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Author: Lawrence Strauss from Strauss and Strauss on behalf of Bryley Systems
A sense of belonging, a sense of community and for businesspeople, a touchpoint for customer service and the ability to market to specific demographics are among social media’s benefits. And like every technology, social media – by which I mean websites that offer sharing tools that allow people to interact (e.g. Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, Facebook, YouTube) – have their drawbacks.
Among social media’s pitfalls are
Defamation, in which a person or business is falsely accused
Bullying, in which a person or business is made to feel intimidated and is sometimes threatened and ganged-up on
Fear of missing out (FOMO), in which a person is compelled to check software to help formulate his or her self-worth
The following may be symptoms of any of the above1
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
At the end of 2017 Sean Parker, the recently exited president of Facebook, expressed his objections to the software, “the thought process was all about, ‘how do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’ We … give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while. [we created ] a social validation loop … exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”2 For these same reasons a former Facebook VP banned his children from using any social media.3
So What’ll it Be … Rush In or Fear to Tread?
If we decide (or as zephoria.com reports, 2.32 billion of us have already decided) that using social media is a bargain worth making, how do we best proceed?
Since this software is built to be a psychologically exploitative “social validation loop”, it’s a good idea to have outside-your-human-brain help in your approach to social media. Using a time-tracker is a good idea. The Daily Mail’s reporter, Tanveer Mann, used Google’s Digital Wellbeing app on her phone to monitor her use of social media apps and other time-wasters. Just the awareness of where her time was going helped her trim her usage by about 20%.4 Last year Facebook added a Settings panel called, “Your Time on Facebook” showing the amount of time, and giving you the ability to set time and notification limits. Other sites have similar tools. For a more comprehensive approach than these, there are clever desktop and phone apps like, Time Doctor, RescueTime and Time Camp.
You Are What You Share
The content of our social media conversations can make us needlessly vulnerable. And cause us regret. Maybe, because we’re in a real-time conversation, but cannot see or hear the other person, we’ve rashly posted something that hurts him or her, and cannot be taken back. All we can do is thoroughly apologize and try and make amends.5 Still the damage is done, and it’s almost always worse to try and remove a regrettable post; deletion (when it’s possible) gives the offended person and the rest of the community, the sense that your real interest is self-protection, not the interests of others in the community.
84% of businesses recruit and disqualify candidates based on the contents of social media accounts.6 A next professional opportunity may be reason enough to help you keep your nose clean in your postings on social media sites. And what are realistic guidelines for what to share? Good rules to remember are:
Categorize it as we will — social media means posting on an external business’s web page. That business owns and controls the page and its content
Only share what you’d want everyone to see, because in extreme circumstances that can happen
If you’re posting on behalf of a business, establish a policy to have someone else’s eyes see and agree with the post before it’s published
If you’ve been the object of damaging posts, what tactics should you use to extricate yourself or your company?
Be willing to listen and honestly assess if a complaint is legitimate – this may take some time to deal with the defensive emotions and then ruminations that can happen when attacked
If the complaint has merit, acknowledge it, apologize and offer to make any appropriate restitution
Offer to continue to work out issues one-on-one, like with Facebook Messenger
If the complaint is without merit, calmly explain your position – again this may take time to be able to communicate from a dispassionate point-of-view – in your own defense and for the public record7
If trolling or bullying behavior continues, social media sites have anonymous reporting procedures (Facebook > Help Center > Messaging > Report a Message, for example has instructions about dealing with offending material, with steps culminating in contacting the police)
The Good, the Bad and the Best
Social media can be a source of connectivity and joy. And it’s apparently designed to keep us trapped in a dopamine-driven loop. As we take the good with the bad, here are some practical suggestions: use tools to set time limits, always be respectful of others, mindful that behind the pixels are real people, give yourself time so you don’t hastily post something regrettable, and work out a policy to have a second person read your organization’s post before it’s published.