In the digital age, social media can be your best friend or your worst enemy; it can grow your business and introduce you to lifelong friends. But it also can leave you feeling insecure & self conscious of your flaws when you’re constantly bombarded with photos of everyone else’s seemingly perfect lives. When I researched this topic I found many do’s and don’ts regarding the etiquette of how to use social media. Most of these posts were published in 2015-2017 when the first real Instagram boom was happening and most people wanted simple guidelines on using the correct hashtags and how to credit people when reposting their work.
While I do believe that those rules are still valid, the way we use all platforms has evolved and become more intimate. Some people spend more time scrolling on the app than they do with their loved ones on a daily basis (especially if you’re reading this while in lockdown). And yet, for every-time I see something empowering, I see ten kinds of hurtful & harmful behaviours. For a lot of us, our aim on social media is to learn from other, offer advice and enjoy content. But from being bombarded with sponsored content to being attacked for having opinions that others may not agree with, social media is becoming a surefire way to lose one’s sanity.
I have written before on the topic of sharing your stories responsibly but this post will focus on how to use social media in a way that proves beneficial rather than stressful. This list is by no means comprehensive but it does cover some of the basic ways to make social media usage a joy not only for ourselves, but for others too.
You’re in total control- always remember that!
The weirdest thing I have noticed is that people feel this imaginary pressure to post things and keep themselves relevant. But why? Who is pushing you to do something if you don’t feel like it? Perhaps it’s because we see others posting stuff all the time and feel that we need to follow suit.
But we do not.
We are the only ones in charge of what we put out into the world.
Who cares if there’s a large gap of time between your last post and recent one? So what if you didn’t post last Tuesday and you usually post on Tuesdays?
Doing something because you want to is far more effective than doing something because you feel pressure to do so. And trust me, your audience can pick up when you’re doing something out of passion or out of obligation. That tired post about about the great cup of tea you’ve just posted promoting the tea company? I’m 100% more likely to scroll past than the one you posted sharing your book recommendations. Stop following these influencers with their content calendars & made up social media courses. You are in charge of your platforms so own them!
Also, all that pressure you feel to reach a certain milestone like 10,000 followers is also just made up.
Will your life be any richer if you reach a certain number of followers? What meaning will this actually add to your life?
I always feel its better to be content with a small number of loyal readers than masses of people whom you can’t even relate to. You’re in control of your thoughts and goals too so think carefully before setting a goal like, “getting 5000 more subscribers in 3 months”. Is that really going to fulfil you?
Interact with purpose!
Social media is a conversation and we should be treating it as such. If I like someone’s content, I usually drop them a message saying that I like their page and give them a little information about me too.
I always appreciate when people introduce themselves and explain how they found me or what they enjoy about my content… and I am sure that others do as well; especially if you have a large following which is when it gets tricky to remember who is who. If you want to engage with someone or would like them to follow you back, send them a message and say hi, just like you would if you were introducing yourself in real life.
You shouldn’t have to beg people to follow you. Imagine you went to a conference. Then you went around the room shouting “Check out my shop!”…no one would do it. Not one. So why do people go around doing that on Instagram?
If you met that person in real life, would you be talking about yourself the entire time, shouting in their face? I seriously hope not! It’s much more effective if you complimented their earrings, answered their question or even just said “I really like how you said that. Thank you for inspiring me.”
I strongly discourage leaving robotic comments like, “Amazing shot!”, “Love your pics!” because they will not result in people even taking a look at your profile and rather, they will report you as spam.
Don’t accuse people without trying to educate yourself
The most common thing I see on social media is people trying to publicly shame others. For example, commenting things, “Stop trampling on the flowers!” or “Your clothes are too tight to be worn in Dubai!”. Before you call someone out, I think its polite to message them privately and enquire before accusing. For example, “Hi there! I notice you were in a field of flowers in your latest post. I feel strong about nature destruction and just want to if any flowers were being destroyed by taking photos there?” You may find out that there’s a path you can’t see or a designated clear spot for photo taking. Its much better than just making an accusation without even explaining who you are or why you care.
Of course if you have messaged the person and they don’t respond then yes, I understand why you may feel compelled to comment publicly. But a rude comment is far more likely to get deleted straight away rather than a polite one which may get you answers.
Don’t let an accusation be the first time you interact with someone either. It reflects poorly on YOU.
Respect people’s boundaries
Most people’s accounts are very reflective of the things they are interested in/passionate about. You can clearly see when someone is an animal lover, nature fanatic or whatever they may be interested in. So if you want advice on something unrelated, respect their boundaries when they say they can’t help you.
My photos are very focused on my expat life and travels. When people ask me for fashion advice or visa information on places I have never travelled to, it confuses me. I usually reply saying, “Sorry I can’t help you with that because I don’t have enough information or expertise in that area”. Some people will persist though and pour out their life stories and problems explaining why I should try to help them. If I can’t help, I can’t. That’s the end of it. Unloading your feelings on me is unfair and unwarranted.
Someone once accused me of being- in her words- ‘a Muslim influencer’ and was offended when I posted something that didn’t line up with her idea of what I should post.
I have never once discussed Islam on my platforms and I have never tried to influence anyone to do anything. This person had an idea of what they thought I was and what I should do; so they tried to project that on to me. Respect what people post and not what you think they should. Manage your own accounts and don’t worry about others!
Another thing that frequently happens is when people get offended by my opinions/ lifestyle and feel compelled to outline exactly how my content has enraged them. I don’t engage with such accounts, just block them & move on with my life.
But then they create a NEW account and come at me YET AGAIN. Who has the time? Who has the energy to persist in this sort of aggression?
Cease & desist please.
Just unfollow & block instead of letting it get to you
Why do people continue to follow people whose content upsets them and/or makes them feel bad about their life? Its just social media. No one is forcing you to look at people’s posts or photos. Just keep scrolling if you are offended or don’t like something.
As I have said above, you can follow people you like and unfollow people whose content makes you cringe. If someone is persistently badgering you, just block them instead of letting it affect you negatively. Just because you followed someone once doesn’t mean you’re bound to them for life. Most platforms make it super easy to remove people so why are you holding on? My list of blocked people is endless. From men who wouldn’t leave me alone to chauvinists who tell me how to dress… If it doesn’t add any value to my life, I get rid of it. What are you holding on for?
I think people underestimate how important it is to take a step back and think about the way they act online. Just being yourself helps others feel more comfortable, and allows cohesive interactions between people of all backgrounds. It may also introduce you to like-minded people and supportive friends. While I am not saying that its necessary to bare your entire life on social media, keeping things real, being honest about how you feel and showing a little vulnerability allows people to relate to you. You are in total control of your social media journey, always remember that!
Don’t feel nervous about what to post or anxious because you are overwhelmed- its your platform and you can add/remove people as you like and discuss any topic you feel like! I hope these fundamental tips will help you post and share with confidence that you’re using social media in a positive way to strengthen your relationships, congratulate your friends’ successes, and share what’s happening in your life.
What do you think about these points? What are some of the strategies you employ to use social media in an effective way? Let me know in the comments below!
Great post Aneesa, it really spoke to me 🙂 [Don’t block me :P]
I have been struggling with this for a while and like you, social media has empowered as much as it had made me feel worthless and in the end it’s my doing because I allow it to.
I’m trying to limit my time on social media to half an hour and some days I do and somedays I don’t. The days I do, I’m better off because I’m more invested in my life and more present/mindful and when I do get on insta on a day like that, it’s a nice break and I look forward to interacting with my regular clique. 🙂 @headspace, the meditation app has really given me the ability to focus on breaking habits that don’t serve me. I highly recommend it, it’s a fun way to meditate and quieten the noise and clutter in your head.
Fun fact from software point of view, the apps are engineered to play with your mind – to keep you scrolling endlessly, because the longer you spender, the more money they stand to gain. The more information they have on your likes and dislikes and that is data, the more powerful their artificial intelligence grows, they can sell more shit to you through ads, sponsored data and similar content. It’s either that or they sell information to someone else 😉 heh, FUN!
When I first started my instagram account and travel blog, I loved posting and interacting with people etc, etc. It was a fun passion project but after a years I got “influenced” by other popular influencers that my content and passion didn’t matter if I didn’t have ‘x’ number of followers, if I didn’t wear pretty clothes and frolick in hikes, and oh that journey back to normalcy was rough. Sadly, I stopped blogging because it wasn’t fun anymore but I still post on instagram because I love traveling, photography and interacting with the friends I have made on insta. (LIKE YOUUU <3) YOUR FIRST POINT REALLY SPOKE TO ME because I still feel guilty about giving up on blogging but it wasn't meaningful anymore, it was just the pressure to post. Oh well!
Hey Divya 👋🏽 Definitely not going to block you, HAHA! I totally understand what you’re saying about feeling influenced by others into not doing things a certain way which makes you feel doubt about your abilities. I didn’t even know that you had a blog! Thanks for sharing the info about companies collecting my data, unfortunately I am guilty of mindless scrolling sometimes and definitely need to work on that! But they’ll probably be disappointed because I don’t buy anything that is recommended to me or advertised on a social media platform 😁 I love all the genuine friendships I’ve made on Instagram too 💜
Hey Aneesa, I haven’t read a more sensible post in a long time. Like Divya mentioned in her comment, we all start blogging because we feel so passionate about it. And then, somewhere down the lane we get so caught up in increasing followers, making money from the blog and content going viral, etc that we get lost.
I have spent hours of my time watching videos on how to increase followers. 90% of it was a waste of my time. If only I had spent that time wisely and ensured that I read and commented on the blogs that I was following, my followers would have increased many fold by now. I would also have benefited from reading that content.
I have realized that and am now focussing more on improving my craft than running after followers.
Each point that you mentioned in the article makes so much sense. Good writing …
( I personally found the gifs a little distracting while reading the article. Just an feedback. )
Hi Deepa! Thanks for your feedback. I also spent a lot of time trying to read articles and watch videos about helping my blog grow. Also to realise that it was a waste of my time. I guess these things are part of the blogging journey 🤷🏾♀️ I hope you’re enjoying honing your craft rather than being fixated on the stats!
Yes I am enjoying it way better now. And stats is like a cherry on top. It’s good to have it but the taste of the dish is not dependent on it . 😊
Fab post as always Aneesa!
It is so strange to hear people don’t respect your boundaries asking you questions you have no reason to know. I mean, what do they think they’ll gain from that!? People really confuse me sometimes!
I know right? I also get confused. But I think they’re just looking for an outlet sometimes and even though they may feel like they know me (through my blog), it doesn’t occur to them that I don’t know them and likely, can’t assist!
Really good reminders! I used to feel pressure to post every week on my instagram, now I try not to worry about it as much.
I just post when I feel inspired otherwise it feels forced!
I had to take IG off my phone altogether, and Facebook is a distant memory. I didn’t feel pressure to be relevant in my posts necessarily, but I did begin to want things and care about things that I wouldn’t have even considered had I not been on social media. It made me feel flawed. HOWEVER, I have some deeply rooted personal issues that contribute to how deeply it effects me. Also, whenever I went to a place, I had to snap a photo to make some eloquent post as opposed to just enjoying the moment and being present. That aspect has been really nice for me. Now I’m just doing whatever the hell I want on my blog! And I’m totally unbothered by how many people decide to read it. First and foremost, it’s for me. I miss you, friend.
I hear you and I miss you too! When we allow social media to influence our every action then it is a cause for concern. Being your best self on your blog and having the freedom to do whatever you want with it is liberating- thats what it should be anyway – a space for you to express yourself freely through words!