Lately, we hear a lot about how terrible social media is. It may seem like it has become a place full of angry, opinionated people, and images so filtered that they are damaging perceptions and standards. Those things may be true from time to time, but I’m here to stand up for what’s good about social media.
When my son was born with a rare congenital heart defect, I felt incredibly lost. There were no online resources and even the doctors couldn’t tell me what to expect. In my vast web searches, however, I did find online parent groups full of people who had experienced having a child with medical needs. They offered me advice and support in the face of uncertainty. I don’t know what I would have done without that village.
When the #BlackLivesMatter movement began, I learned from Black mothers on social media what it meant to live in fear for their sons’ lives. The community I found on Facebook and Twitter was different than the people I worked with, grew up with and knew from my neighborhood. They came from all over the world and had different experiences. Their stories helped me evolve into a more accepting, inclusive person.
And, through my work at Nationwide Children's Hospital, I know that we deliver expert resources on health, wellness and safety through social media that can be lifechanging. Many of these topics come from the experiences I have read about online: a mother’s story about a furniture tip-over, a family’s account of losing their child to a flash flood, a mom who fell asleep on top of her baby. These stories, and so many more, are absolutely heartbreaking, but they are saving lives by being shared through social media.
The Internet can offer inspiration, education and support if used correctly. Here are some tips on best practices on social media for parents and kids, alike:
Choose who you follow carefully. Don’t follow someone who only shares filtered selfies; rather, look for people who share a variety of content, which shows they value balance in their lives.
See only the content you want to see. I have lists on Twitter for different groups of people like parents of special needs children, social media professionals and one group that is simply people who make me laugh!
If you don’t like what Uncle Steve has to say about the next election, you don’t have to unfriend him! A quick online search will show you how to mute or “snooze” people for a little while.
Connect with people who have different viewpoints, but don’t argue. Understand that someone’s tone can be misunderstood when they are typing instead of talking.
If you must prove a point, use a trusted, balanced source, and leave it at that.
The above tips have allowed me to navigate social media in healthy and beneficial ways and sharing meaningful content helps combats negativity. I hope you will share something good today!
To find good things to share about behavioral health, follow @OnOurSleeves on Twitter and Facebook or @OnOurSleevesOfficial on Instagram.
Diane Lang is the Director, Social Media for Nationwide Children's Hospital where she leads social media marketing, manages Nationwide Children's consumer-focused blog and directs a complete workforce social media curriculum for a staff of more than 13,000. She also has personal knowledge of pediatric healthcare as her son is an experienced patient.
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