5 Tips for Being a Better Social Media Stranger
From Likes to Shares and Retweets to Pins, information posted on the internet can go viral with a blink of an eye. Granted, most ‘information’ that does go viral happens to be in the form of celebrity selfies and adorably cute babies/puppies/kittens, but this new, limitless access to information can be terribly overwhelming for the underprepared. Social media has been the agent that binds us all. It grants individual access to others in a very personal way. By publicly posting information on a social profile, you grant others this very access.
Social media has played a large role in preparing for my thru hike. I was able to learn about various sponsorship opportunities, enter and win contests, offer social media publicity in exchange for donations, and blog in a very public space. The decision to utilize social media during my hike is a personal one and I am very happy I with my choice. I support those who choose to unplug just as much as those who are blogging and Instagramming every step of the way. HYOH.
While building up my social profiles, I had the opportunity to interact with a number of new people. A majority of these interactions were positive. I formed relationships with people who are in similar situations to me and learned from those who have gone before me. I was challenged by those who think differently and offered advice when I could. This social community has access into my hiking experience and I’m happy to share my journey with them. Social media sites allow conversation between people who share common interest but also opens the doors to a world full of opposing thoughts and ideas. The internet makes it easy to voice opinions and people often post impulsively without giving second thought to how their words affect others. My experience with social media has been positive. I’ve learned that the haters will keep on hatin’, and I will keep on ignoring them.
I’ve come up with a set of guidelines for future thru-hikers who wish to put themselves out there, and they are listed below. Our future hikers don’t deserve the torment of trolls. Not only is it bad Internet etiquette, it’s a poor representation of the warm, friendly, encouraging, AT community.
5 Tips for Being a Better Social Media Stranger
1. Offer advice only when asked. Sally just added a photo of her new trail runners with a caption “loving my new shoes!!” Do you a) like the photo, b) comment saying ‘ooh! super cute!!’ or c) comment saying ‘those shoes suck, you should get boots that are more sturdy! If you answered A or B, bravo. If you answered C, learn from the popular motto: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. If Sally had posted a photo asking for shoe suggestions, this would be a whole different story. But she didn’t, so stop runnin’ your mouth.
2. If you don’t like it, leave. You can’t control how other people act online, but you can control how you deal with it. Tired of the Internet troll who posts controversial, offensive comments? Block them. Sick of seeing Instagram selfies? Unfollow them. The internet is a shared community space that belongs to everyone. Build up a community that supports you, not one that adds drama to your life!
3. Don’t be an asshole. I can’t tell you how many random Facebook messages I’ve gotten from complete strangers telling me that hiking the AT as a solo woman is reckless and that subjecting myself to the torments of mother nature is unladylike. There have been many women to solo thru-hike, and suggesting that something I want to do isn’t ladylike makes YOU an asshole. If you’re not sure whether the comment is asshole-like, err on the side of not saying anything (see: rule 1). If you’re an online bully, you’re the worst. Knock it off. Just because you have access to various social profiles doesn’t give you the right to bombard the internet with your rage. Chill out.
4. Don’t let it take over your life. Seriously! The internet is super addicting and the more time you spend on it the closer you are to getting sucked into the vortex of the world wide web. While I do plan on using social media and technology on trail, I also plan on being unplugged. Social media sites allow humans to interact with each other behind a screen. Why not try interacting with humans face to face? I hear it’s pretty cool. Plus, poking someone is way more fun in real life than it is online.
5. Stop sending Candy Crush invites. I don’t wan’t to play. Unrelated, but for the love of GOD, please stop.
There ya have it folks, 5 friendly tips for the social media strangers of the world. In the end, the best thing to remember is that social media sites are just in fact that, social. They help stimulate camaraderie with an online community of cyber friends on a PUBLIC platform. Sometimes cyber bullies creep into your conversations and stir the pot, sometimes they don’t. Whether or not you choose to use social media during your thru hike is completely up to you. F the haters, being nice is cool. See ya on the trail, I’ll be the one jamming to Beyoncé on my pocket computer.
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