Experts say social media has revolutionized the way we communicate.

"The thing social media has done is it has democratized communication again. You can literally reach out to anyone via social media, and you have the potential to engage with anyone. For better, or for worse," said Rochester Institute of Technology School of Communication’s Mike Johansson. 

What You Need To Know

  • Social media has changed communication, for better or worse

  • RIT principal lecturer Mike Johansson says especially given today’s social and political climate, it’s important to be good stewards of social media

  • He says don’t just share headlines, but read the content thoroughly

  • Johansson and counselor Todd Kennedy recommend taking a break from social media every so often

"I like it to keep in touch with people, especially now. We do church on Facebook Live now, so that’s really nice to have," said Joanne Scanlon of Rush. 

"It’s kind of a double-edged sword. You want to get on because you want to see what’s happening and how everyone’s feeling, but it’s hard to keep your mental health up when you’re seeing some negative things," said Paige Bennett of Fairport. 

But now more than ever, some say social media has become a battleground they try to avoid.

"It’s been depressing for the last several months, because of everything that’s been going on. You’ve got the coronavirus, you’ve got the Black Lives Matter, you’ve got so many differing opinions about what’s right, what’s wrong, what you should or shouldn’t do. And it’s too much," said Tameria Terrell of Rochester. 

Johansson says especially given today’s social and political climate, it’s important to be good stewards of social media.

"This great tool that can do so much for humanity also becomes the thing people tend to use, perhaps not thinking fully through what they’re doing," said principal lecturer Johansson.

He says don’t just share headlines, but read the content thoroughly. 

"If there’s anything that raises a red flag, and often times there will be, maybe it’s a website you’ve never heard of before, maybe the first thing you should do is just Google whatever it is you’re looking at, and see is it on any other website?" said Johansson.

And remember, another person is on the other side of the keyboard.

"Before you start name-calling, trashing people, fire-bombing them virtually on the web, there’s a human being there," Johansson said. "Try to engage them in a conversation first."

He says because social media platforms want to keep you online as much as possible, they use algorithms based on ‘likes’ and other metrics to feed you more of the same content.

So, the best way to stop seeing something you dislike is simply by not engaging with it.

"If you shut out all the people in your life that you disagree with, then you’re also part of the problem," said Johansson. "The better thing is to not react to anything they post. The algorithms will take care of burying their content."

But he says that doesn’t mean you have to ignore dangerous information.

"Any of the networks have ways of reporting content that’s malicious, dangerous, just not true," he said. "And you should do that, in fact I do."

And if all else fails: he recommends taking a break from social media.

"I suggest to my students all the time, and I’ve done it myself, where I literally just take a week off, said Johansson. "Just don’t do anything on social, just tell everyone on social don’t worry I’m not dead or anything, I’m just taking a week off."

Which is advice Rochester counselor Todd Kennedy also recommends. 

"A lot of people have addictions to these platforms," said Kennedy. "It’s something they first do when they wake up, and the last thing they do before going to bed."

He says it’s critically important to take care of your mental health nowadays.

"Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health, and it’s something that a lot of times we overlook," he said. 

But Kennedy says that isn’t accomplished by arguing with others online or blocking friends or family you disagree with. 

"The only way we’re going to get through this is if we’re able to have productive conversations. It’s not going to be name calling," he said.

Kennedy says the only real solution is empathy.

"This may sound cliche, but really be kind," he said. "And when you’re thinking about interacting with someone, especially if it’s through social media, think about would you say that to this person if they were in the same room as you."

After all, it wouldn’t be social media, if it weren’t all about connection.

"I just hope that as we approach November and beyond that, basically, we can all get along, and make things work. Like, everybody come together and realize that we’re all fighting for the same thing," said Terrell.