Sharing is Caring, Unless It's Your Sadness on Social Media

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The results are in: what you see on social media affects your mood.  Last year, Facebook controversially altered 700,000 users feeds, filtering only positive images/posts or negative ones and gauged how this affected the users who viewed them.  And. It. Did.

If our mood is so easily influenced by how others think and feel, then why are we sharing so much of our misery?  What does it say about us if we spend more time whining about the rain ruining our planned trip to the park than genuinely enjoying the time we still get to spend with our family, even if it takes place indoors?  

Sharing is great, but we've clearly taken it above and beyond any level the creators of social media intended.  Positivity is contagious but, clearly, so is our negativity.  It's an easy enough concept to swallow.  You're driving down the highway when a guy speeds up from behind you and cuts you off with inches to spare.  You yell and scream, but he can't hear you.  You turn off of the highway and instead of letting the lady standing on the street corner cross, you plow on through.  On a normal occasion, you would have been more than happy to let her cross; you'll still get to where you're going faster than she will.

So, how can we reduce our "Negativity Footprint" on the Internet?  Here's some ideas I've devised to encourage only positive posts flooding your News Feed.

Evaluate Your Posts

1.  Does this post serve only as a sounding board to blast the bad things in my life?
It feels good to rant.  I am a ranter and can rattle on with the best of them.  If you've had enough of listening to me, I can find someone else knew to start with and start all over again.  Calling someone on the phone and ranting is one thing; there's no transcript preserved until the end of time to remind me of every sad thing I had to say.  Twitter doesn't give you that option.  You can delete what you said, but that imprint you left on the Internet is out there floating in the ether.  Ranting can clear your mind but if you have to go back and read what you read, you're bringing yourself back to that place.

2.  Am I really just trying to find an excuse to talk about myself?
If you find yourself answering yes to this I really need to tell you to delete this one or do you need me to say it?  Okay, all right.  DELETE THIS POST.  Just hold down the backspace key all the way to the top.  I have faith you can find ways to talk about yourself that don't make you sound like a whiner.

3. Will this post make me cringe one year from now?
With the recent Facebook launch of the "On This Day" app, your posts from the dawn of Facebook are there in all their glory for you to agonizingly relive.  I am personally afflicted with the "heavy emo song lyric" status past.  It's gut wrenching.  I want to slap Jen circa 2008 and remind her that ALL of her followers can see that post.  Not just him.  (Isn't there always a him when you're 19?)  And what's more likely is that they are seeing it and getting the message while he hasn't even logged into Facebook for the past three weeks.  Picture yourself in the future hanging your head in shame and humiliation and it quickly becomes much easier to avoid sharing your sadness/anger/embarrassment.  

Remember the Last Negative Post You Read

The guy who parked next to you in high school's last post detailed the line he stood in all day long at the DMV only to exit the building and find his car was flat and there is absolutely positively no one in this world having a worse/more difficult life/day then he is.

Insert painful wince here.  Am I going to tell him or are you that there are children starving somewhere?  When you're in a bad mood, it rarely helps to hear that someone out there has it worse than you.  Sure, it's true, but it doesn't really change much.  I think instead if we remembered the reaction we had to the last time someone whined loudly, we'd be less likely to broadcast our own complaints.

Take Into Account How Much Time You've Thought About This

Social media is all about the now.  If you have to spend this much time trying to figure out whether this post is worthy, then the answer is it isn't.  Pure and simple.

Unfollow the Negative Nancy

Since it's already been proven that the junk our friends are posting bums us out, remove it from your News Feed.  Unfollow Negative Nancy or click that little arrow above the post and request that Facebook hides these types of posts from that particular friend.  Facebook tracks the posts and pages you pay most attention to and will place these front and center on your News Feed in an attempt to keep you clicking away.  If you can't see the bad posts, then Facebook can't publish them for you.  Design your own positive News Feed!


Think twice before you complain about your car troubles or frustrating coworker on social media and instead share a beautiful sunset.  Post about the guy who pulled over and helped you change your tire.  Remind your followers, and yourself, that there are good people in the world.  And you're one of them!

Interested in reading more on the study mentioned above?  Check it out here: Detecting Emotional Contagion in Massive Social Networks

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