The mighty power of social media has revolutionized the society of today including law enforcement. Has the revolution been profitable? Absolutely. Has it been beneficial? Of course. However, we must not underestimate the negative impact. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram have great potential to do severe damage to your family not to mention your reputation. Once a thought, opinion, or picture is posted, the damage can be done as your ideals and image has potential to be shared outside of your intended audience. Things can backfire, people can get hurt, and friendships can be permanently altered.
It is not uncommon today to see a restaurant full of people who are not engaged in conversation with their dinner guests, but rather engaged in a multitude of electronic conversations. Where has verbal communication gone you ask? It diminished with the evolution of more social media. It has become easier to text than to call someone and say, “Hello.” People are so connected today to their personal communication device that face-to-face communication with their friends and loved ones has greatly decreased. With the lack of communication, we can certainly see potential for relational disintegration.
The connection to our device has become so powerful that we have a difficult time unplugging. People stay up late at night checking the latest Facebook feed, reviewing emails, and texting. This can cause a decrease in sleep and increase in fatigue. Physiologically speaking, the bright light of the phone, iPad or computer can disrupt melatonin production, thus hampering quality sleep. Since we are constantly connected, our time to simply be quiet is nearly eliminated. Further, I have personally witnessed (and experienced) seeing something on Facebook that caused anger or frustration to arise and subsequent emotions to be altered for the worse. As we all know, it can take some time to cool off after being "fired up."
I would be remiss not to mention the potential spousal conflicts that can develop. We are all fully aware of the dangers of secretly communicating with the opposite sex. We can have emotional affairs by reconnecting with old boyfriends or girlfriends. Does temptation exist? Yes, and it is always knocking at the door. Temptation, however, is not the sin…the action regarding it can become sin. Social media is literally a breeding ground for this type of behavior.
Bottom line…use wisdom and common sense when dealing with social media. Along with the no-brainer admonishment not to text and drive, here are a few guidelines which are certain to maximize the social media benefits and minimize the potential harm:
1. Limit personal social media use during your work day unless it is your primary job. Use can be only during breaks. Even during breaks, don’t forget the valuable benefits of verbal communication or even solitude. Though employers have become tolerable, do not let your social media use hamper your performance. You are being paid to work not "surf."
2. Limit your after work use to only 15 minutes. You should be able to successfully catch up in that time or organize email response for the following day.
3. Stop all social media use for at least one hour prior to bed. This time should be used as "wind down" time. Allowing your body to relax will promote deeper and longer sleep.
4. Do not keep your device next to your bed. Keep it in another room. The temptation is too great to conduct a random ‘check.’ It may take a few days to break the "curiosity addiction."
5. Do not communicate with old boyfriends or girlfriends unless your spouse has access to the conversation. If there is communication, there needs to be a valid reason in which your spouse approves.
6. Do not flirt with messages or sexting. This is sure to cause problems over time. Everything is recorded somewhere.
7. Show great discretion when posting, sharing, or liking. Once it is out, you cannot get it back.
8. Do not take out your device during dinner. Enjoy the time and talk. It is downright rude to be on your phone while someone is trying to talk with you.
9. Don’t "creep" on others’ lives. If you are truly interested, call them. Their business is NOT your business. It is time to grow up.
10. Don’t create a bogus account to deceive someone and get close. You may think it is sneaky and smart until it happens to you.
11. Make sure that everything you post is something you would gladly share with your mother, pastor, or most respected leader.
12. Take a social media break weekend. This will be a tough one but I assure you it will pay priceless dividends. You may find that you begin to hear yourself again.
Social media has undoubtedly changed our society forever. We must embrace it with wisdom and care. Technology is advancing at a rocket pace and even faster than we probably imagine. If we don’t effectively manage social media, it will ineffectively manage us. Let discretion, caution, and careful thought be your guides, and you will not go wrong.