Friday, January 20, 2017

10 Questions to Ask Your Social Media Self

I almost choked on my cookie. During a lunch conversation, a friend told me about a recent job interview where his future employer explained that they had already researched him and his family.

How did they do this? They examined the past five years of his Facebook account … every post, every comment, every share, every photo. They knew about his kids, his love for football, and even some of his pet peeves.

My first thought: “Note to self—check your Facebook security settings ASAP.” But my second thought was that this should not be a scary scenario.

In fact, this episode is not uncommon. I’ve heard a number of stories of millennials who have been rejected by potential employers or fired by their company due to personal rants, inappropriate photos or questionable comments on their social media past and present. Full disclosure, I’ve “Facebook stalked” a few applicants myself to get a glimpse of who they are outside of their resume.

I am personally grateful that social media didn’t exist when I was a teenager or young adult. None of us would want our youthful indiscretions and na├»ve, know-it-all comments captured for the whole world to see for years to come.

But social media, for better or worse, captures all kinds of details about who we are … or who we want people to think we are.

On several occasions in recent years, I’ve learned my lesson about social media. I’ve had to go back and delete an embarrassing post or apologize for an immature comment. On my better days, I’ve caught myself just before posting that self-promoting tweet or sarcastic comment and slowly hit the backspace key until nothing was left but the cursor. In fact, I’ve found myself posting far less on Facebook and Twitter over the last year or so for this very reason. Like Thumper’s father told him, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

Maybe even more subtle are the motivations behind our posts. Sometimes we’re trying to prop ourselves up as something we’re not. Other times, we’re venting anger about some inconsequential topic. Or maybe we just want people to know how clever we are. Our motivations are often more transparent to others than we think.

Perhaps you’ve found yourself in a similar place, regretting that social media rant, self-indulgent photo, inconsiderate comment or conspicuous humblebrag. One way I’ve found to guard against this is to regularly take inventory of my social media posts. Every now and then, I look back over my Facebook and Twitter feeds for the previous month or two and ask myself a series of questions to evaluate what I’m broadcasting to the world.

Here are 10 of the most common questions I ask myself:
  1. If someone only knew me from my social media posts, who would they think I am and would they be right?
  2. What do I tweet/share about the most?
  3. What do these posts say about my general personality and mood?
  4. What do these posts say about what I enjoy and value?
  5. What do these posts say about who/what I trust in?
  6. Is there anything embarrassing or something I wish I hadn’t said?
  7. Do I need to apologize to anyone for a post or comment?
  8. How well did I point people to Jesus?
  9. What was my motivation behind these posts? Was there anything I posted as a way to make me look better than I am or as a way to impress people?
  10. What changes do I need to make in my social media habits?
These questions dive deep into our use of social media. Self-evaluation can be one of the hardest habits to form, but God can use it for our sanctification. Sometimes I come away from these reflections humbled and repentant. Other times, I’ve come away relieved that my posts have been positive, accurate, and helpful.

So take a few minutes to scroll through your feeds and ask these questions. You just might be surprised what you’ll find.

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