It only takes one click to reveal your character. Just one click, and anyone in the world has access to the content that exists on your social media profiles. Every status you write, picture you post, and article you share leaves a permanent trail often referred to as your social media footprint. Whether you realize it or not, the trail you leave behind says a lot about who you are. Now that social media is so prevalent in all of our lives, it is essential to ask yourself the following question, "What does my social media presence reveal about my character?"
The average person spends 2 hours a day on social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and more. That’s 14 hours per week, 56 hours a month, and nearly 672 hours a year. These statistics probably seem like just numbers, but remember this: 5 years and 4 months. The average 2 hours per day you spend on social media adds up to 5 years and 4 months of your lifetime.
Since so much of our lives today are spent online, there is a need for character development that extends beyond our words and actions. Who we are and how we treat others is just as important face-to-face as it is online. In order to build a better world, we have to first take individual responsibility for what we are posting. When we embody character online, we set a positive example for present and future generations.
Here are 5 tips for improving social media character.
Recall a time when someone misinterpreted the content you posted online. What were the factors that contributed to the misunderstanding? Most likely, your message wasn’t as clear to the other person as you thought. Without the assistance of voice inflections and nonverbal cues, interactions through a phone or computer screen can easily be misunderstood.
For this reason alone, it is important to be clear and conscious of what you are putting out there. Before pressing the “publish” button, proofread your post for misinterpretation pitfalls. Do your best to avoid being vague by clearly stating your message. If you can think of one person who might not understand what you are posting, chances are, that individual isn’t the only one in the dark. Being transparent reflects well upon your character. The more straightforward you are, the more likely you are to be viewed as a person with honorable intentions.
When it comes to social media, you can hurt others without even trying. Taking the time to review your posts and their underlying meanings is part of treating others with respect. You never know who might take offense to what you post, so being considerate can prevent unintentional hurt feelings. Always ask yourself, “Would I say this to someone in person?” If the answer is no, it’s probably best that it isn’t said online.
Disengage with negativity
“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” This tried-and-true phrase is key to demonstrating proper online etiquette. As tempting as it may be to comment on the politically charged Facebook rant that’s populating your newsfeed, do your best to resist the urge. Negativity breeds negativity, so adding more hostility to the mix will only worsen the problem.
Instead of contributing to negative content, choose to disengage. One of the benefits of social media is that you have the option to keep scrolling. It’s too bad we can’t do this face-to-face, because it’s a lot easier to remove yourself by closing an app on your phone than it is to walk away. Take the high road to preserve your positive character.
By being sincere and demonstrating good character, you can mold your social media footprint into a positive representation of your true self. You have a choice in regard to the trail you are leaving behind. That being said, checking your moral compass matters (is there an app for that?).
Just as you might think before you speak or act in person, think through your words and actions online - are you being honest and trustworthy? Do your words and interactions show respect and care? How you embody these character traits determines how you are viewed by others online. It’s up to you to decide whether or not your social media presence upholds your integrity.
Embodying good character online doesn’t mean that you have to pretend to be someone that you are not. In fact, the reality is quite the opposite. Your character is who you are. Social media is the perfect outlet to express that. All that you share creates an electronic blueprint of your individual character strengths - articulated through your unique opinions, passions, likes/dislikes, and so much more.
Setting a positive example in the media doesn’t mean you have to abandon all content you want to post. It just means choosing the content that best serves the interest of yourself and others. When you take a character-based approach to social media, you have the ability to express yourself and positively encourage others to embrace who they are through their own online profiles.After all, if we are going to spend 5 years and 4 months of our lives on social media, why not spend those years being true to ourselves and respectful to others?
Madeline is a contestant in the Miss America Organization, and she will compete for the position of Miss Ohio in June 2018. Over the last year, Madeline has been advocating her personal platform #Character: A Social Movement. Her mission is to empower individuals to develop character through their words, actions, and media. As a member of Character.org, Madeline strives to inspire character development across all generations.