Social media can be a great way to connect with people and it has revolutionized interpersonal relations in all areas of our lives. Chances are the next time you meet someone, you will be just as likely to share your contact information so you can be friends on Facebook or follow each other on Twitter, as you will to give them your phone number. With that in mind, here are a few do’s and don’ts so you can have your profile in good shape should that person you are interested in pop by for a cyber visit.
Do Have a Recent Photo on Your Profile Page: A rule of thumb is to update your profile photo any time you change your appearance by getting a new haircut or coloring your hair or if your weight changes due to loss or gain. A cautionary tale about using an old photo where you might look great, but which doesn’t represent who you are today: a friend of mine had her “thin” pic up on Facebook and was approached by an old schoolmate who just happened to be in town and wanted to meet with her right away. When they did meet, he expressed his disappointment that she did not look how she did in her picture. Now granted, this guy was a tool, but he really just said out loud what a lot of people might have thought and not said, and my friend could have avoided this awkward situation had she represented herself honestly in her profile picture.
It might be tempting to post a photograph where you look stunning and red carpet ready, but if that’s not how you look in everyday life, don’t do it. This is also a good argument for making yourself presentable each and every time you leave your home, because you never know when someone with a smart phone will catch you and post your picture on Facebook.
Don’t Discuss Politics and Religion: Remember that old saw never to bring up politics and religion at a dinner party if you want your fellow guests to feel comfortable talking to you? The same is true of social media. While a great number of people seem to feel the need to share their opinions on the latest news article about candidates and issues, its best to be very careful what you share in this regard. Unless you are sure all of your friends will understand and accept your point of view, it’s a safe way to avoid offending anyone by keeping your political ideas and religious beliefs to yourself. If you feel the need to express this side of yourself, why not go to a site that is devoted to that particular interest and share? Politics quickly becomes tedious in any social setting whether your audience agrees with you or not. If you must share, keep it brief and infrequent or you may find yourself unfriended or largely ignored by your friend list.
Do Use the King’s English: Everyone hates a grammar troll, but do use spell check and check to make sure you are not making common Internet mistakes such as not knowing the proper way to use your and you’re, knowing the difference between their and there, and the oft confused lose and loose. Common grammar errors stick out like a sore thumb and unfortunately people do judge you by your appearance and on the Internet that means your spelling and grammar.
Do make sure you peruse your status update a few times before clicking enter and make a habit of proofreading everything you send out on the internet. If you’re not sure, Google. It takes a few seconds and it means the difference between someone taking you seriously and someone dismissing you because of a simple error that could easily be fixed.
Don’t Use Social Media to Vent: One of the best things you can do for your social profile in general is to wean yourself away from complaining. It is human nature to want to vent to others our frustrations, but be aware that every time you do that, you are taking an emotional toll on the other person and they may begin avoiding you in public or “unsubscribe” from your status updates on social media. Status updates are not a forum for you to air your daily grievances. In day-to-day life, there are usually only a few people we can really trust to listen to our complaints without judgment, and if you find yourself bitching too much, stop. It doesn’t matter how justified you are in your anger, you still come across as a negative person that no one will want to be around.
Do Be Polite: Bottom line is, think before you press send. Nowhere is the ten-second rule more important than on the Internet. Breathe. Take a moment and think. The minute something is out in cyberspace you cannot take it back. Even my children know that, thanks to Phineas and Ferb. Yes, we see snarkiness and rudeness everywhere, but unless you have a Teflon ego that can take the consequences of the inevitable social backlash that will cause, don’t do it. Celebrities known for their snarkiness and no holds barred humor are paid big bucks to be that way, and well, most of us are not.
It’s very easy to forget that there is another human being with feelings on the other end of that computer, but don’t. It’s also a pretty good idea to keep in mind when you are looking at your potential date’s profile to determine whether you want to spend time with the other person or not. The golden rule never gets old. Treat people how you wish to be treated and you will find yourself leading a much more pleasant and hassle free existence not only online, but also in life.
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