I joined Twitter back in 2011. In those days, the social media platform felt like taking a leisurely stroll around the old village, stopping along the way to have a friendly chat with locals.
We had Sunday night Twitter chats, discussing anything to do with social media and healthcare in Australia and New Zealand. There were patients, doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and others happily chatting with each other, sharing information and offering support, following professional codes of conduct and rules of courtesy.
It was an inspiring place, there at the Twitter village square.
In recent years, however, social media has become a ubiquitous part of the mainstream. As a result of the rapid growth of various platforms and the number of users and networks, it now feels like driving at high speed on a five-lane freeway.
I still occasionally see the locals from the village in their fast cars, but there’s no time to chat. I usually get distracted by the billboards or the other drivers, overtaking, blowing the horn and, not seldom, making angry gestures.
Interestingly, we all seem to be copying each other’s behaviors on the social media highways. And, somehow, I often end up in the lane for doctors. There is also a lane for patients, pharmacists, midwives and so on.
Although the doctors in my lane don’t always see eye to eye, we often agree on things like the abominable road conditions or the dangers of a fast-approaching storm. And, not infrequently, we get frustrated about the drivers in the other lanes, especially when they cross the double white unbroken dividing line or, heaven forbid, end up in our lane.
I miss the village square. The diversity of people and ideas was refreshing. There was more time, more tolerance, more curiosity and more kindness. It is not surprising that social media can be bad for our mental health.
On the other hand, social media still has a lot to offer. There are many amazing, inspiring and funny people out there.
I was asked to write about the do’s and don’ts of social media, but I’m not the highway patrol. I have instead listed six simple things to remind myself of what I should already know when I’m participating in the traffic on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other social media network.
(I have admittedly, had a look at the website of the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland for inspiration)
Here are six new social media road rules:
- Remain calm and relaxed
- Drive defensively and make allowances for errors by others
- Adopt a ‘share the road’ rather than ‘me first’ approach to driving
- Use the horn sparingly and only as a warning device
- Leave unpleasant encounters or delays in the past and concentrate on the rest of the trip
- Don’t try to police other road users’ behaviours