I have a love-hate relationship with social media, but ultimately, I wouldn’t want to be without it. It has allowed me to keep up with my friends both near and far in a way that would otherwise be impossible. I get to see my friends’ beautiful weddings and great life accomplishments and send my well wishes to them in an instant. I get a glimpse into their everyday lives as well, seeing what they’re eating for lunch and what is stressing them out.
While there are many great things about social media relationships, interacting and keeping your friendships alive and well digitally can be tricky. I feel so in-tune with my friend’s lives through the information they volunteer online that I forget to reach out and nurture my relationships in person. Social media can be a great tool to keep your friendships healthy and happy, but only if you’re using it the right way.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you want to be a better social media friend:
1. Leave a few details out
As much as I love keeping up with my friends’ lives on social media, I hate it when we meet up in real life and feel like we have nothing to talk about. It’s great that you automatically have some talking points (like that new restaurant you saw them post pictures of last Friday or how their half-marathon went), but at a certain point, oversharing can ruin the feeling of actual intimacy you have with your friends. So maybe leave out your latest cooking success or relationship woe, and hash it out in person with someone who truly cares.
2. Use good photo etiquette
You may love that goofy photo you took of your friend when you were hanging out in your pajamas watching TV, but she might not love it so much. Especially when she sees it on social media along with friends, family, and strangers. When it comes to posting pictures of friends, it’s always best to err on the cautious side.
While part of this is so there are no hard feelings, there are other things you might not be considering. Many people use social media professionally and really don’t want their boss or potential employers to see them downing shots at your birthday party. For teachers or military families, personal photos can hold even more consequence, costing them their jobs or safety. When it doubt, leave it out, and text the photo to them instead.
3. Reach out
If you see that your friend just had a baby or got a big promotion, don’t just “like” their status and comment with congratulations. Gestures like these tend to get lost in a big slush pile of digital joy. Opt instead to reach out with a phone call or text, or better yet, an offer to help or celebrate in real life. I have no idea how many people congratulated me when I graduated college, but I certainly remember everyone who was there that day watching or called and sent cards. Some things require more than a Twitter heart or champagne emoji.