There is no shortage of articles asking whether social media has made us less social as a society, studies showing that Facebook users are lonely and unhappy, and pundits asking if social media has made us less connected than before. While the implications for society at large are both important and interesting, the solutions are to be had at an individual level, and come down to making intelligent choices. The choices start with questions. Some examine the negative potential of social media, such as:

  • Do I use social media to retreat from live, in-person interaction?
  • Does my use of social media take up so much time that it crowds out more important activities?
  • Do I prioritize relationships on social media with “friends” above those in my immediate family? If you’re not sure, ask your family members if they ever feel they are ignored when you’re on social media, or if they ever feel like your social media relationships are more important than they are.

Other questions highlight the positive aspects of social media:

  • Does social media allow me to create or maintain rewarding relationships with those whom I would otherwise have little or no contact?
  • Does social media enrich my relationships with close friends and family members?
  • Am I using social media to expand my views and gain more education?

Most people never stop to ask themselves these types of questions, but live in a world where they merely react to external stimuli. Their lives control them, rather than them controlling their lives. The trick is to ask these questions, honestly appraise one’s actions, and not rationalize. We all have a tendency to do whatever it is we want to do, and then fit our actions into the positive aspects of that activity. “Yes honey, I know I spend a lot of time on Facebook, but isn’t it important for me to maintain these relationships with friends? If it weren’t for Facebook I wouldn’t have any contact with them at all, and this is important to me, and them.” At the same time the guy saying this is ignoring his young children who need their dad.

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Here is a photo of my father, in his late 70’s, teaching my niece how to play the ukulele through Skype. He’s in California, she’s in Colorado. It’s difficult to see this kind of interaction and then decry all social media and technology as being negative. Technology in this case is a positive, but it’s a positive because of choices individuals have made to make it so.

To take it a step further into the business world, you can add value and build your business by marketing and facilitating the positive aspects of social media. Ask yourself whether the way your business uses social media helps your customers build and maintain rewarding relationships and gain an education. The success of social media sends a clear message that humans have an innate desire to connect with others. Regardless of what your business does, if you can help people make those connections you’ll be rewarded.

How do you use social media positively in your personal life? In your business? Sound off in the comments below.