As each day passes, I’m reminded how social media boundaries are necessary. Before I get into it, the reason I decided to write this post was after I saw what some of the ladies I follow on social media were going through, and what I myself went through.

Why are you on social media?
We all use SM for different reasons and that’s okay, but we need to remember to respect the next person and their time without putting selfish expectations on them.

I use Twitter for tech related stuff since I joined the network (2008). I’ve always followed people within my field, which has expanded a little but largely remains a work tool for me. 

Thus, whatever interaction I have with people who I know professionally, I expect it to remain that way. I feel uncomfortable to read stuff from said folk when they overshare or get too personal on a public platform. If they share long personal threads, I usually skip over it. 

Image credit: Shutterstock

When things get awkward
A while back things got awkward when someone I knew professionally tagged me in her personal issues. She went through something terrible and I sympathized with her, like a lot of people. 

What followed was being tagged in subsequent admin issues, and then a barrage of private messages. I didn’t ask about it so I felt it was unfair for her to lay these things on me. I’m not a therapist or a close friend and was put in a position that made me extremely uncomfortable to an extent I stopped checking my phone for a few hours.

I ended up getting good advice from a friend, which in turn helped me send a kindly worded message to her because naturally I didn’t want to hurt her feelings but needed to make sure it was a firm message.

Boundaries need to be in place
This is where boundaries need to come in. At the time this happened I had a lot going on, never mind not having the emotional capacity to deal with someone else’s load. 

But what I was going through during that time should not matter; it’s not acceptable for people on SM to tag those they don’t know well enough to take on their problems. The same goes for competition posts, which I saw being highlighted by Fehmz. I can’t even begin to imagine how spammy that must be, to be tagged constantly.

Similarly, if you feel strongly about a specific issue, don’t expect all your followers to take on the same cause, or expect people “you look up to” on SM/the ones you deem to have clout to highlight and speak up about it. Because guess what? Being a follower doesn’t give you that entitlement. 

Everybody has their own battles to fight, their own lives to live and whatever else life throws at them. Heck, they don’t even need to be going through anything in life to justify this expectation from a virtual stranger (can we not get precious about the term stranger?). 

Permission to slide into DMs
If you’re not sure if someone you follow would be interested in your plight, perhaps it would be best to DM or get hold of them privately and ask. That would definitely go a long way, and not put people in awkward positions publicly, which in some cases could leave them open to being attacked or harassed by others. 

Staying in your lane
We know many influencers and personalities on social media with big followings usually means – if you do your job properly – an engaged audience. That doesn’t mean they have the necessary skills/tools to manage your digital emotional breakdown, or fight for a cause you are passionate about, or promote your business simply because you asked. Things like this largely depend on your relationship with the individual. Instead of asking for a RT for awareness from someone you barely know, follow due process and go the legal/medical route instead. And if the person asks you not to tag them in stuff, perhaps listen and respect that.

Also, let’s not bash others for what they do on social media. If you don’t like what you see online, there is an unfollow and block button. Use it. It’s way less drama instead of coming across as petty and complaining about what other people do online and how ‘wrong’ it is. If anything, it makes you look insecure. 

Take a stand
I turned off most of my social media notifications in 2015 because my reasons were to not let strangers on the internet dictate what I do with my time. It still stands today. You can read that post here: https://www.nafisa.co.za/why-ive-turned-off-notifications/ – the only difference today is that I also turned off push notifications for RT, favs, or any interaction from people with new accounts and those with a default photo.

The next time you want to tag an account on social media for a personal issue, ask yourself why, and if they are the right people to tag (i.e. a professional in the field you seek assistance). There is a good chance not everyone feels as strongly about certain issues as you, and they should not be put in positions where they feel obligated to do something. They don’t even owe you an explanation.

Be more mindful.

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4 Comments
 
  1. Travis 02/05/2019 at 11:07 Reply

    Sound advice, except for “stay in your lane”. There are no lanes on social media. The whole point of being on social media to to stray from your lane. It would be a very dull world otherwise.

    • Nafisa Akabor 02/05/2019 at 12:09 Reply

      That depends on how you interpret what I said. You can have discussions and debates, etc but to decide how and what other people should use their accounts for is not on.

  2. Aneesa 02/05/2019 at 11:54 Reply

    I couldn’t agree more about just unfollowing instead of insulting and publicly shaming. People have forgotten that social media is a conversation and that we can remove ourselves from the conversation any time we want without resorting to being petty. I’m actually working on an article similar to this so it was awesome to read that we share the same views!

    • Nafisa Akabor 02/05/2019 at 12:10 Reply

      “Social media is a conversation” – love this. Ah, as always, I can’t wait to read your post!

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