Stop Scrolling: Social Media as a Community Tool

At 17, I had very important things to communicate, and I needed a community: I was away, alone in an academic institution and living with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The news reporters were ignoring my immigrant community, chasing news-worthy leads. I had no idea my immigrant community was enduring struggle in silence, until I arrived at the college classroom.

My first response–you know, after calling my mom and sobbing about the injustice–was to write. I created a blog on WordPress (formerly known as Claudia Documented) and opened a complementary Twitter account.

In late 2016, I joined Instagram, falling in love with social media on its own terms. Instagram is a visual storytelling world.

I had lofty goals of sharing poetry about the immigrant community that would go viral; instead of instant fame, my posts spent hours in the social media vacuum. People, myself included, were mindlessly scrolling.

In response to my frustration, I attended webinars hosted by social media influencers. I wanted to know what they were doing that I wasn’t. I’ve yet to learn the secrets, but I’ve learned something better: I crave community.

I now hope to practice online community etiquette, which means I strive to be intentional with communication. In-person, words matter to me, and I’m the kind of person that will question misuse of language. So why not translate this over to social media?

In the storm of social media posts, I want conversations in which I can focus on someone’s language choices. Those words will inform me about their values and how I fit into their world.

Social media community suggestions:

  1. Interact and follow-up
    • Like and react with an emoji, especially an emoji you self-select; if the post requires more than an emoji, save a friend’s post, especially any links, and follow up at a later time
    • Write an individualized comment or a direct message in response to a post (restrain from a template response)
    • Share a friend’s public posts; if there is a private post that is better off public, ask the friend to make it public or ask for permission to copy/screenshot
  2. Visit friends’ profiles
    • Move away from the automated feed and visit a friend’s profile
    • Check out what a close friend has recently posted and posts you may have missed
    • Drop a nice note or an article on a friend’s profile so they feel valued
  3. Create a close network
    • Organize who you follow into lists or “close friends” lists; make a habit of consciously and responsibly using these lists
    • Use groups and actively visit those groups, focusing on resource-sharing and community building over self-promotion
    • Revise these lists periodically as you grow, as you meet new people, and as friendships evolve
  4. Take the conversation somewhere else
    • Limit your time on social media and save complex topics for offline
    • Use social media posts as conversation starters for in-person meetings or a phone/video call
    • Visit friends’ blogs, YouTube, and other content-specific sites

Scrolling is easy. Stopping to communicate is much harder, and yet, is much more meaningful. Do you practice community building on social media? Share your tips in the comments.

Further reading on social media communication:

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