If you are a parent of a teenager, then suffice it to say that you have a certain amount of trepidation with regard to your child’s participation in the world of social media. Even though you might personally use networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, the way in which they are used by today’s youth is entirely different. Personally, I’m not opposed to letting teens use social media. My concern lies in how they are using it and whether or not parents are playing an active role in the process. Having said this, I’ve composed a letter that I encourage you to share with your child regarding the effective use of social media.
I realize that social media is a critical part of your culture and in many ways keeps you connected with those closest to you. My goal is not to stop you from using services like Facebook or Twitter, but rather to empower you to use them effectively.
Following are three important considerations that every teenager should be aware of when using social media.
Don’t judge a person by the number of likes, comments, or re-tweets they receive. It’s the nature of the content that he/she posts which matters most. Even as adults, it’s easy to become a victim of the social media ‘numbers game’. You are not alone if you frequently fall into this trap. Instead of considering the content of your post, it’s easy to compare your numbers with others and consequently design a plan of attack to reach “their” status. This often results in you posting comments or pictures simply to gain the recognition of others. Let me ask you a question – Is there is a direct correlation between the number of followers you have on Twitter, or the number of Facebook friends you have, or the number of likes you get for a picture, and the quality of your character? While some of your peers may argue that there is, I’m confident that these numbers don’t even come close to accurately measuring your true character.
Everything you post online is perceived by your audience as a reflection of WHO you are and will forever be a part of the public domain. Before you read any further, please take a moment to reflect on WHO you are by reviewing my previous blog post (click here). Keep in mind that who you are is not defined by your social media profile, which contains information about what you’ve done or what numbers you’ve achieved; it’s defined by the actual content that you choose to share. Let’s say that part of your core values are kindness, love, and service to others. That is WHO you believe yourself to be. Wouldn’t it only seem natural then that your social media posts should be in alignment with these values? Sadly, this isn’t the case for a lot of users. We often fail to recognize the fact that hundreds, if not thousands of people will view our content at some point, including future employers. A simple way to think about this is to imagine each of your posts as a rock that is dropped into a giant ocean, which in this case is the entire social media community. Each rock you drop creates a ripple that extends far beyond your friends or followers. The question then becomes – What kind of ripple do you want to create?
You really can find happiness on social media. Did you know that recent psychological studies have proven that one’s happiness levels are increased greatly when gratitude or acts of kindness are a part of their daily routine? This is fantastic news as social media can serve as the perfect platform for doing just that. Instead of posting a random selfie that you took during your 5th period Science class, why not post a picture of a friend and take a moment to express your gratitude for them in a single sentence. Remember the ripple I mentioned in the last paragraph? This act of gratitude just might influence thousands of people in a positive way. I know what you are probably saying, “But it’s not cool to do these types of things, Mike.” To this I would respond – Is it not cool to be happy? Try it and see what happens. Not only will it increase your happiness levels, it just might change WHO you are in the social media world.
P.S. I care about you.