How to Use Social Media Sanely

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Tara Sophia Mohr from Wise Living.

We””the bloggers, blog readers, twitterers, people who spend a lot of time on social media””are growing up.

Our relationship with social media is maturing. In the beginning, we just played around and drank it all up.

But more and more of us are finding we now need to consciously create our relationship to social media – to find boundaries and practices that make our engagement with social media work – not just for our businesses, but for our happiness and peace of mind.

This is my list of Social Media Commandments – the guidelines and intentions I’ve set around my use of social media. We each need a list like this. What’s on yours?

  1. Don’t compare. Don’t compare your number of followers, likes, RT’s to others’. When you find yourself thinking comparing thoughts, close the computer, and refocus on your purpose””your big important work that is so much more important than all the ego stuff.
  2. Be transparent and truthful in what you share. At the same time, be sensitive to the little voice inside that says, “Hmmm, no, that thought or experience doesn’t want to put out there for public consumption right now. Keep that one close.”
  3. Take social media relationships offline when you have an authentic interest in doing so. Is there a person you’ve connected with on Twitter or Facebook whose work you really reasonate with? Ask if they’d be up for a Skype chat. Share a laugh with them.
  4. Don’t tweet “me and these three bloggers are having so much fun together right now!” Really, who does that serve? Don’t write the kinds of tweets that might cause others to feel left out, the kind that have caused you to feel pangs of left-out-ness or not-good-enoughness when you’ve read them.
  5. Don’t get lost in the machine. Set an intention. If that intention is “click around for the next 30 minutes and see what I discover,” fine – set a timer and enjoy. But try to avoid “surfing mindlessly” as Gwen Bell puts it.
  6. When you do end up squandering time on social media, don’t make it worse with self-judgment. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, get curious: What happened today that caused that? Was I avoiding something? Did I not have enough contact with people in my day, and was trying to find connection on Twitter as a result? Am I feeling insecure and seeking validation? What might I do differently next time? Curiosity and compassion.
  7. Keep the smart phone far from the bed. In the other room.
  8. Remember that most of the people who really need your work are not hanging out in the oversaturated twitterverse, but in places where what you do isn’t common. Get out of the crowded room and go where there’s a dearth of and a thirst for what you do. Don’t try to shout over lots of shouting.
  9. Watch out for social media “should” thoughts. They are just as pernicious as any other kind of “shoulds.” I should get on this network too. I should post more. I should find a way to get connected to so and so. Find practices that feel good, aligned with your style. You really can build your platform and your business in the unique way that works for you.
  10. Enjoy the sweetness. For me, that’s the unexpected connections and the ability to extend love to people I’ll never meet.  What’s the sweetness and joy in social media for you? Don’t forget to savor that.

Tara Sophia Mohr is writer and coach. A columnist for Huffington Post, she also writes the blog Wise LivingClick here to receive Tara’s free Goals Guide, “Turning Your Goals Upside Down and Inside Out – To Get What You Really Want.”

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  1. Megan Potter says

    Thank you for this, I believe that it actually IS my social media commandments – perfectly said.


  2. says

    I love your questions in #6! It’s so easy for us to judge this behaviour, but I find there’s almost always a true longing behind it, if I go looking for it.

    And I notice sometimes that my “should” thoughts dovetail with the worries that I’m excluding myself or missing the party – especially around my ongoing decision to NOT be on Facebook. My head asks me to revisit this decision constantly, but then my heart and my gut both know it’s just not the right network for me.

    My sweetness is found on Twitter. For some inexplicable reason I fell in love with it instantly and it’s been such a joy to make new connections there and get in on conversations I never would have had otherwise. My (sometimes lonely) home office has been transformed by this “virtual water cooler” and my work is consistently better for the time spent there!

  3. says

    Great insights..understanding that as we mature so must our use of social media.
    Additionally reminding people that our customers are not necessarily where we all are. It reminds of something Thomas Friedman said while being interviewed on NPR “We have to get out of facebook and in peoples faces. The decision makers are not wasting their time on facebook they are having lunches and meeting with other decision makers.”

  4. says

    Ahh. Feeling better – settled back into the heart zone. Thanks for great post! Particularly like the “get out of the crowded room”… validates my ick for social media shouting and love the idea of extending the love to people we may never meet. Sweetness.

  5. says

    Ahh. Feeling better – settled back into the heart zone. Thanks for great post! Particularly like the “get out of the crowded room”… validates my ick for social media shouting and love the idea of extending the love to people we may never meet. Sweetness.

  6. says

    Number 8!!!
    Is so so true. Every time I’m “out in the wild” at a real live networking event I’m almost surprised that everyone isn’t a coach, a marketing consultant or a social media expert. (And I’m *shocked* when there are *none* of these occupations represented at an event.) The actual make up of real people is so different from the circles we hang out in online.

    Every time someone looks at me quizzically and says: “Twitter? I don’t get that.” I think about all the “How to Learn Twitter” people and how they’re missing these great opportunities.

  7. says

    Such good advice, I am new-ish to the blogging world, and very new to the Twitterverse and I often gorge on mindless surfing and come away feeling very bad about myself and what I have to contribute, it seems like it’s all been done by smarter, wittier people and the ‘who do I think I am’ voice in my head gets very loud. And yet it can also be enjoyable and inspirational if I’m in the right head space. Boundaries. Not comparing. Not feeling bad if I do get sucked in to mindlessness, rather asking myself, with kindness, what’s going on? What could I do differently next time? It’s heartening to know others have these same issues, and I’m very grateful for your excellent and compassionate advice. Thanks Tara!

  8. says

    Spot on! I especially love the reminders to get out there where the people who may be needing our services actually live. I know I’ve spent too much time in the virtual world when I feel distanced from my vision and purpose, and when I haven’t connected in a meaningful way with others about what I do and how I do it.

    One thing I’d add to your list is to take a break from Twitter and Facebook. I have done this a few times, varying the length each time, and I have found it to be a huge eye opener. Taking time away from Social Media can help us re-orient ourselves and remember our priorities and perspective. It also helped me remember how to use Social Media more wisely.

    Thanks for another brilliant post.

  9. says

    I second taking a complete break from Twitter and Facebook, the internet in general actually. It’s amazing what pops up in the gap and it’s like taking a vacation. Low level stress drops substantially.

  10. says

    OH my gosh, number 6 really, really resonated with me.

    I’m not so much a twitter person and I’m very good with facebook boundaries but blogs, oh my word, I can easliy spend 3 hours reading and commenting.

    And you are exactly right – I have a deep need to connect with others and yet I don’t feel like I’m getting what I need in real life (dear Lord, send me some good friends who want to connect on the same levels I do) so I spend my time on the blogs.

    Thank you for writing this and thanks to Jen Louden for referencing it :)

  11. says

    Great post! Especially #4. I am so sick of reading “here’s my list of people I follow on twitter” on the bottom of otherwise good articles I’d share–even when it’s people I also follow or think are fabulous.

  12. says

    Amen! I especially love #4. Since I started spending time on Twitter, feelings I haven’t experienced since high school 30 years ago have cropped up anew. There’s the “in” crowd and all kinds of status B.S. going on that I didn’t think grownups engaged in. :)

    Also love #8. Some days I seriously consider unfollowing every marketer, blogger and life coach (not you, of course!) because I can only stand so much of the same noise day after day. It’s so refreshing to interact with people in person locally and talk about something else! And even better, we can say something more substantial than can be contained in 140 characters.

    I like Twitter and appreciate the wonderful connections it has facilitated, but as you explain so well, it needs to be used thoughtfully.

  13. bahiehk says

    Awesome!! I was directed here through Jen Louden’s post.
    so grateful.

    I’ve been coming up with rules lately and am open to new ones (and exceptions) …

    1. no computer in the bedroom (I am breaking it as we speak, oh well. it’s called an exception!)
    2. don’t RT something you haven’t read
    3. notice your feelings, when you are becoming anxious it’s time to unplug and step away
    4. take breaks often. for hours, days or even weeks if needed.
    5. be considerate to others… don’t overwhelm.
    6. Breathe. Chill. Remember what is real and what is virtual.

    So so happy about this new awareness in our community.
    And glad to be able to pitch in.

    Thanks Tara. Thanks Charlie.

  14. says

    Thank you for the tips Sophia. I found not comparing yourself with others a very genuine advice. It can be frustrating at times, but focusing on why you are doing it can help put everything into the right perspectives.

  15. says

    Big yes to #8. I’m busier than ever these days, precisely because I’ve stepped away from spending so much time in the blogosphere and instead connected in real space and real time with real people. I’m also a total twitter-phobe; every time I think I should be doin’ it, doin’ it, doin’ it (like everyone else) I remember the stories I’ve heard. I’m convinced it does a number on lots of people’s self-esteem. Maybe I’m missing out a bit but it will always be there if I change my mind. Oh, and I recently met someone with no twitter, no blog, barely a whiff of a website, who earned close to six figures last year. Bottom line: he’s really good at what he does, and his clients love him. The reminder for me is that when I concentrate on what my clients truly need and work to improve my skills, then my business will grow.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  16. says

    Incredibly wise advice. I love the focus on relationships and what over-immersion might be doing to them. And it’s very hard to avoid self-judgement when you know you’ve spent too long following a hyperlink trail.

  17. says

    Oh – I have been one of those who has been looking for the social media magnet to promote my online business. How good to know that it doesn’t exist!!! How validating. I find social media of any sort incredibly frustrating and it reminds me of hawking my wares in a crowded market – I just can’t hear myself think.

    Thank you for validating my thoughts that this is the wrong venue for my work – other than the occasional phenomenal person that I’ve met there and connected with directly!

  18. says

    I love the idea of using comparison (ouch!) as a cue to get away from the computer and reconnect with purpose. And it’s so easy to get snagged by “shoulds”! Thanks for this clear-headed, warm-hearted reminder that we can each do social media in a way that feels good to us, and it doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s style.

  19. says

    ” Don’t write the kinds of tweets that might cause others to feel left out, the kind that have caused you to feel pangs of left-out-ness or not-good-enoughness when you’ve read them.”
    That one really hit home for me… that my lady friends and I just had a girls night out to see Gnomeo & Juliet. We passed around the camera and so there were plenty of pics to share this morning on FB. I’m sorry that made anyone else feel left out. That never even crossed my mind. I was thinking I could just be an inspiration for them to want to reach out and do something like it, (because it was a lot of fun) instead of feeling jealous that I didn’t ask them to go as well. I’ll try to be more sensitive about that in the future. In the mean-time, I’ll pray for grace, focus and resilience.

  20. says

    I like how you round it all up. Am heartened by the comments, and the hunger for real connection I see in them. Musicians have to be really discerning, too–the issue of comparisons and feeling pressure to generate “buzz” can take up brain space better used for creating and really reaching out.

  21. says

    Wonderful! I totally agree with your 10 commandments, here! I’ve met some wonderful people online and on blogs that have been very helpful to me, but the pressure to do more, say more, be more is just too much! Thank you so much for bring sanity to this new social media pressure cooker.

  22. says

    Wonderful list! “Don’t compare” is definitely number one for me – and along with not comparing followers, RTs, etc. I also struggle not to compare missions. Twitter is so saturated with high-power individuals, it’s often easy to get caught up in their enthusiasm and think you should be going the same direction they are.

    On second thought, perhaps that could be an 11th commandment – Don’t let yourself be swept away!

  23. says

    LOVE this post. It’s a good reminder that I’m not the only one who feels left out, peruses Twitter looking for nothing, etc etc. Good to have some rules and guidelines to stick to. Definitely saving this and sharing with my friends! :)

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