word.