How We Should Or Should Not Use Social Networks

This is a companion post to The Disillusionment of Social Networks. If you have not read it, please do, before continuing to read.

What I did not discuss in that post is our expectation from other people about how they should be using social networking or how they should go about their online communication in general.

  • You connect with someone on Facebook, which you use only to share personal stuff, only to find that they use it only to reshare funny or inspiring or (insert your own adjective here) pictures and messages.
  • You follow a “thought leader” on Twitter, only to find the person ranting about the traffic, or politicians, or simply singing praises of other thought leaders, or simply RTing any and all positive mentions of themselves.
  • Someone you follow on Twitter suddenly goes into overdrive, and there are a stream of tweets that drown everything else in your timeline.
  • All you see from your friend/relative on Facebook is the great time he/she is having or has had with great friends. There is no real person behind all the shares, it is all just an image he/she wishes to portray on social media.
  • Someone tweets multiple thoughts on a topic and we think it would have been better if he/she had blogged about it, since the essence of Twitter is its 140 character limit.

Sounds familiar? There are many examples and I won’t bother to enumerate them.

What underlies our disillusionment? Our expectation.

We have very specific ideas about how one should use a social network. When our expectations are not fulfilled, we are disillusioned. As far as our disillusionment is about a social network, it is okay. But often, we cross the line. Often, we are already disillusioned about the person who has not met our expectations of how he/she should use social networks. This is scary and it happens all the time.

We are predisposed to a person who we have met online, but have never met in real life, just because of how that person behaves online.

This is the other side of the Conflict of Online & Offline Identities.

Why should we have expectations about how others should communicate online? Why should we have expectations about how others should use social networks? But we do, just because we are accustomed to using that specific online communication channel in a specific way, and any anomaly offends us as a violation.

If we allow our own specific ideas of online communication and social networking to disillusion ourselves about people, the only thing we end up achieving is distancing ourselves from them.

Instead of online communication being a vehicle for greater connectedness, it can end up disconnecting us from people.

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