They call it ‘social’ media for a reason

I think I’ve finally understood Facebook. I admit I’ve had a love-hate relationship with it. Back in 2009, I first became enthusiastic about it when I attended a publishing conference and learned of the many ways we, as editors, could engage with our readers. I pushed for our company to set up Facebook pages for our magazines and through a collective effort, my edit team began the then-new process of embarking on social media as part of our workload. While not exactly cutting edge, it was exciting and it felt fresh. Since we were using it daily for work, we all had to make a personal page and this was harder for some of us than others. At the time, I had recently started a page, but never really knew what to put on it. And then it happened, just like my colleague told me it would. She had a Facebook page for a few months before I did and told me that once I got on the up-and-coming social media network, I wouldn’t believe the amount of people who would find me, both a good and bad aspect, we agreed.

Slowly, I put up a few photos and reported on my family’s happenings here and there, when I thought something worthwhile presented itself. I watched my friend’s list grow, as did my timeline, and I started to read what other people wrote on their daily status. Some folks wrote everything from what they were eating and which child was currently throwing up to what doctor they were visiting and which stores had the best sales that week. There were the rants about frustrating happenings of the day and then increasingly, there were the more disturbing personal attacks, over-sharing of the dirty laundry and other posts which felt invasive and proved to be uncomfortable reading. There were also the racist, sexist, or otherwise unnerving photos, memes, and articles that were shared which made me view certain people in a whole new, unsettling light.

Over time, I began to shy away from my personal Facebook page, using it only for work. I’d still check my timeline occasionally but it was becoming a playground for bad behavior. I would sometimes block people who posted disturbing material, which made my timeline instantly happier. I started checking in more often and then I began to notice that there were many uplifting messages of support for those going through hard times. There were sweet stories that friends shared of their new baby or puppy. There were photos of family celebrating milestones. During difficult times, like yet another horrifying (and maddening) school shooting, there was a collective discourse and discussion. During lively events, there was amusing chatter about the Oscars, World Series, and blockbuster movies. Little by little, I began to share more statuses. I also joined Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, each a little different.

The thing is, when used properly, social media does connect us. It is not simply a breeding ground for the mean spirited, although it does have the potential to attract a certain type of ugly cowardice hiding behind the screen at times. If you choose your friends wisely, it can become a larger social circle, not a replacement for human face-to-face connection, but an extension of how we socialize. Just as we choose our words wisely when speaking, we can also choose our thoughts wisely when posting. If you wouldn’t say it to a room full of people, then think twice before you post it. But if you’ve got some great news or could use some support, then by all means let your friends know. That’s what we’re all here for!

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Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find Sullivan on her blogs, Just Write Mom and Some Puppy To Love.

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