Given the political divide, the misuse of social media in the past Presidential election and the general trash talk by folks online on Facebook, Twitter, etc…..it’s easy just to bash the medium as detrimental to humanity. However, there are some ways that it can improve our lives if we make a conscious choice to do so.

How can we do that? Below are a few of my thoughts….I would love to hear yours. Love to hear your thoughts in the comments here…..or on social media.

Examine Your Intent for Using Social Media

Why do you share on social media? There are probably a lot of reasons for it….staying connected with others, knowing what is going on in each others lives and so on. However, it’s my perception that a lot of folks use it as a sort of self aggrandizement, a type of personal ego stroking.

Sharing everything that you are doing online with others leads one to wondering why one feels the need to do so. I know that I used to share a lot of what I was doing on Facebook and Twitter…..especially when I did anything special….taking a trip, out to a new restaurant, gatherings with friends….I felt compelled to take a picture and post online and tell everyone what a great time I was having. Why?

I came to realize that some, if not most, of such sharing was driven by my ego. Look at what I’m doing! Look where I am! Look who I’m with! There was a part of me that wanted to let everyone know what I was doing so as to proclaim to the world that not only was I ok and having a great time….but there was a bit of “don’t you wish you were me?”

Finally I realized that the people that I really wanted to share my experiences with….I was either already with them in person or would tell them personally. I let go of my ego’s need to brag. I stopped sharing my private life online. And, I felt better about my privacy.

The bottom line for you if you share all your life details online is to stop and simply ask yourself “why do I need to tell everyone about this?” What purpose is it really serving?

Share Resources that Benefit Others

Sharing online is not a bad thing…I want to be clear about that. However, I have changed my sense of what it is that I want to share with others…no more personal stuff…..but I still want to share good ideas, helpful videos, things that others will truly benefit by knowing about them.

So, yes, I retweet on Twitter and share on Facebook. Yes, I post videos and links and all kinds of stuff. However, now my benchmark is “do I think that others will benefit by knowing about this?” And that can from time to time include some cute animal YouTube video.

Sharing useful resources is one of the best things about the internet and social media. This is truly where it is making the world better. And, thank you to all the people who create YouTube “how to” videos that show me how to do most things that I don’t have a clue about!

Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative

So many mothers used to tell us that “if you can’t say something positive, don’t say it”. That’s golden wisdom for the internet.

So many people use social media to bash those they disagree with. An acquaintance of mine was posting a running commentary last night on Facebook about one of the Democratic primaries. OK, I get it, you’re a Republican and you don’t agree with the Democratic candidates. But what worldly good comes from taking the time and energy to post negative comments about others personal looks or political opinions at 10 to 15 minute intervals?

So many news websites have eliminated the comments section. Why? They became full of vitriol….cursing and personal attacks that only tended to stir up similar responses which spiraled out of control.

Stop before you make that negative comment or share that negative story and ask yourself —- is my doing this making the world better or worse?

Maintain Integrity Online

When you are dealing with others in the “real world”, most of us are generally nice and truthful. We have an ethical standard that we employ in interacting with others. Should we not do the same online? The anonymity of the internet frequently leads people to misbehaving in ways that they would never do offline.

So….don’t be mean…..don’t tell lies….treat others as you want to be treated. Golden rule goes for online too. And, don’t automatically forward things you get without checking them out first to ensure their accuracy. If something seems “too good to be true”, it may not be true…..even if it fits our worldview. When in doubt stop and check in on Snopes and other similar sites. Do it for things that you even agree with. If you find someone forwarded something that is untrue, quietly let them know.

Turn the Other E-Cheek

But what about when others attack you? Or they share lies and misinformation? Should you simply sit idly by and “let it go on”?

Far too many times in my past I have jumped into the fray…even innocently thinking that I was “offering another perspective” or “correcting misinformation”. Then the next thing I knew I was in some kind of war of words and feeling angst.

Now, I occasionally (but not often) will tactfully correct some incorrect statement, especially if I can site some data source online. Rarely do I respond to personal attacks or political bashing when someone disagrees with something I said. I have never changed someone’s mind by taking the bait and getting into a debate. Never.

Many of us have the tendency to want to have the last word….say something and “boom…..mic drop”….but again that’s an ego thing. It doesn’t diminish me in any way if I let you have the last word. Responding to your insult only gives energy to something that gives it power to grow and expand. Don’t water the negative with more negative. Let it go and move on. In the big scheme of things, it simply doesn’t matter.

Summary

20th century mystic and spiritual teacher Ernest Holmes wrote these words that I truly think we should all live by: ” Does this thing I wish to do express more life, more happiness, more peace to myself, and at the same time harm no one? If it does, it is right. It is not selfish.”

For our online times on social media, I would reword it this way: “Does this thing I wish to post online express more life, more happiness, more peace to myself, and at the same time harm no one? If it does, it is right to post it. It is not selfish.”

So these are my thoughts….what are yours? How can social media be used in your opinion to improve the world?

Mark Gilbert

Photo on Foter.com