Published by The Social Domain • January 12, 2024 • 2 min read

How to be socially smart on technology

Those who are neurodiverse often work ten times harder than most to gain social acceptance. The online world has created a whole new dimension of complexity for anyone who may already be experiencing social challenges. With the ever-growing prevalence of technology and social media, unspoken social rules and expectations have emerged.

These rules can be confusing and difficult to navigate. If you are on the spectrum, you may have a harder time finding a personally empowered way to manage this, whilst enjoying the social benefits of social media.

While the intention of this blog is to support those with certain social challenges, it’s important to consider that we are all likely to face difficulties at some point or another with our social abilities.

Social Media can have many benefits like facilitating connection with people who might live in a different place along with supporting new friendships.

Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking by Deborah M. Ward conducted a study in 2018 that revealed “adults with autism spectrum disorder who use Facebook in moderation tend to be happier than those who do not”.

What are some unspoken rules….?!

These rules are often unspoken but their principles can usually be applied to face-to-face social interactions:

1. Think about the purpose behind everything you post. This can include a video or picture on your story or a status on Facebook. If you are wanting to connect with someone, post something meaningful that people may relate to. Long Instagram and Snapchat stories can be boring for people to watch. Consistently posting (multiple times a day) can result in people skipping past and not paying attention to what you are communicating. Think about posting quality of content rather than quantity. For example, if you were to post a picture of your dog, other people who may have dogs or be interested in animals might comment and like your post. This can create a meaningful connection based on common interests.

2. Do not message people multiple times in a row if they do not reply. The same applies to liking and commenting on multiple photos in a short time (1 day). The persistent notifications and correspondence can make people feel uncomfortable and strained.

3. Avoid engaging in conflict over written messages. Tone of voice, pace and volume all contribute to the meaning behind what people say. Written messages are without this, which can lead to them being easily misinterpreted. This can often misconstrue the intention of both communication parties which can make the conflict a lot worse. Rather call the person or discuss the situation face to face.

4. Emojis. These can be used to compliment and support the message you are getting across. For example, if you message a friend who you are looking forward to seeing, adding a smiley face emoji at the end portrays you as happy. This compliments the communication. Try and use emojis in context otherwise it can confuse the message that you are sending.

5. Realise that what most people post on social media is often a highlight reel and is not an accurate representation of their life. The majority of posts that you are likely to see on social media usually have one thing in common. They are portraying something in a positive light. This can often be a special event like a wedding, new pet, graduation, holiday, and birthday etc. Do not believe that what people post on social media is reflective of their life. It is simply a glimpse of the best parts of people’s lives. It can be disheartening and cause self-doubt. Social media life is not representative of people’s real-life struggles.

6. Honesty is a wonderful quality and even though you may feel inclined to share your struggles and hardships, posting it online might not be the right place. Struggles are often regarded as personal and private. For example, if you were to be experiencing a relationship breakup it would not be considered socially appropriate to announce it to a group of your co-workers and colleagues at the end of a meeting. It would be appropriate to speak to them individually during a lunch break. The same rules can be applied online. This is because like co-workers, we often have acquaintances and people who we aren’t that close with as friends or followers on our social media. Posting this publicly might make those who follow you and are not close to you feel uncomfortable. This is due to the private nature of the struggles that you are sharing. Alternatively, consider confiding in a friend or a trusted family member or seek support from a psychologist to deal with these struggles.

7. Don’t post something online that you would not feel comfortable sharing with the whole world. Did you know that the cyberspace is accessible to almost anyone? If you are messaging someone or posting something, make sure you are certain about the content you are putting out. Everything can be accessed. Did you know that when you sign up to social media sites of Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Tik Tok and Twitter, you automatically consent to third party data access? Even Private accounts can be hacked, and deleted content is still accessible and including messages! So, the rule of thumb is: Anything that you don’t want everyone in the world to be able to see, don’t post. This includes statutes, stories, images and even private messages (these can be easily screenshotted and shared).

8. Take a break and sign off. Having some time apart from your devices can provide you with mental clarity. This is so important for your overall emotional and mental well-being. Research has shown that 1/3 of people experience technology fatigue daily. Limit purposeless scrolling and have set time limits on social media apps. I recommend no more than 1.5 hours to prevent this fatigue.

9. When you are with other people, avoid looking and being on your phone. It sends the message that you are not interested and do not want to engage with the people around you. This can come across as rude and prevent you from having meaningful face to face interactions.

10. Group chat etiquette. If you are part of a group chat avoid messaging at unusual hours. This typically is between 11pm-6am. This can be considered rude as most people are asleep during these times. Having an awareness of this can help you come across as socially aware.

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