While social media can be useful in connecting you to family, friends and colleagues, there can be many pitfalls. But you can avoid these pitfalls by following these words of advice.

Spend a Limited Amount of Time on Social Media

Probably the most important thing to do is to spend a limited amount of time on social media. Turn off your computer and do things in the real world.

Since the negative effects of social media occur when people spend hours a day posting, reading posts, watching videos, and reading and writing tweets, disconnecting with social media after a short time is wise. If you feel you’re addicted to being on social media, set a daily time limit for yourself.

Don’t Compare Yourself with Others

Remember that people post their best side, not their worst. While some people do share their downs as well as their ups, most people avoid posting things that are either embarrassing or difficult. You’ll see lots of gorgeous photos, photos of fun times, photos of cute kids and kittens, and posts about successes with family members and at work.

It’s normal for people to want to be seen in the most positive light. So what you see of other people is what they want you to see. If they have 15 photos of their vacation and two are great while the other 13 are not, you’ll only see the two great ones.

If you’re starting to compare yourself with people who seem to have more happiness, money, success and time than you do and you’re feeling down on yourself because of it, you can “unfriend” them on Facebook or hide their status. It’s not worth it to feel bad about yourself by constantly looking at their life in paradise.

However, when you see your close friends being happy and sharing good news, be happy for them. To go one step further, you can ask them how they got where they are and how they can help you. You can certainly use your connection with them to get more of what you want.

Keep a “Gratitude List”

Keep a list of what you’re grateful for in your life and review it often. And add to it as your life improves. You’re discovering how to be more self-confident, and as you become that more self-confident person, you can be grateful for the skills and knowledge you’re gaining.

Protect Your Privacy

There are many ways to protect your privacy on Facebook. One way is to create different friend lists, such as Family, Friends, and Colleagues and specify which privacy policies apply to each list. Then you can send posts to just the people in one or more particular list. You can put people in more than one list if you’d like.

For further privacy, you can remove your name from the search function on Facebook so people can’t find your page. You can also make your contact information private. And if you have a friend who has a bad habit of posting embarrassing things on your page, you can block this friend from doing this. Other than creating the lists, you can do all these on the main privacy page.

Keep in mind though that nothing is truly private in the world of social media. Before you post, think about your writing, photos, comments and other content since anything you share, even within closed groups, is public. What you post can be shared around the world in the blink of an eye.

Understand What You Need from Social Media

Several psychological needs have been identified as what people are looking for when they go onto social media sites: acknowledgement, attention, approval, appreciation, acclaim, assurance and inclusion. Before you go on a social media site, identify which of these you’re looking for and think about whether you can get it satisfied in a more constructive way than going online.

Give to Others

You can post things other than just your own personal news. You can offer insights and information that are of interest to your friends that they may not find anywhere else. Making perceptive comments on others’ posts that encourages dialogue will make your experience on social media more valuable.

Since others will share different points of view, be respectful of other people. Avoid engaging in emotionally charged and argumentative posts or debates with people who are being critical of you or viewpoints that you hold.

Live Your Real Life

Some people are so attached to social media that they spend much of their time during events taking pictures and posting. They don’t allow themselves to be in the moment and actually enjoy the event. So it’s better to experience the event fully while it’s happening, taking a short time to take photos, and then share your posts and photos later after the event is over.

If you’re like some people, you receive e-mail updates whenever there is activity on one of your social media accounts. You may also have your cell phone set to alert you so you don’t miss anything. If you answer every alert, you’ll be looking at your phone many times a day, linking into the social media world and taking your attention away from what is happening in your real world. Instead, you can choose when and where you’ll look at your phone and plug into social media. Outside of that, use your time to live your life and not miss anything that’s happening right there in front of you.

And finally, give yourself permission to not go on social media for a number of days. Take a break from time to time and remember what it feels like to live in the real world full-time.

Using social media can help you tremendously on your path to self-confidence or it can take you in the other direction. It’s your choice.

Remember, you’re the boss of being on social media. It doesn’t give orders to you. Rather, you and only you determine where and how much time you spend with it as well as how much power it has to affect your feelings.

Author's Bio: 

Vivian Harte is the co-author of Self-Esteem for Dummies in the Dummies series. She has helped over 12,000 people learn and use assertiveness skills during the last 14 years. She teaches online classes on assertiveness, self-confidence, and teamwork. She has a Bachelors degree in Sociology and a Masters degree in Public Administration. She taught college classes for many years in Tucson, Arizona. She has two grown children who are both successful. She lives in Tucson with her husband, three dogs and two cats.

She offers three online courses and 1-on-1 coaching, and you can find out more about these at her website, self-esteem-for-me.com. Discover how to improve your relationships and be a stronger personality in her online course Stop Being a Doormat and Start Using Your Personal Power to Build Healthy Relationships.