Teenagers download social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat within 2 minutes of receiving their new smart phones. That’s the lure of these people networks. So, it makes sense to stay informed about all the right ways to engage with strangers and friends while hanging out on these platforms.


Some commonsense do’s:


It’s a choice:

Remember social media is a choice. And because its a choice, choose active engagement. Let’s not indulge in passive consumption and scrolling, turning ourselves into a slave of our devices. Ask yourself, is your current interaction with your smart phone in your best interest or is it serving the big tech, FAANG? (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google).


Understand the need:

We all want to be listened and heard. And we need endorsement for who we are and what we stand for from others. We want to connect and make an impact. And that’s what social media promises to offer. That’s also what Big Tech exploits in us.


Time well spent:

Most of us spend our time and days living in a life of fictional reality. Worrying about which brand shoes to buy and which online store to shop next. Gods – Yours, mine, and theirs, corporations, nations, politics add to the confusion. We also forget to realize that most of our actions are guided by our imagined reality – imagined thoughts, emotions and feelings.


Your grandmother’s social media:

Unlike the popular myth, you don’t need to be on social media to stay in touch. A network is physical before its virtual and available online. Remember, a balloon soars in the air with no support only if its tightly anchored in real ground.


Save yourself:

Your time, your autonomy, and your relationships. Your time and your creativity. You can do it by valuing all the things in your life you can’t buy with money – your time, your creativity and your loved ones.


Create not compete:

Use social networks for what they were originally intended for – to learn, grow and share wisdom. Using it to compare yourself to perfect 3 point basketball shots or unreasonable standards of beauty and celebrity lifestyles can be unhealthy and unnecessary.


Tech kill:

By mindless scrolling and clicking, we’re wasting our inherent precious resources like time and attention. As a result, we’re adversely affecting our sleep, our health and our long term priorities. We’re literally becoming a tech kill of FAANG.


Be intentional:

Is our need to scroll through posts on Instagram and watch stories on SnapChat intentional in any way on our part? What is the value proposition of such activities? What is the pursuit of likes and digital cheers like, exhausting?


Distraction is not busy:

Being busy for the sake of being busy, having to catch up on other people’s feeds are not real like skills. Understand the implications of too much time on devices is having on your relationships and productivity in real life. Its impossible to catch on all those hours of YouTube anyway. Its a lost cause.


Distance yourself:

Anonymous messaging apps have made it easy to name call, hurt and insult with words and actions online. When you see such actions, speak up, or distance yourself. Write or speak only messages you will be able to say to the other person’s face in real life. Before hitting send, ask yourself, is this a true representation of what I’m as a person, and what why my values are? Does what I’m about to write now, matter in a few minutes or hours? Just because many people do it, doesn’t mean it is the norm and true nature of society.


Real life doesn’t wait:

Thanks to social media we’re becoming aware of all the clothes and fancy tools we don’t have. But, is there an end to how much clutter we can accumulate? Understand that physical, mental and digital clutter brings us down.



But social media is here to stay, isn’t it?


Become self aware:

Teenage is the age when your self awareness starts to sprout. But, as you start forming an opinion of yourself, as you scroll through others’ feeds, you begin to judge yourself and your self worth. Different circumstances and lifestyles don’t validate comparisons on the same level.


Be you:

We’re at the mercy of the volatile reputation of social networks that we’re not in control of. We’re all seeking approvals from others by changing our online persona. As a result, our self identity is skewed, who are we really? Share your values and your beliefs that serve a higher good.


Call yourself out:

Periodically, put some checks on yourself. How much of what you do is useful and productive engagement and communication? If you find yourself being tethered to the internet, just take note of how fragmented your attention is becoming.


Sign a phone contract:

Signing a contract on how well we use gives us an intention and makes us accountable to ourselves and our family on how we use technology on a daily basis. Here’s a sample teen smart phone contract.


Empower yourself:

If you’ve a cause, there’s no better medium than the internet to convey it. You can use to reach out to people in need and collaborate to make massive positive impact. There will always be uncertainity and chaoas, but you can choose by your positive actions to determine what prevails. Social media in its best form is the best tool to connect, collaborate and share valuable social messages.


Live three dimensional:

As a result of only exchanging verbal communication, our emotions are not perceived and processed correctly by the receiver. While we continue to communicate this way, we only engage our right brain which is logical and literal. We leave emotion behind, because our brains don’t see the need to read non verbal cues in a text message or a Facebook message. So from a uni dimensional personality, become your exuberant lovely wholesome person. Breathe, play and simply just live.


Double down on kindness:

When you hear or are subjected to hateful comments on the internet, ask yourself. What is happening in their lives, homes and hearts that’s causing these people to act they way they do. Its difficult to, but most of the times, the way we feel has a very limited bearing on intended meaning behind the message. Sadly, we’re all trying to understand others intentional and unintentional communication when most of it happens via non verbal means like texts and Snapchats.


Set expectations:

Technology’s ubiquitousness means we’re always expected to be around for others in their time of need. Set expectations with yourself and with others about your use of the medium, the hours you’re on it, and the other hours you’re unavailable. And please for your own health’s sake, put a complete stop to the mania of having to reply immediately.


Keep your identity small:

If you’ve used it, leave it better than you found it. That’s the unspoken rule of any service or place we use. Just use the medium less, so you can keep your footprint to a minimal. Understand why you’re being drawn to the internet or reaching out for technology to stimulate you. Ask yourself questions. Are there times and days you’re drawn to it more? Are there events that are triggering this behavior? Just use less.


Make deep connections offline:

When we communicate face to face with others, the mirror neurons in our brains help us deal with the other person’s facial expressions and cues that their body is sending. As our brain interprets this data, our levels of dopamine rise when we hear something nice in what they’re relaying to us. This is how we connect. This is how we build out social currency, but being understanding and diplomatic about others emotions and feelings. This is how we find common ground, create rapport and build social networks in real life. Have memorable conversations in real life, and network well. Remember, a network is physical before its virtual and available online.


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About The Article Author:

Our mission with FutureSTRONG Academy – to grow children who respect themselves, their time and their capabilities in a world where distractions are just a click or a swipe away.

I see myself as an advocate for bringing social, emotional and character development to families, schools and communities. I never want to let this idea out of my sight – Our children are not just GPAs. I’m a Writer and a Certified Master Coach in NLP and CBT. Until 2017, I was also a Big Data Scientist. In December of 2044, I hope to win the Nobel. Namasté

Write to me or call me. Tell me what support from me looks like. 

Rachana Nadella-Somayajula,
Program Director & Essential Life Skills Coach for Kids and Busy Parents

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