As regular readers will know, I hate writing to order. I also love social media…but I signed up for a challenge and I’m going to see it through. As painful as it may prove to be.
I work with social media constantly. I wear many hats – I’m a blogger, I am a freelance digital marketing and social media consultant, I write copy for people’s business literature and websites and I do a bit of ad hoc work as a virtual assistant if I absolutely have to. It’s not exaggerating to say that all my work dabbles in social media. At the very least, there’s an app for it all.
It kept me in touch with the world when I really started to use it properly, after the birth of my second daughter – and I got so fluent in it that I started doing it for other people. I love the things it can do. I love the people that I have met. I love the networks I have formed. I love, love, love it!
I wasn’t really looking forward to picking holes in my world but I managed to put my objective hat on and I think I have come up with the minimum requirements for the post. Starting at the top, the five big problems with social media are…
There’s too much of it – I’m being absolutely serious. I work with social media and I can’t keep up. If you think about ‘the big 4’ (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest) and assume that’s pretty much the only way to work then you are very much mistaken. I can’t even begin to list the full gamut of options available to us today. Things that you use daily – Linked In, for instance – have been infiltrated. I’m sorry but you cannot escape. I have tried – I really have. I swear it. Okay, not very hard but I have. Even if I switch off all the biggies, someone can reach me. There will always be a notification.
The Future – more specifically, our inability to predict it. In France, the gendarmerie is urging mothers to use Facebook more responsibly. There are numerous reasons to do so – including the fact that, unless you are very careful with your privacy settings, any Facebook user can save your pictures. Including the pictures of your children that you post unthinkingly. There’s more to this story than meets the eye. Thoughts always go to awful stories of grooming children – but that’s not even thoughtful in the long term. Yes, we have to be more careful when it comes to safety – both ours and that of those close to us – but there’s a bigger picture. One day those babies, children and early teens will be adults. They haven’t been given the option to approve their appearances on your timeline. If the children of artists and photographers are anything to go by, they may not be that enthusiastic about the fact.
The Content – even I sometimes use social media for fun. Not as often as I once did but I like to connect with friends and colleagues and it’s still one of my favourite ways to do so. I am at an advantage to most people, though – I know how to use it properly. You see, in my work, I can’t afford to be sentimental about who or what I follow. I need to limit myself to the things that are relevant and useful. As awful as it sounds, I now do the same with my personal feed. I don’t confirm every friend request – often, I politely explain that ‘my personal feed is really quite dull’ and that ‘you may prefer to follow my professional page’. I don’t feel guilty anymore. Most of the stuff I’m really interested in is not baby related and / or plate of food pictures. Having said that, a lot of my friends have adorable children and cook really, really well.
So I have started to apply my professional standards to my friends. If they repeatedly like stuff that I have shared to my timelines from my professional page but can’t be bothered supporting my work, then they’re not really getting on my good side. One too many posts telling me how to parent and that puts them at risk. Anything remotely sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, antisemitic or anti any other creed gets an automatic pass to the ‘guilt free bin’. Boring people get unfollowed – not unfriended, necessarily, as there are still social conventions to be observed. People who show me how fabulous their lives are constantly are irritating – as are the moaners, the trouble makers and the drama royalty.
Hacking – I have been hacked. It was horrible. It was also malicious and threatening and invasive and paranoia inducing. Private details of my life were uncovered and friends’ privacy was also compromised. My personal privacy settings are now ridiculously high and I check all content very carefully indeed. As an aside, I have never needed to report anything since instituting these draconian measures. I guess there’s an upside.
Trolling – despite its high profile, trolling isn’t something that most people experience. When you do, it’s difficult to know how to react. Attention is like oxygen to a troll and, while it’s really tempting to say a lot of clever things to win an argument, you just aren’t going to win. Some trolls are personal. Some are just zealots. Either way, block and move on. That’s much easier said than done.
So, dear readers, those are my five problems with social media. They boil down to the same thing – social media is run by people. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that people aren’t as nice as we are. Don’t. Get rid of the toxic and enjoy the rest of the experience. I wouldn’t have met many good friends and interesting colleagues without social media. I’m not going anywhere else soon. Stick with me!