I remember the early days of social media and blogging. Lighthearted status updates, in-the-moment photos of children or vacations, a snapshot of someone’s day, and reconnecting with old friends. It was truly exciting to be a part of! Sometimes I miss it when I find myself getting caught up in things like numbers and algorithms, or when I spend hours staging a photo to make sure it looks “just right.”
But I think the thing I miss the most is the civility that seemingly went out the window in the last few years. I don’t know if I can put my finger on exactly when it happened; it seems like it was a slow progression to our current-day social media situation. Now it’s overly political, overly sensitive, and outright mean at times. How did we get here? I don’t know if I have the answer, but I do know that I want to be a part of the solution.
So for our next Ps, Qs and What to Dos post, I wanted to give you my thoughts on what I believe being polite and thoughtful looks like in today’s digital culture. A quick refresher on things to look out for and be mindful of — and a reminder that there’s always another human being on the receiving end of every DM and comment. Let’s get into it!
How to Graciously Use Personal Social Media
I think most of us know these, but a quick refresher can’t hurt! Especially with school, holidays, and events gearing up, it’s good every now and then to do a quick gut check with how we interact with others (and portray ourselves) online.
#1: Check your motives.
A good gut check before posting or commenting is helpful: why am I posting or commenting this? To be uplifting or to bring people down? To share a life moment or to brag? If your motives aren’t good, don’t post it.
#2: Be prudent (and kind) with word choice.
Less is more on social media. And wisdom should guide whatever we do post. If you are trying to sway someone to your position on a political or divisive topic, your success will be impeded if you also spew judgement or disdain for those who have an opposing viewpoint. Gentle words win over way more than harsh ones.
#3: “Love your neighbor” applies to our social media neighbors as well.
Treat people on social media just as you would in person. That include comments, DM’s, and retreats. There is a person behind that profile photo.
#4: Lead by example.
Children are always watching your every move — and will likely emulate the way you behave both in person and online. But our friends and colleagues are also watching. Let’s model good behavior for everyone around us. As my grandmother used to say, you will never regret doing the right thing.
#5: Don’t share photos of other people without their permission.
First things first. Don’t share the children or, for that matter, anything private about another person. This goes for sharing wedding photos before the bride and groom do! Bottom line, when it doubt, ask permission.
We also tell the girls who take our teen etiquette class: if you don’t want your grandmother to see it, don’t post it. Here we’ll say: if you don’t want your children – or their friends – to see it, don’t comment or post it! As your children get older their teen friends might follow you or even see one of your comments under someone else’s feeds.
How to Graciously Interact with Brands & Influencers on Social Media
I have a unique perspective on this, and it’s one that is touched on here and there in our Instagram stories. But I do know that most bloggers share similar sentiments. Here is what I think is the polite way to go about interacting with brands and influencers on social media. I know that when others approach and interact with me in this way, it means so much!
#1: Be polite in DMs.
It’s so easy to type a quick response to an Instagram story but remember there is a person on the other side receiving those messages. So address the brand or influencer with respect, using their name if you know it. Much like you were sending a text message:
“Hi Sara! Can you send me the link for the sunglasses? Thank you!” goes much further than, “Sunglasses link?” or “Forgot to link.”
#2: Treat social media figures just like you would treat someone you meet in person.
It’s often shocking the things people say to others on social media that they would never say to someone’s face (or I hope they wouldn’t!). How about we apply the Golden Rule to the social media as well?
Rude comments and DMs reflect more on the commenter’s self-esteem and moral compass more than anything else. If something you see on social media rubs you the wrong, keep scrolling or even unfollow. Or delete the app. But refrain from harsh words. You will never regret holding your tongue.
#3: Reach out on appropriate channels.
Most accounts have contact information in their profiles or About sections on their websites. Influencers DM’s boxes get overcrowded and an email shows you are really serious about your inquiry because you took the time to go about it in a professional manner.
#4: Be mindful of sharing personal information.
Many influencers and brands have employees who help with social media, so there are likely several people who will see your message. Influencers love when readers connect with them but just like we tell our teens in our e-course, be vigilant with social media and careful about the information you put out in the digital world.
#5: Credit properly.
If you share a graphic or image on your personal feed, tag the original creator. On that note, if you are lucky enough to win a giveaway, it’s courteous to tag the influencer or influencers who ran the giveaway in a story. It’s also nice to send a DM of thanks to each one!
#6: Acknowledge good content.
Although it is never expected, it is kind to acknowledge or share content that has been helpful to you. When we go to a good restaurant, we often share with our friends or write a good review online. Same goes for content creators.
If an influencer’s content has helped you in a meaningful way, show your support by liking their content, commenting or even sharing it with your friends. A simple like or comment on a small business’ page can mean so much. (And it’s a great way to support a business without spending a penny!)
If you’re looking for more guidance, or are at a place where social media feels heavier than it does fun, then be sure to read our previous posts on online etiquette — both DoSayGive’s Guide to Digital Etiquette and 10 Things to Discuss with Your Teen Before Social Media are fabulous places to start!
Let’s join together and be better, kinder, and more thoughtful on social media. I think we could see great change come about from it!