How to Avoid Social Media Pitfalls

It’s a common routine: wake up, turn to your bedside table and reach for your phone. And what do you find there? Sometimes, it’s a social media pitfall.

Every day we are inundated by social media platforms bent on tempting us into online conversations, some of which we’d be better off not joining. Those temptations come in many forms: share a photo, give your personal information, reveal an emotional episode, engage in a political conversation, or give an opinion on another person or group. It seems innocent and fun until someone takes a screenshot, takes offense, or takes the words or imagery you’ve shared out of context. And then you realize that once that thing is online, it can stay there forever.

Sure it’s fun to chime in when you see a hilarious or outrageous post. Or when a friend points out the silliness of a person, place, or thing they spontaneously snapped with their phones. While most posts are harmless, hidden dangers may lurk behind others – dangers that may affect you, the poster, the subject, and maybe others, too. For that reason, it’s always smart to tread carefully across the digital universe.

Here are some ways to avoid social media pitfalls. While some may be obvious, others may be new or make you think again.

Think Before You Jump on the Bandwagon

Too often we see public shaming online. Some involve readers or “followers” reacting too soon when they do not know the whole story. Take, for example, the viral video of a man seen shaving on a New York City train one morning. The person who posted the video had a negative view of the man, making him seem like a loser. Only later did the social media world find out the shaving man was homeless and heading to see family after leaving a crowded shelter. 

So before you react to a post or post something yourself, ask yourself: will this hurt someone’s feelings? How would I feel if someone said that about me? If I read my post a year, six months or even a week from now, would I cringe?

It’s always a good idea to wait a few hours or even a day before you hit that share button. Same goes for hitting “send” on emotionally-charged emails or texts.

Remember: Privacy Equals Safety

While it may feel like you are in control of that little button, the social media platforms are the ones who are really in control. If that concerns you, be careful about posting private information like birth dates, addresses, family names, photos that show your location, and even your pet’s name, since many people use them in passwords. And each time you brag about that trip you’re about to take, know you are also alerting potential burglars that you won’t be home.

And if you’re working or looking for a job, be extra careful since many employers avoid hiring, or even fire people, based on their social media activity.

How Much Social is Too Much?

Mounting research shows that people are becoming addicted to social media and, as a result, depressed and anxious.

So what does this all mean for you? Do you have to stop talking to your friends on social media or get overly worried about what you share? Is social media a bad idea altogether? Of course not! But it’s smart to be mindful of what you post, why you post it, and whether each post has a pitfall.

So why not get off the digital grid a little more and spend time with friends in person? Why not consider the intent behind posting that funny YouTube video before you post it? And why not only share what won’t come back to bite you?

Giving a little thought to your interaction with social media will go a long way – and allow you to have a healthier, more enjoyable experience with it.

Happy surfing!

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