Social Media is something everyone has an opinion about.
Whether you love it, hate it, addicted to it, avoid-it-like-the-plague or feel ambivalent to it. You can’t deny Social Media and it’s prevalence, power and influence on society today. Once only used by Harvard students, it is now used by millennials, teens, mums, dads, grandparents, small businesses, brands, corporates, governments, news, celebrities and internet memes.
It’s hard to know whether you use it to stay in touch with your friends, or be blasted by an endless stream of cat videos, inspirational quotes, unverified news stories, guilt-ridden charity pleas or thinly-veiled marketing messages.
I believe at the heart of Social Media, is the innate urge for humans wanting to connect with one another. It’s the driving force behind our desire to share, to like and to comment. We all want to find other people that we can relate to, to discuss our thoughts and to share our lives with.
With that in mind, I think Social Media can be a very powerful way of making new friends, as well as fostering your existing relationships with all the various different people in your life. Whether it be school friends, work colleagues, acquaintances or people you’d like to know better.
Here are some tips to improving your friendships via Social Media:
- Create a shortlist of the friends that matter to you most
With platforms like Facebook and Twitter, it’s possible to create a list of a select group of people. Try using this function, and create a shortlist of the friends that you would love to have at your birthday party, wedding or heaven forbid, funeral. These are the friends you should pay particular attention to, and having a list will allow you to make sure you keep abreast of their updates with ease.
- Minimise Social Media contact with people that annoy you
I can’t tell you how often I hear about people complaining about the all the various annoying stuff others post on Social Media. I’m just as guilty of moaning about the endless stream of baby photos on my newsfeed. It’s important to remember what you find interesting can be completely boring to someone else. So make the effort, and consider ‘hiding’ content that you simply do not like. You don’t have to go as far as deleting the friend, but there are ways to minimise content you don’t like.
- Make the effort to pay attention to those who support you
Sometimes being on Social Media is like being on a popularity contest. Who gets the most likes for their selfie? Who’s got the most followers? Who got a retweet from a reality show celebrity? It’s easy to forget that often, there’s a consistent group of friends that will often pay attention to your posts. Make sure you do your best to return that attention. Chances are, these are probably the people that also care about you the most in real-life.
- Be genuine and as honest you can, without being hurtful or spiteful
One of the trickier times on Social Media, is when there’s a disagreement on a certain issue. Whether it’s political, religious, environmental, sexual or racial. These situations can get very tense, as people often get into direct arguments with one another. In these situations, it’s important to maintain your integrity, stay honest and true to your beliefs, but communicate in a calm and collected manner. After all, having a discussion on Social Media is like having a open debate in public. You don’t want to come across as too aggressive or nasty, as it may denigrate your reputation.
- Communicate privately where appropriate
Another area where the lines have been blurred is whether to communicate in private or not. Over the last few years, there’s been an increase of communicating with our friends publicly on Social Media. Before you post, take a moment to evaluate whether that message will better served in a private manner. And if it is, do it that way. There’s often unintentional outcomes to messages sent publicly. (ie. a good friend gets jealous when they see you inviting a mutual friend to a social event, but not them). So communicating privately can be beneficial. Only post on Social Media what you’d be happy for any stranger on the street to know about you.
- Flipping your Social Media behaviour
If you usually use Social Media to simply post stuff and getting as many likes as you can, try to reversal. Try spending more time looking at your friends post, and see if there’s anything that grabs your attention. Are they asking for help in an area you’re an expert on? Have they shared something that you’re also passionate about? Or do they simply have good news you want to congratulate them on? Taking the time to pay attention what matters to other people is one of the most effective ways to foster your friendship with that person.
- Don’t be a hater, join the party!
Another scenario I’ve often heard, is people who prefer to use Social Media from the sidelines. They deliberately try to interact as little as possible, but still spend a large amount of time viewing and dissecting their friend’s updates. For them, Social Media allows them judge other people. But by not posting, they also minimise the risk of their posts being ridiculed. If you’re one of these people, why not join the party? Social Media is like the school playground, you’re not going to make good friends by just sitting on the sides and watching the other kids play.
So here are 7 simple tips you can hopefully use to foster your friendships on Social Media. I’m still learning myself and would love to hear more of your thoughts on this matter. Good stories and bad stories are all great learning opportunities to better our Social Media etiquette.