By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner
It’s a new year and time for a NEW YOU, right? A little introspection in the new year can be a helpful and healthful approach to making positive changes in your life. Maybe you are taking some time to take stock of the past and to make plans for the future. As you go through this process, don’t forget to take a moment and scroll back on your social media accounts. Do you recognize yourself from your posts? Is your social media persona a true representation of you? Is it your best self? Or sometimes maybe not the self you would want to impress others with?
WHO ARE YOU ONLINE?
Make no mistake, your social media presence is curated by you. What you choose to write about, the pictures you choose to share and the comments you decide to post are all choices. Put together, these words and images form a representation of you, an impression that is absorbed and judged by others.
Intention aside, there is no argument that your social media persona shapes how people regard you and impacts the ways they treat you in real life — for better or for worse.
As a society, we spend a lot of time creating and maintaining our online presence. According to Statista, today’s global internet users spend on average 135 minutes per day on social media, with a steady growth from 90 minutes per day in 2012.
We may not think of it this way, but our time on Facebook, Instagram and any other social media platform is about more than staying in touch with friends and family. Yes, we expand our social networks thanks to social media. But, our investment into our social media profiles is, above all, about our efforts to create and define our personal brand. Until you recognize that you curate your personal brand (positive or negative) with each post, you may not be making the best decisions online.
DO YOU CARE TOO MUCH?
So, once we admit to ourselves that what we post on our social media profiles is no accident and that, consciously and unconsciously, we post what we want to represent about ourselves to our family, peers and friends, then we can explore why we post what we post. No doubt, perception is entirely subjective. How people see a picture and feel about a comment can widely vary. But when we create our self-portrait online, we are heavily influenced by what we think our ideal self should be and how we think others will view a picture or feel about a comment.
This is a lot of pressure. That’s 135 minutes per day, 15+ hours per week, 63+ hours per month and 756+ hours per year that you spend stuck in an internal conversation with yourself, debating, maybe agonizing, about the impression you are making on others and linking your self-worth to likes and other online affirmations of your worth.
Maybe we can’t help ourselves. After all, our human nature is driven by competition. Whether we compete to earn money, do good or surround ourselves with love, it is still a competition defined by achievement and status.
So, if you spend time on social media then the best thing you can do for yourself is to acknowledge this pressure to achieve and to always represent your best self and make sure that this pressure is not turning your time on social media into a whipping stone that makes you feel badly about yourself.
Here are Savvy Cyber Kids’ social media tips for the New Year:
• Don’t compare yourself to others. Remember, that’s their carefully curated self you are viewing. What’s the point of comparing yourself to someone whose profile is an exaggeration of real life?
• Be you. By representing your individual and honest self, you will not only be more authentic, you will be expressing some self-love for your uniqueness. You won’t be holding yourself up to anyone else’s standards and you can let the pressure of social media perfection go.
• Acknowledge what you are competing for and make that your reality. Instead of spending time creating an identity that matches what and who you want to be, invest that time into making it happen for you in real life.
• Take a break from your online life. Periodically, give yourself time and space to unplug and cultivate your life off the screen — just for fun! Remember, when you are “spending” time on social media, you are giving up time for everything else!
If you make these changes, the natural outcome is that you will be more honest, more real and more likable online. People will know you better and they will know the REAL YOU.
Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.