With over 70% of adults in the United States using social media on a regular basis, schools should be teaching kids how to use Facebook. Instagram, and YouTube responsibly. But social media is an unregulated quagmire, a virtual Wild West in desperate need of taming.
While there are any numbers of dangers associated with social media use, my focus in this article concerns the mental health of those using it.
Why Does Anyone Need To Learn How To Use Facebook?
It’s hard enough to stay mentally healthy in America. Whether it’s corrupt politicians, school shootings, mass incarceration or endless war, maintaining one’s sanity is a challenge.
But with social media, sanity is under siege in ways that were unheard of 20 years ago. Facebook and Instagram, for example, have made it way too easy to become enmeshed in the lives of so-called “friends” that we may not even know in real life.
Often, it’s harmless fun. But sometimes these online relationships turn toxic.
I’ve written about Facebook Depression before. It’s a real thing. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s also something that happens because many people, especially children, simply do not know how to use Facebook and other forms of social media in a responsible manner.
There’s nothing wrong with online friends, provided we set and maintain firm boundaries. The key to any relationship, online or otherwise, is adherence to those boundaries. If we ignore them, we risk jeopardizing our mood, our emotions, and our self-esteem.
We also risk the relationships themselves, though it’s a secondary concern here.
My main concern is your self-esteem. We’ll talk about how to use Facebook in a moment, but first, we need to have a chat about self-esteem.
That word gets tossed around like confetti, so let’s define it for those who aren’t clear on its meaning.
“Self-esteem” is your sense of self-worth. It’s how you value yourself. It’s also a function of how we see ourselves in relation to other people. So, by definition it requires comparison.
People with healthy self-esteem see themselves as equal to their peers. Those with low self-esteem, by contrast, tend to go to one of two extremes. Either they see themselves as “less than” other people, or they believe that they are better.
Judgmental, arrogant, or intolerant types don’t have high self-esteem, as is often thought. It’s off the exact opposite.
Regardless, people with low self-esteem tend to suffer on social media. They can’t help but compare themselves to others, and comparisons often lead to anger, depression, and despair.
Social media is a fixture of modern life. It’s not going anywhere. Worldwide, there are more than 3.5 BILLION users. Some of this may seem like common sense to you, but there are tens of millions of people who need to learn how to use Facebook, etc. properly. Using social media in a healthy manner is a skill, one that isn’t taught. To anyone. Ever.
To that end, here are 5 Tips on how to use Facebook without going insane:
1. Remember: most people only post what they want you to see.
We hardly ever see pictures of people using the toilet or rolling out of bed in the morning, or walking their dog in the rain. Most people post things that they themselves find interesting, or funny, or worthwhile.
If you are on a friend’s feed and everything they post is pitch-perfect, remember: this is by design. They’re only showing you what they want you to see. God only knows what didn’t make the cut.
Sure, there are classless turds who post every gross or mundane thing they do, but I doubt that makes you jealous. It’s the polished ones you need to be wary of. For every photo they post, there’s 20 that got deleted. For every gorgeous selfie, there’s 20 that make them look like the rough draft of a Star Wars character.
2. Some people are in it for the drama.
Misery loves company. We see this all the time on social media. A person posts a hateful rant about politics. A couple argues about private matters in full view of their friends. A passive-aggressive meme. A post that shit-talks a close friend. In other words, people who need to learn how to use Facebook or deactivate their accounts and take up a less dramatic hobby.
You know it when you see it.
When people do this, they aren’t asking for your feedback. They are asking for your sanity. Some people can only feel better about themselves by tearing others down. When this happens, don’t hesitate to unfollow, unfriend, or block them.
You don’t need that nonsense in your life.
Life is a collection of risks and rewards, and interacting with toxic people is all risk and no reward. Protect your mental health. Save drama for Netflix. Avid it on social media.
3. Purge all friends who aren’t a part of your real life.
We all have at least one friend who has at least 2900 Facebook friends. They collect them like baseball cards. Do you really think they know all those people? How would that even be possible? If you’re that person, it’s time to purge.
With that number of friends, there is a very real privacy concern, too. You have no idea what’s going on with most of those 2900 people, but any one of them could be straight-up stalking you.
Accounts get hacked all the time. You could be posting sensitive information to an identity thief, or posting pictures of your kids to a sex offender. You should know that sites like Facebook are like a damned dinner menu for pedophiles. In fact, I you should avoid posting pictures of young children.
You’d vomit if you knew what these people do with them. Yes, it really is that big of a problem.
So, who do you keep and who gets purged? Here are some suggestions:
Unfriend everyone who/m:
- you have not interacted with in more than 2 years.
- you can’t remember how you know them.
- are combative, contentious, or otherwise dramatic. I mean, who needs that?
- are exes. Ex-spouses, ex-friends, ex-lovers, ex-bosses. Why would you do that to yourself? These people are exes for a reason.
- are “friends” who are always trying to sell stuff to you.
No doubt you can come up with more suggestions on your own. But those tips are a good place to start. If you find yourself hesitating to do this, you need to ask yourself why. Why do you feel the need to keep these people in your life?
4. Don’t use social media to stalk former lovers
If you want to invite depression into your life, use social media to keep tabs on former spouses and lovers. Social media makes it way too easy to drag out the grieving process of a breakup.
Facebook makes it too damn easy to spy on your ex. This does nothing but raise your blood pressure and lower your self-esteem. Block them so they can’t see you and you can’t see them. Your sanity and your self-esteem will thank you.
Seriously, stop reading this and go do that right now. It’s unhealthy and gross. You are way better than that.
5. Avoid posting anything you wouldn’t want your mother to see.
Sometimes we get upset about something and our solution is to use social media as a bully pulpit. We do this to get sympathy. There’s nothing wrong with getting a few things off our chest, but is a public post the right way to do that?
The answer, of course, depends on the content. The internet has a long memory, one that is easily accessible to future lovers, employers, and friends.
As we all know, things can and do go viral. That racist rant you posted on a whim can grow legs and speed across the Internet with startling speed and efficiency. Social media sites are designed to expedite the sharing of information.
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Your dirty laundry is no exception. Think before you post. If it’s that important, use the private message feature. Or better yet, pick up the phone.
How to Use Facebook: Final Thoughts
Healthy social media use is fun and a great way to stay in touch with people. It’s also a great way to invite chaos, drama, and discord into your life. Learning how to use Facebook and other social media sites is about setting healthy boundaries, not only for others but for yourself as well.
There’s enough drama in our real lives. We don’t need to supplement it with online drama from people who are often not even a part of our world.
When it comes to friends, quality beats quantity every day of the week. Consider thinning the herd. You won’t miss what you never knew was there in the first place. And while you’re at it, consider picking up the phone and having a real conversation.
Go a step further and meet for coffee or drinks. We all need real connections to make meaning in our lives. And social media will never, ever be a substitute for real human interaction. Give it a try. Your self-esteem will thank you.
- TIPS FOR RESPONSIBLE SOCIAL MEDIA USE
- 20 Easy Tips for Using Social Media Responsibly
- 5 simple tips for responsible and safe use of social media