Being a prolific social media user does not mean you understand it.
Social media and the science of it, is relatively new and it is evolving. How we teach in schools and how we interact throughout our lives had a year zero were communications are concerned, circa 1996/7, when forums began that put people in touch with others across the globe and also permanent-ised connections.
Of course, I am not saying I have some sort of guru like knowledge of social media - but it is something I have not only participated on for a very long time - it is something I have written about for various publications... this is one I did in 2009, which still stands - even though it is pre-Twitter and concentrates on the platform "Second Life..." www.redpepper.org.uk/by/neil-scott/
My grandfather may have had lifelong friends- because he lived in the same area all his life. Few of his generation (even in Ireland) in his affinity and peer groups moved away and were completely lost to communication, or some sort of contact.
That kind of mobility changed in the 20th Century, with people moving out of town, across the UK and across the world. Before social media, these people could almost have been thought of as "lost." Anyone who had family members emigrating went through a huge grieving experience- even with the advent of telephones becoming more available to working class people. The new media means people can, through Skype etc, have cameras across the world-,people can interact with their families across the world (ive heard of grans, Grandad's etc reading bedtime stories to grandchildren they've never met-and fathers and mothers doing the same when working away. Ive even heard of people keeping an eye on their dogs when they are out of the house!)
Virtual families and friendships are not so sci-fi anymore.
Everyone now, is their own news agency. Everyone has a notice board for others to see. Views, news, thoughts and work can be shared instantly with thousands of people. Or less. And what you represent, whether it be your work, your religion, your politics, your lifestyle can instantly be judged by others by your statements and online behaviours. It is this that people should begin to understand. The devil in us that used to be hidden or is not apparent to the rest of the world, can be made apparent and can be judged by others.
I think, as well as online safety, online conduct and who, why and the effect of, your social media use should be taught. It isn't going away- in fact more and more, our online life is fully integrated into who we are.
The quietest, most gentle people can suddenly find a voice and look like the bully they have suffered from in their life; the facade of cheery, outgoing laugh a minute parties can reveal themselves as thoughtful, depressed or lonely.
Others should understand that social media use is different from individual to individual and not judge.
Online, I have met the most inspiring, vivacious people who in real life are disabled by society. I have met loud, opinionated folk who have no voice in a life blighted by abuse. And I have met carers whose contact beyond the walls of the people they care for is through the virtual world.
I have also met damaged people, who damage and people who, judgementally damage these people further. Human behaviour is a strange thing- it has reason- it has environment- it has effect.
I think one of the questions people need to ask before they judge is "why?"
Why did this person post this? Why did they seemingly attack me? DID they attack me?
Conflict resolution has become more difficult with social media- but every interaction is traceable- every interaction is permanently in cyberspace.
Social media has got many, many times more pluses than negatives. It is a positive thing in the world that people can now not be without human contact.
But we do need to learn, together, how to ensure that all interactions are analyses beyond the binary. There is a psychology involved in this new interaction that needs to be understood and taught.