Facebook is for complaining. Twitter is for bragging. Instagram is for envying.
So tweeted James Duke on 27th December. I don’t know who James Duke is. I saw it because the tweet was retweeted by someone I follow. A further 65 people also thought it was worth sharing, and 126 ‘favourited’ it.
If you don’t speak ‘twitter’, basically that means that lots of people felt his tweet echoed their experience.
In my experience, Facebook is more commonly accused of being used for bragging. It is the platform on which people paint an unnaturally rosy picture of their lives, posting pictures of their perfect holidays and their kids’ impressive achievements. Twitter is often used for making complaints to or about companies, as you can tag them, thus ensuring that your complaints get heard both by the company and by all your followers (which can be a very effective tool for shaming the company into putting the situation right).
Whichever way round it is, the point remains: many people’s experience of social media is a negative one, with their friends and the people they follow using it to moan, criticise or brag, on one forum or another.
I replied to James’ tweet saying ‘wow, you need some new friends!’, because of course ‘social media’ doesn’t create those complaints or boasts, people do.
I am blessed to be able to say that my experience of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been markedly different from James’. My Facebook friends are neither complainers nor artificially rosy, but use the site to share life together. They share their joys, of course, but they share their sorrows, too (as appropriate) – not to complain, but to express grief and seek support. I love to see friends who are separated by oceans coming together to love and support one another in times of need – and I was recently the very grateful recipient of that love when I was in hospital with pancreatitis, and had words of love and assurances of prayer flooding in from across the globe. My friends are honest about their lives and struggles, and share resources, articles, recipes and laughs just as they would if they were in a room together, not floating about somewhere in cyberspace.
Twitter, on the other hand, for me is less about sharing life and more about joining together in a global community to engage with all that is going on in the world. My twitter highlight in 2014 was the Eurovision Song Contest. For some reason this somewhat cheesy competition captured the public imagination this year, and I followed along on twitter as I watched. Reading and engaging with witty comments from around the world made the whole experience so much more fun, and I felt as though I were part of a larger whole, not simply sitting alone in my living room watching TV.
If someone is too critical, too negative, too sweary or otherwise unpleasant to be around on social media, I will unfollow them, or block their posts from my timeline. I don’t know what I’d do if they were too boastful – thankfully, it’s not something I can accuse any of my friends of.
Social media is made up of people. It can only reflect the people who use it, and though it is already a vast and cumbersome beast, those of us who use it have a real opportunity to shape the landscape. If you are making New Year’s Resolutions, why not think about your online presence and how you’re using it? Do you interact online the way you would in real life? Are your Facebook and twitter interactions characterised by caring about others, sharing things of interest and encouragement, and bearing one another’s burdens? When others share their joys, do you rejoice with them or react with envy and cynicism? When they share their sorrows, do you weep with those who weep or rush on by with barely a thought? When people moan and complain, do you join in, or give an encouraging word to help them see another perspective?
If you’re one of my friends on social media, I’m happy to say that you already do these things wonderfully. I know I could do better on at least some of them, though, so let’s resolve together to make the world of social media a better place in 2015, shall we?
Picture Credit: Infographic vector designed by Freepik