Science

Social media: 10 ways to avoid sparking family feuds

With everyone from grandparents to tweens using social media, family gatherings don't happen only around the table. They also take place online. Here are 10 tips for keeping family life civilized.

Tips for keeping things cool online and around the dinner table

It's important to have an open and honest conversation with family members about social media tools. Not everyone uses these apps in the same way. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

With everyone from grandparents to tweens using social media, family gatherings don't only happen around the table. They also take place online.

This week, the advocacy group Media Smarts released a report about digital literacy in Canadian classrooms. But it's not only kids who need lessons on digital etiquette, adults could benefit too.

The fastest growing demographics on Facebook are parents and grandparents. Adult Facebook users are also engaging with Facebook more and more and visiting the site multiple times each day.

So that means that younger people are migrating out of Facebook in search of online spaces to escape their older relatives.

Still, if you want to be friends with your relatives on your favourite social media site, here are some tips.  

1. Everyone needs a little space

 Part of growing up is trying on different identities, styles and interests.

Previous generations were able to make mistakes without every misstep being documented and shared, but that's challenging today under the magnifying lens of social media.

There is a balance between managing safety concerns and privacy online; it is possible to teach young people to be cautious social media users without policing their every keystroke.

2. Open up offline, too

Have an honest conversation with family members about social media tools.

For example, some people use Snapchat to share fun posts and silly jokes with friends, while others use the app to get reports posted by mainstream news agencies.

Explain to your family how you use a platform, whether it's for work or personal reasons, what kinds of people are included in your network, and what kinds of information you are comfortable sharing. That way you can save a lot of heartache and embarrassment.  

Most social media tools can be used by most groups of people. However, be conscious of who you are adding to your group in these spaces. (Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg)
3. Am I too old for this app?

If you wouldn't take grandma to the nightclub, it wouldn't make sense to invite her to browse your Tinder profile. (But wait a second: She may have some valuable insights if you keep picking the wrong types.)

Most social media tools can be adapted for use by people of many ages and interests. Just be conscious of who you are adding to your group of friends in these spaces. A person of any age can go to a party, but you may not want to attend the same party as your 15-year-old niece — or grandma.

4. Ask first, post later

If you are invited to be part of a family member's social media circle, respect their privacy concerns.

If you are in doubt about what to post, ask them.

Trends like Throwback Thursday are fun ways to share old photos but they can also trigger bad memories. You may think your friend's awkward prom photo is a hoot but for them it may be a painful reminder of a time they would rather not relive.  

5. Not everyone wins the Life Lottery

Facebook and Instagram often seem to be entirely made up of wedding photos, sonograms, baby photos, new job posts and engagement announcements. No one posts photos of themselves home alone on Saturday night in sweatpants eating ice cream from the container as they binge-watch Netflix.

Facebook actually makes us depressed, because of the social expectations it can impose. Having family online compounds this pressure. Mom wants you to have a baby because all her friends are sharing photos with their new grandchildren.

When your life is not going the way you think your family wants it to, you start omitting details. Cut yourself some slack; everyone's life looks better through an Instagram filter.  

6. Not all posts go on the wall

New social media users need to distinguish between what to post publicly and what to share privately.

Generally, if you have something personal to say, try doing it as a private message rather than posting it on someone's Facebook wall or Twitter timeline.  

Social media isn't the dinner table where just your family hears your conversations. So you may want to think twice before asking your 20-year-old son publicly online if he remembered to do his laundry or pack his favourite stuffed animal.  

The biggest mistake people make online is not remembering how public social networks can be. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
7. Can't tag this

Sometimes the world will read something sent to you by a friend that you'd rather keep private. 

Protect yourself by configuring your privacy settings so that only photos and posts that you approve are shared on your personal wall.

These privacy policies and configurations change often, so make sure that you check the setting every few months.  

8. Unfriending faux pas

Before adding your best friend's new boyfriend to your friend list, consider a possible breakup.

With social media, a divorce or a breakup doesn't just mean the absence of your uncle at Easter dinner. It may also mean your aunt asking you to unfriend him on Facebook.

A study shows 12 per cent of Facebook users surveyed were asked by someone to unfriend a person from their network. This can be really tricky.

If someone is vulnerable emotionally, being unfriended can really add to their anxiety and sense of isolation. Be sensitive to this.

At the same time, it's hard for people who are no longer part of your family to continue seeing posts featuring their exes, particularly if the ex has a new romantic partner.  

9. Curate, curate, curate

Curate your feed so that you share posts only with groups of interested people.

That means chronicling your baby's toilet training habits for just the people in your network who may want to hear about pull-ups and baby wipes.

It's easy to create sub-groups in places like Facebook. Then, with a click of the privacy settings, you can decide which people will see your status, photos, videos or links.   

10. Seriously, another Candy Crush invitation?

We all have family members with annoying online habits, from sharing religious quotes and memes to inundating you with political propaganda.

Bombarding your friends' walls with the latest Buzzfeed quiz or sending repeated invitations to online games like Candy Crush can also get tiresome.

An invitation may get you extra lives in the game. but it might lose you a loved one.

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