How Do You Treat Social Media?

I’ll admit I still don’t really understand the motivations behind the way some people use social media. The whole concept of trying to be an “influencer” eludes me, a fact that’s likely reflected by my very modest following on the blog and social media in general. I’ve never been one to try to aggressively market myself, even while I’ve seen other successfully do so to the point that they’ve been able to transition away from their full time jobs and make all their money from their blogging or podcasting or what have you.

Naturally, there are times that I question my reluctance. Maybe I should be more assertive. Maybe I should do more to try and get more people to read what I have to say. But each time I think about that, I follow it up with, “That sounds like way too much work.” It also goes against how I generally view social media.

To me, platforms like Facebook and Twitter are places where I can go and interact with good friends. I can find out what they’re doing, and they can see what I’m doing. We can discuss topics we each care about, and have a free exchange of ideas. When social media sticks to that level, I almost never have a problem with it, mainly because the people I’m good friends with aren’t the sort of people to be obnoxious on social media about things. They might disagree with me about something, and I might disagree with them, but we generally let people be how they’re going to be, unless we’re really passionate about something. (Of course, the past few years have given plenty of reasons to be really passionate about various things, so that’s broken down now and then, but it’s still largely true.)

The best real world comparison I can make is to a party where a bunch of my friends are in the room. I can go around, listen to what they’re saying, and join in if I feel inclined. But it stays friends talking to friends. If I see a friend talking to someone I know, I might listen in for a bit, but I’ll leave them be unless I’m introduced or something.

At the same time, I know there are many people who treat social media differently. To them, it’s a party where everyone’s talking, and everyone’s invited to come on up and speak their mind about a topic. I see more popular people on Twitter have to deal with strangers basically telling them what they feel they should be doing, or how they’re wrong about something, or foisting their opinions about X, Y, or Z on them. I can’t imagine putting up with that for too long, just because that’s not what social media has ever really been about for me. I’m not interested in hearing what the general public thinks about something. I’m not trying to make new friends. I just want to keep the relationships I already have.

(This also explains why I’ll hide someone from my feed if I feel like social media is making for a less positive relationship with that person. I don’t want Facebook or Twitter to make me like a person less than I would have otherwise, so I remove myself from that conversation if that’s the way it’s trending.)

Some of the more problematic interactions I’ve had on Facebook have come up because my posts are public. And the people involved in those interactions have justified them by saying, “Your post was public. If you didn’t want strangers commenting, you shouldn’t have it be public.” Which I can understand on the one hand, but I’ve always resisted for a number of reasons. First, I write what I write in the hopes that it’s read, obviously. I want it easily shareable, and setting it as public does that. Second, just because something’s public doesn’t mean I wash my hands of the ability to edit the comments. My wall, my rules. My blog, my rules.

None of this has ever really caused a problem for me, likely because I’m just not that big of a presence for it to matter. (Definitely a silver lining, there.) But I do wonder now and then if my perception of social media’s place is the common one, or if I’m in the minority. So . . . how do you view it?


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