5 Simple Rules for Avoiding Social Media Regrets

You’ve already put your profiles on private lockdown, and you know that some day your boss could end up finding that stuff. That’s amateur hour. How about all the other social media regrets that can crop up? Here are five simple rules for steering clear of them.

1) Let it stew for an hour — or a day — before you post. If it’s a funny and non-controversial cat video, please, by all means, post immediately. If it’s a really big deal thing to be saying out loud, something you’d have trouble standing in front of a class at school and saying… hold off a second. Impulses are like little brain itches that you just want to scratch RIGHT NOW, and social media is so, so always ON, we know. But if you can hold off on scratching for a little bit, the itch might die down and you might realize, “oh, actually, I don’t really need/want to say that.” It’s way easier to hold back when the itch has passed. This is ESPECIALLY true in arguments. So whenever you feel yourself typing especially angrily or coming up with the most horrible name to call someone — when you feel almost like there’s an itch you have to scratch — that’s a good time to put the phone or computer down and take a twenty minute walk. By the time you get back, your head may have cleared enough to make that post or reply seem not-worth-it.

2) Be assertive. If you’re having a feeling you want to share, don’t vaguebook about it, just say it. If for some reason you don’t want to say it directly, maybe you don’t need to post about it.

3) Know your audience. If you’re the kind of person who’s “friends” with a bunch of people you don’t really know that well on social media, go through your list and pick out a handful of your connections who are the most unknown to you, or the people you are the most unsure about whether they’re good people or not. Make a list of those people and save it somewhere accessible. Then, whenever you’re about to post a particularly personal photo or sentiment, look at that list and ask yourself if you would want those people to have access to that thing. If the answer is no, skip the post. (Or change your requirements for friend request acceptance. Or make a more selective list and only post to that group.)

4) Forgive yourself. Making dumb mistakes on social media is pretty much a rite of passage. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful, but it does mean that if you do end up feeling embarrassed by one of your posts, you’re in the company of pretty much everyone else on the planet with a social media account. Oh well.

5) Admit your mistakes, and apologize when you mess up. No biggie, we all say things we regret. When you acknowledge that you did so, it really disarms people who might be angry about what you said. You can always delete the post and just say, “I said something when I was feeling heated that I didn’t really mean. I’m sorry.” If you can be willing to listen to the people who were hurt and apologize for hurting them specifically, even better.

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