The Internet is a wonderful if confusing world – and that’s why you sometimes need to be pointed in the right direction. Lucky for you, some of us spend far too much time online and logged in – and that wealth of experience translates into some social networking know-how. Consider Miss Netiquette (who you can reach at firstname.lastname@example.org) your guide to Web manners, and this week, she’s going to give you some tips on how to dive into social media without losing your self respect.
Using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social sites is a lot of fun. But looking at the digital highlight reels from other people’s lives can make you feel like yours isn’t good enough, or like you have to compete with your friends to have the most picture-perfect life. A lot of our behavior on social media is driven by a genuine desire to connect with others, network, and have fun, but sometimes we get a little too caught up in perfecting our online personas. Self-promotion has its place in social media – and while the occasional selfie won’t turn you into a raging narcissist, it’s really easy to get swept up into craving that positive feedback loop that likes, favorites, and comments provide, so much so that you’ll start posting stuff just to get likes instead of stuff you like.
The following questions all share a theme: they reminded me that there’s a fine line between putting yourself out there and putting your self respect below your need to be seen.
Dear Miss Netiquette: So I’m a 16 year old guy and I got an Instagram account yesterday. I’ve posted three pics, all of myself (only one a selfie though) and I don’t in any way want to look narcissistic! And like most people my age I want to become uberfamous by Instagram. I’m the last person to boast but I am pretty good looking, so people wouldn’t wince with disgust upon seeing a photo of me, but I’m also quite into photography. Not with my phone or compact camera, but proper ‘semi pro’ stuff. So anyways I just wanted to see if you had any advice for me to start my Instagram days in a positive way and aim make my account appear far from begging for followers, but somehow having its own impressive amount of followings, due to the genuine content of my photos.
There are a number of ways you can organically boost engagement on Instagram; Digital Trends covers it in our guide to getting Instagram famous, but I’ll summarize quickly for you: Use relevant hashtags, find small communities of like-minded IG users, and engage with them (oh, and don’t overwhelm people by posting too many pictures a day).
You don’t say what sort of photography you specialize in, but if it’s landscapes, for instance, look for groups that are also really into that. Look for popular Instagram users you respect and reach out to them.
And of course, don’t take it too seriously. The desire to be recognized is an extremely human impulse, and it doesn’t mean you’re narcissistic. You can work on cultivating your profile, but make sure you’re also working on cultivating more than just a collection of images of your life – work on living your actual life by studying, spending time with IRL friends, and engaging in hobbies beyond persona curating.
Dear Miss Netiquette: I take a lot of pictures of myself and put them on Instagram because I want to be a model. I am a 17 year old from Minnesota and there’s not much for me to do here, so I hope that Instagram will help people in New York and bigger cities notice me. People have already started commenting a lot, and a talent agent commented and asked for my email. Then they asked if I could email full body shots. I am worried that it’s a scam artist because I can’t find them on Google.
Any reputable talent agent will be able to provide you with plenty of proof that they are who they say they are. Politely ask if you can verify their credentials before you do anything. I don’t know exactly what you mean when you say “full body” shot, but absolutely do not send them photos of yourself undressed or in your underwear. If they just mean that they want a head-to-toe photo, that’s less sketchy, but again, do not send anything until you verify that they are who they say they are. I’d recommend talking this over with your parents as well. Make sure you don’t give any personal information to this person until you have confirmed that they are an actual talent agent. There are a lot of total dirtbags online.
Dear Miss Netiquette: My little sister posts selfies on Facebook and Instagram every single day, sometimes multiple times a day. Occasionally she’s with a friend, but they’re always the same tacky front-facing camera shots, often in the bathroom. I’m embarrassed for her but I don’t want to offend her.
Listen, you and your sister are different people. And no matter how much you hate her constant selfie-taking, you’re not in charge of her social media accounts. If you want her to think you’re a dick, go ahead and tell her you find her pictures embarrassing. Even if you phrase it nicely (“people my age don’t really like it when our Facebook friends post a bunch of pictures in a row”) she’s probably not going to be super receptive, especially if you aren’t close. As long as she’s not posting naked pictures or photos of herself smoking weed or engaging in illegal activities, I’d say just block her stories from your News Feed and get on with your life.
Dear Miss Netiquette: I am home for the summer, and I just finished sophomore year. My parents required me to be friends with them on Facebook and they said they’re going to stop paying for my phone if I post any photos of myself in my bikini or with guys they don’t know. I think they’re being psycho. I am 20 years old! Can they even do that?
They’re definitely being overprotective, but guess what? If you don’t like it, get a job and pay for your own damn phone.
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