A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

What Is Your Social Media Profile Really Saying About You?

Updated: Feb. 09, 2021

Whether Snapchat, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter is your social media of choice, it's easy to come off conceited, angry, or just plain shallow. Here's how to stay in line.

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Don’t over-selfie

With (super-fun!) filters on Snapchat, you might pass time or kill boredom by taking quick shots with puppy ears or hearts around your noggin. While sending those funny photos to your friends that disappear within five seconds is probably okay, psychologist Sarah Schewitz, PsyD, says that if you’re posting these me-and-only-me photos on Facebook or Twitter, you might give people the idea that you’re full of yourself. “While selfies have become more common, there is a time and a place for them. It’s perfectly appropriate for you to have a picture of you by yourself as your profile photo. However, if every single picture you are posting on social media (or even if more than half of the pictures you post) are of you, by yourself, looking pretty or checking out your abs in the mirror, you are definitely going to come across as conceited,” she says. “There is so much more to you than just a pretty face or rock hard abs. Show us that too!” Check out these surprising facts about selfies.

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Your tone matters (and shows)

It’s not always easy to read between the thin lines of text on Facebook or to express how you really feel (with proper punctuation) in 140 characters. Because of this, commenting can be tricky, as you can inadvertently come across as snippy just by using a period instead of an exclamation mark. “People can get a sense of your personality and how you treat others by the way that you phrased your comments. Are you kind and positive or rude and demeaning when you comment?” Schewitz says. One way to change your social media tone is to say it out loud first, before you type it out and make it public, “I have seen a trend of people being much more cruel and rude over social media than they ever would be in person. This can give us a view of someone that is not actually accurate,” Schewitz notes. Here’s what you should never post about your relationship on social media.

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You reveal your values

Whatever you post—or comment—can give a stranger a glimpse into what you fundamentally believe in. Though it’s usually okay in a private account, if you’re posting very opinionated articles on LinkedIn, you may push away possible job opportunities. “Based on your comments, a viewer can learn a lot about your beliefs and values. People can tell what you find entertaining and what you find frustrating,” Schewitz explains. These are the photos to never ever post online, for safety reasons.

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Take time to celebrate others

The biggest keyword in social media is “social”—meaning you should always make an effort to interact, and not just post ramblings or vacation photos. If the only way you interact with other people is to “like” when they comment on your post or to get into arguments with content you don’t agree with, psychologist Nikki Martinez, PsyD, LCPC, says to make more of an effort to congratulate others or offer encouragement. “I think there are the posts that, try as we may, we cannot resist putting our two cents in. But this can be done in a positive way! It is wonderful if you are someone ready to share in someone else’s joy and good news, or offer a word of encouragement,” she says.

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Say what you actually mean

One foolproof way to make sure you’re sending the right message to your followers, friends, and fans is to be very direct about how you feel, what you think and what matters to you. This might be easier said than done, but as psychologist Yvonne Thomas, PhD, explains, it’s less likely someone will misinterpret if everything is easy to understand. “Communicate in a way that is direct, clear, and specific, since it is too easy for people to misinterpret, misunderstand, and even feel upset by things on social media. State your feelings such as, ‘I am so happy now!’ ‘I’ve been having a chill, relaxing day,’ etc. to help decrease the chances of people assuming or guessing what you’re feeling, which frequently is incorrect,” she says.

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Getting into political rants can ostracize friends (even ones who agree with you)

It’s a politically-charged time to be engaging on social media. Here’s the thing: It’s okay to promote what you believe and stand up for your values, but when you get to the point of screaming, you probably need to take a breath and consider another way to contribute to the world, off-line. “One could come across as angry by posting rude or demeaning comments on somebody’s post sharing an opposing viewpoint. I’ve seen too many people name calling and speaking in a condescending manner to those who have different political beliefs than their own,” Schewitz says. “It’s one thing to be passionate about your beliefs but it is another thing to be rude and forceful to the point where you lose friendships over your beliefs. It’s important to remember that diversity is everywhere, whether you like it or not. Not everyone is going to think the same way as you and you’re not going to change that.”

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Gossiping or beating-around-the-bush can make you look petty

Your mother told you countless times, but we’ll remind you: If you can’t say anything kind-hearted, bite your tongue and move on. “Someone may come across as angry on social media by saying mean things about other people. I see a shocking number of comments from men calling women fat pigs or other comments making fun of their bodies or objectifying women,” Schewitz says. “It’s not nice to highlight someone’s inadequacies. You never know what the person on the other end is feeling or going through and how that might impact them.” Try these tips to improve your relationship with social media.

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You paint an inaccurate photo of your life

Just like you can’t read your best friend’s or your partner’s mind (no matter how hard you try!), there’s no way to know how someone is going to react to what you post. But one surefire way to make people roll their eyes (or maybe even chat about you to their co-workers) is if you paint your life to be perfect. Everyone has struggles, and it’s often comforting to know your friends also had a bad day at work, got a speeding ticket, spilled coffee down their shirt, or didn’t lose those last five pounds as planned. “You are always posting the things you are doing right, the things that are being done for you, and all the ways your life is amazing. It’s as if you are painting a picture of how wonderful you and your life are, when it is probably as average as the rest of ours. This is something that comes up a lot in therapy. People tell me how great everyone else is doing based on what they post on social media, and I have to explain they are only posting the good, and not the whole reality of their lives,” Martinez says. Here are some things we need to stop bragging about, seriously.

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Don’t be a sad sack

Even if you’re rockin’ it at your job, in a loving, fulfilling relationship and your friend group is basically #goals, everyone has days where they feel like they’re being rained on, with no umbrella in sight. But if you find yourself complaining, moaning, and using that hysterical emoji more often than you’re posting about the good stuff in your life, you might be signaling to others that you’re borderline depressed. “Posting things like ‘ugh, I hate Monday’ or ‘of course this would happen to me…’, tell the world that you are not a happy person. There is enough negativity in our world, and while there may have been five bad things that happened to you that day, there were also probably five good things. Choose to post those and focus on those—or at least do half and half. Doing so will change your social media feed and your outlook on life,” Schewitz recommends. And resist the urge to post every thought that crosses your brain. A recent study shows that frequent Facebook updates could signify low self-esteem.

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Pause before posting

If you want to make sure your posts reflect who you are, a good guideline, according to Schewitz, is to take a breath before clicking. “Before posting something, ask yourself: Is this going to add positivity to the world or take away from it? If the answer is the latter, don’t post it. There’s enough negativity out there without you sharing about how terrible your day was. If you need support, call a friend, don’t subject the whole world to your complaints,” Schewitz suggests. We also occasionally fire off posts in a fit of anger, and then later regret it. Pausing before posting helps cut back on regrettable rants.

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Try to only engage a few times a day

Keep yourself accountable for what you post by doing an audit of how much time you currently spend on social platforms. Because even if you’re spreading “likes” and hearts, you can have too much of a good thing. “Don’t comment or post to the point that it takes over your life. Social media is a place to share and recount what you’ve been doing and how you’ve been feeling, rather than where it becomes your life,” Thomas says. “So, choose to post or comment just two to three times per day so you have more time to be living life rather than reporting on it.” These signs are a red flag you’re spending too much time on social media anyway.