How to Use Social Media for Good

A “Novel” Approach to Cleaning Up the Internet

On one hand, it allows us to meet new friends and stay in touch with people from all over the world. On the other, it makes it even easier to harass and troll others with differing opinions.

The more I think about it, this isn’t necessarily a social media problem: it’s a human problem. It seems like for a majority of people, empathy isn’t a default setting. Instead, their only goal is to push their own opinion with the misguided assumption that someone has to be right and someone has to be wrong.

I’m not sure how this happened. Many people say trolls and bullies have existed since the beginning of time and the Internet has only made it easier. Others claim social media has created a new wave of online harassment thanks to the lack of face-to-face interaction.

Whatever the reason, it’s apparent this problem is nowhere close to being solved. In fact, thanks to human nature, this might be a problem without a solution.

Personally, I am an eternal optimist, which means I can’t help but disagree with this notion. I think the solution has been there since the beginning of social media:

Use social media the way it was intended: to connect with others, share ideas, and make the world a little smaller.

At first glance, this doesn’t sound all that revolutionary. That’s because it isn’t. It’s something we have forgotten along the way.

We’re too busy using social media to spread hate, criticize others, and sell people shit no one actually needs. If we have any hope of saving humanity, this has to stop.

Here are a few “simple” suggestions to try when using social media for good:

1. Instead of blindly criticizing someone else’s political beliefs, we should reach out, start productive conversations, and do our best to practice empathetic listening.

Example: You come across a controversial post from someone who supports Donald Trump. Instead of lashing out, check your gut reaction and ask if you can DM them a few honest questions. Use the following conversation to learn about another human being who seems to be fundamentally different from you. You may even realize the value of agreeing to disagree.

2. Instead of bullying others for being different, we should embrace this difference and learn about the world from their perspective.

Example: You see a post from someone you went to high school with and it seems like their struggling with personal issues. Take a second to put yourself in their shoes. Reach out and ask if they want to grab a drink or coffee sometime. A single act of kindness can make a big difference to one person.

3. Instead of judging others for sharing their ideas, we should have the courage to share our own ideas and then have productive conversations around how to help each other.

Example: You see people sharing blog posts left and right and you want to do the same. Reach out to these people and ask how they got started. You’ll be surprised at how willing they are to help. All you have to do is ask.

4. Instead of selling false promises of wealth and success, we should genuinely share information and knowledge in order to help others.

Example: You’re in the middle of starting your own company and you want to start selling consulting packages. Consider reaching out to others in order to facilitate an online community where you provide value by answering their questions before asking them to buy anything. Not only will you develop meaningful connections; you’ll have a better idea of what they actually need.

I’ll be honest. These suggestions aren’t easy.

It takes time, energy, and effort to actually give a damn about someone else. Considering we will all spend over 5 years of our lives on social media, we have a responsibility to make sure this is time well-spent for everyone involved.

Otherwise, Russia using social media to undermine our democracy will be the least of our future problems.

William Frazier is a designer, writer, and founder who blogs about making ideas happen at The Imperfectionist. You can find him on Twitter.

I’m a designer and writer who enjoys making people smile.

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