There’s a lot of debate on whether social media does more to isolate us than it does to connect us with others as well as a few disturbing studies.
Of course, it depends on how you use it. Here are seven ways to connect using social media.
Using Social Media to Reach Out
Using social media can allow you to “be there” when you’re far away. The danger is when you ignore actual relationships in favor of virtual ones. Here’s a case in point:
This week, a 19-year old friend of my sons took her own life. Using social media, young people immediately reached out to her sisters with affirmations of friendship and love. They posted stories about the young woman’s kindness and lamented the loss of her.
Ideally, these friends would (and will) talk to the sisters in person. However, most are away at college. Social media allowed these young people to reach out and to come together in their grief. It facilitated the sharing of moving and articulate sentiments.
On the other hand, we’ve seen young people misuse social media to bully. Kids post things they can’t take back. In the middle of the night, they reach out to the Twittersphere or their Facebook wall instead of waking up their mom and telling her how desperate they feel.
Using Social Media to Enable Conversations and Share Stories
You can find opportunities to have meaningful conversations on social media. For instance, we’ve all seen the postings on gratitude. If they weren’t challenged online, would people take the time to think about gratitude? Would they share?
This week we’ve also seen social media enabling conversations that might otherwise not have taken place. The hastag #WhyIStay is revealing important perspective from survivors of domestic violence. Women who have kept quiet for years are using social media to explain the forces that kept them in a relationship with their abusers. In my book (literally and figuratively), anything that helps us tell and share our stories can’t be all bad.
Authentic Conversations Using Social Media
In his thought provoking-piece Social Media: Driving Us to Isolation & Loneliness through Superficial Human Connection, Joel Bain argues that the conversations we have on social media are superficial and cursory, causing us to mistakenly believe we’re connected. That certainly can be the case if we only scan posts, click “like,” and move on.
However, for those of us that who have family and friends that a) suck at letter writing, and b) live far away, social media provides a medium for authentic conversations. Using social media, we can share each other’s sorrows and joys. We can remind each other that we love them. We can lift each other upon bad days.
Face to face takes priority
For my generation, this is a “duh.” For my kids’ generation, this is still something they need to learn. Parents are the top of the “most likely to be ignored in favor of the smart phone” list.
Use tact or humor to remind them. (I tried taping my son’s phone to my forehead during dinner to make a point. It didn’t go over well, but he got the point.)
Too Much of a Good Thing
Recognize when your social media outlets start managing your (or your kids’) life. Teach and practice moderation.
Don’t forget that most forms of social media allow you to message someone without broadcasting your thoughts. My niece recently sent me a PM (private message) to say she thinks I’m awesome. It made all the difference in my day.
Using Social Media to Share Memories and Stories
Social media also allows us to quickly share photos, anecdotes, and stories. The trick is to engage instead of clicking through. Have those conversations. And, of course, tell those stories.