The digital age isn’t just about posting selfies or broadcasting your every thought. Since the launch of the first social network site, Friendster, in 2002, millions of people have logged onto social media to connect with others.
Today, it’s one of the major ways we stay connected to the people we care about.
About two-thirds of social media users say one of the main reasons they use social media is to stay connected to current friends and family, according to Pew Research Center. About half use it to reconnect with old friends.
Even spiritual leaders like Deepak Chopra, who has more than a million followers on Facebook and Twitter, upholds the capacity of social media, which he refers to as an extension of our collective subconscious, to connect us all.
“Technology is our creation; we weren't created by technology, so let's use our creation to bring about a healing,” Chopra said at a Social Good Summit. “At the most fundamental level, we are not just connected, we are inseparable.”
Try these three tips to connect more deeply to your online community.
1. Post What Inspires You
“What inspires you also says something about you,” said social media consultant Karen Mahmud. “If you post quotes from the Buddha, President Obama, or Mother Theresa, it says something about what you value and who you are, and on social media it's best to be yourself."
Rather than a post about what a great meal you ate or how much you hate traffic, try a post about what truly stirs you. It can be a quote from someone you admire, a photo you took, a poem you wrote, or a combo of pictures and words.
“You don’t have to be a designer to create a graphic with an inspiring quote,” Mahmud added. “You can use your cell phone to take a picture of a tree or the sky and then use an app to lay text on top of that image. In less than five minutes you can create an inspirational quote graphic.”
And if you're looking to widen your social circle, sharing images can help increase engagement with your post. Research has shown that images can increase your “retweeting” rate on Twitter by up to 150 percent.
2. Be Authentic and Vulnerable
Social media is a form of self-expression that allows you to be authentic and vulnerable. Don't worry; you can accomplish both of these feats without sharing everything. Being authentic just means staying true to who you are. If you are serious, let your posts reflect that. If you are funny, be funny on social media.
Former graffiti artist turned fashion mogul Mark Ecko offered this advice about being more authentic on social media: “When you're broadcasting and when you're contemplating how to use these modern tools to differentiate yourself, be intellectually honest, be sensitive, and use discretion. You needn't be everything to everyone and you needn't be 24/7 like CNN. Make it so that it really hits your core values.”
3. Get Engaged
Many people have a tendency to be voyeurs on social media, meaning they will look at everything and shy away from posting or even liking other people’s posts. Remember, if you're using social media to develop community, you need to do your part to bring the community alive.
“If someone posts something that makes you smile, don’t forget to like their post or leave a comment and tell them how it made you feel,” Mahmud said. “Instead of passing through your feed and scrolling to the next thing, take the time to engage with your friends.”
Acknowledge, like, share, and exchange ideas, and watch how your experience of connection deepens.
© 2014 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies