Ever since the idea of “writing” was conceived, humans have recorded historical events, the occurrences in our daily lives and even our deepest thoughts and feelings in diaries or journals. They reveal what our ancestors cared and thought about and handed down wisdom from one generation to the next. Social media has quickly moved into the space once occupied by personal diaries, although how we use it isn’t quite the same anymore.
A diary entry is usually a thoughtful process. It’s like a mirror that reflects your emotions, and the events that take place in your life. A tweet or Facebook status update, however, is very much in the moment — the fancy restaurant you just ate at, or an “outfit of the day”. Typically, spur-of-the-moment stuff. But, the unfortunate dark side to opening a gateway for two-way conversation has given rise to often thoughtless attacks or angry criticism, frequently a result of someone just having a bad day.
Today, social media offers a distorted mirror image of how people live, because it rarely reveals what we really think or feel, but is instead a careful curation of the lives we want others to see us living. There’s pressure to come up with the most “likeable” content while we anxiously compare our social media clout basis the number of followers we have.
Why do we have this dire need to be noticed, liked, validated and talked about? And are we willing to do anything for it? Sadly, yes.
Social media has given us a superpower, but one which we may have been misusing. The digital world enables us to have a real time dialogue, a conversation with virtually anyone across the globe. It allows us to be close to distant family and friends. It lets us put our thoughts out there, freely, for the world to see and maybe learn a thing or two from. But so often we use it to gossip, stalk, and troll. We use it as a venting ground for our emotional distress. We use it to argue and fight with people over trivial things.
Create a smart digital footprint
So now ask yourself this - what if every text, social post, email, and uploaded picture was going to be there forever? A digital footprint that defines how you’re remembered? Would you still use social media the way you do now? Probably not. If there was no public display of likes and followers would you change what you say? Is this greed for social currency changing who we fundamentally are? I ask myself this question often...
Now don’t get me wrong, I love social media. I have built my career on it, but I just think it’s time for us to evaluate how we’re using it. And it is so important that we understand its long term.
You may not have realized this but what you’re putting out online is your legacy. Every picture, tweet, rude remark or personal details, chances are it’s going to be on the Internet forever. Step back and ask yourself, is this a true representation of who you are? And if not, why are you somebody else online than you are in real life?
Be careful what you post
I know a lot of people reading this might think, "but hang on, I’m not a troll. If anything I’ve only ever lashed out in my defense or to offer an explanation."
But the truth (which I have learned the hard way) is, there’s no need to make a public display unless you want people to watch the show.
So now take a few minutes today and scroll down your Facebook timeline or your Instagram feed. Imagine yourself as your descendants, 20 years from now, reading your posts. What will they learn about who you were, and what was important to you? What will they learn from your legacy? It’s not too late to make a change and uplift your virtual identity and make it a true representation of the living “you”.
Here are a few things you can start doing right now to improve your social media identity and bring it closer to who you are:
- Find the things you care about online, join conversations about your interests, passions and causes that matter to you.
- Spark joy with what you post. Turbo boost your own social media with happiness, share inspiring, happy things.
- Bring your virtual avatar as close to your real-life avatar as possible.
- Instead of poring over your likes and followers go spread some love. Give someone a compliment, appreciate the good stuff.
- Filter out the negativity, pause before you lash out and think about what you’re really feeling and why.
- Behave online the way you would in real life. Only ever post something you would say to someone’s face.
- Declutter your social media, declutter your mind.
- Remember, followers are people too.
- Take charge of your social media legacy
Positivity is the new currency
Social media is the communication tool that defines ours and possibly future generations. If we change the way we use it, being more thoughtful and reflective, the ripples might just make a positive change in the world for years to come.
Here’s something to ponder over- the new currency of the internet is positivity - How much are you worth?
(Malini Agarwal is Founder and Creative Director at MissMalini Entertainment)