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#SoWe: How To Use Social Media to Improve Our Lives

Thursday, May 21, 2015



Is social media use good or bad for us?

Research is mixed when it comes to answering that question, with some studies claiming that social networking can expand and enhance our relationships and others coming to more troubling conclusions.

More recent studies suggest that we tend to doctor up our images and add flourish to our stories in social networking sites, presumably to boost our self-esteem— an approach that clearly fails miserably. You’ve no doubt read the stream of articles about how Facebook, in particular, ruins our self-esteem and may even cause depression.

The question becomes: can social media, or #SoMe—an especially apt hashtag for a world which abounds in self-aggrandizing sound-bites and lurid selfies—ever be good for us?

That question, which sent me deep into the scientific journals for a year, generated an entire chapter in Rethinking Narcissism—and the answer I returned with was a resounding yes, but…

We have to follow a couple of crucial rules:

(1) We have to emphasize the social in social media. Endless comparisons to those around us make us miserable. They're no more social than gazing longingly (or enviously) at your neighbors' life through their dining room window.

(2) We have to move away from the relentless navel-gazing that’s become rampant in #SoMe (which isn’t especially social either) and focus on helping each other.

And we appear to be moving in the right direction.

I’m pleased to see that recent conversations and scientific research have confirmed what I concluded while writing Rethinking Narcissism. We’re finally beginning to grasp just how powerful and healthy truly social media can be. As the American Psychological Association, itself, recently tweeted, there is, in fact, a wrong way to use social networking sites. 

And, as my colleague from Psychology Today, Alice Boyes, PhD pointed out, there's clearly a right way, too.

Share, don't compare.

That's the difference between #SoMe and #SoWe.

#SoWe means reaching out to, and connecting with others, sharing our ups and downs in ways that invite people into our lives, encouraging them to truly know us—not just watch us from afar.

If you post a selfie, make sure it engages people in a way that makes them laugh or understand your experience more deeply. If you tweet a thought, make sure it encourages people to grow, evolve, and discover more about the world—and themselves—instead of just venting your spleen. Or take a page from the #whyistayed community, which helped abuse survivors from all over the world emerge from silence and shame and find their voices again.

Let's change the rules.

Here’s what I propose: Whenever you share in social media in ways that connect, help, empower, or improve the lives and happiness of yourself and those around you, add the hashtag #SoWe.

Let’s make social media a place where people feel happy and connected. Let’s make it a true online community. One that has the power to help and enrich people all over the world.


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After teaching at local universities, Dr. Malkin became a Chief Psychologist at Harvard Medical School’s Cambridge Hospital, in Cambridge Massachusetts, where he instructed interns, residents, and fellows in the theory and practice of psychotherapy. In 2003, he left this position to expand his private practice and continued to supervise and teach for Harvard Medical School’s training program. Read More...


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