When is it OK to post on social media? When is it not? Here are some tips based on my clinical work with teens. You can review the following suggestions with your teen, but these guidelines are also good for any adult.
- Do be careful what you post: Don’t post anything (i.e., pictures, rants, pet peeves) you wouldn’t want your grandmother (or future employer) to read. Once it is out there- you can’t get it back.
- Do be careful if you feel like you are getting consumed: If you can’t go more than one day without going online or if you need to spend multiple hours online, you need may need to “pull in the reigns” a little.
- Do remember “private” does not actually mean private: You can use the privacy settings, but not everyone will. What you mark as private, others may cut, paste, and put on their site. Your site may be private, but is theirs?
- Do keep private things private. If you wonder if something is private, then it probably is.
- Don’t post suicidal threats or gestures: If you are suicidal, tell someone you trust.
- Don’t post anything when you are upset or under the influence: You don’t have to say everything you think or feel.
- Don’t use social media as a journal or diary. Social media should not be a way to “work out” your feelings and organize your thoughts. For instance, don’t post something like, “My friend Sally is such a slut sometimes… [insert more ranting] … but I guess sometimes she’s nice.” Guess which part of the post Sally will focus on?
- Don’t use social media to settle a score: If anyone can be identified in a negative way- don’t post it. Don’t spread rumors to “get even” because someone did something you think is unfair.
- Don’t use social media as a replacement for actual face time: A virtual life is not the same as an actual life.
- Don’t get caught up in the comparison of social media. Many people use social media to make life look more exciting or glamorous than it really is. It is easy to get sucked into the comparison.
- Don’t friend someone you do not know personally: You don’t have to friend everyone. Also, be careful about “hooking up” or “breaking up” on any social media platform.
- Don’t take the bait: If others do not follow these rules, you don’t have to correct them. You don’t have to go back-and-forth defending yourself.
- Don’t post where you are going to be: This is a big safety issue. Don’t schedule times and places you are going to meet on social media. This includes using the “location” option found on many social media sites, like Facebook. For teens, predators will know where you are or where you will be. For adults, predators will know when you are not at home, which makes it much easier to break in and rob you. Post where you were, not where you are or where you will be.
- Don’t search for the negative: Checking to see if anyone is talking negatively about you will only make you feel negative.
Because it can be difficult to remember all of these dos and don’ts, I usually ask my patients to focus on just one or two of them at a time. However, if you need a mnemonic device to help you remember all of this information, remember the “4 Cs” of social media: social media can be good for connection, as long as it isn’t used for comparison, competition (i.e., settling a score), or as a replacement for face-to-face communication. Here’s hoping someone from the White House is listening*.
*Pop Quiz: Which rule(s) did I just break?……. If you answered “competition” or “communication”, then pat yourself on the back.