- The dawn of a new year is also a good time for a digital makeover
- Adopt a savvier approach to how you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Pew survey: 73% of online U.S. adults are active on social media
OK, so you've resolved to lose weight, travel more and organize your finances in 2014. That's a good start.
But what about your virtual self? The dawn of a new year is also a good time for a digital makeover: a savvier, more disciplined approach to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social platforms.
Given that 73% of online U.S. adults are active on social media, according to a new Pew survey, this could have a bigger impact on your life than cleaning out that overstuffed closet.
May we present these seven resolutions -- suggestions, really -- for better social-media use in the new year.
Don't post pictures of all your meals
Sure, the tuna tartare at that fancy restaurant sure looks pretty. But interrupting your dinner to Instagram it is rude to your dining companions, not to mention obnoxious for other people sitting nearby who have to endure your camera flashes and "which filter looks better?" questions.
Some restaurants have even witnessed food "photographers" climb atop their chairs to get a better camera angle. Don't be that person.
Try limiting your food pics to special items like a customized birthday cake or maybe that famous 2-pound burger you must finish to earn a free T-shirt and your photo on the pub wall.
Think before you tweet
OK, this one may seem obvious. But it's amazing how many otherwise smart people blast out thoughts on Twitter without pausing to consider the sheer stupidity of what they're saying.
In August, TV's Dr. Phil McGraw sparked a backlash after a tweet posted on his verified Twitter account asked whether it's OK to have sex with a drunk girl. The tweet was quickly deleted but not before the Internet erupted in outrage.
Then there was Justine Sacco, the PR executive who posted this on Twitter this month before boarding a flight to South Africa: "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!" The tweet went viral while her plane was in the air, and she was fired soon after.
It takes only a few seconds to compose a dumb tweet. The damage can last much longer.
Don't tag people in unflattering photos
Hey, buddy! I tagged you in this party pic! Yeah, I know your eyes are closed, your stomach is sticking out and your tongue is caressing a bottle of tequila, but it's hilarious, right! Right?
Ask permission before posting questionable photos of people online. It's just common courtesy.
No, Tom Cruise didn't die in April in a car accident in Australia. But you wouldn't know that right away from all the breathless posts on Facebook and Twitter. Then there are the fake Facebook posts, offering cheap airfare or free iPads, that try to scam you with malicious links.
Social media can spread misinformation as fast as truths. Unless you want your friends to stop trusting you, Snopes.com is a good source for debunking these rumors.
Or you could just use common sense.
Remember that less can be more
An artfully rendered Instagram photo of your baby or cat or snowy backyard can be a beautiful thing. Seven photos in an hour, not so much.
The same can apply to rapid-fire tweeting or constant Facebook updates. Unless you're live-blogging from a forest fire or the Oscars, don't overwhelm your friends' feeds. They will thank you.
Go easy on the selfies
Yes, "selfie" is the word of the year for 2013. And selfies can be fun to look at when the person is 1. wearing a costume, 2. with a celebrity or 3. standing in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Preferably all three at once.
But we don't really need to see you in front of your bathroom mirror, making a duck face. By its nature, social media is already narcissistic enough.
Be your authentic self
Unless, maybe, you're Anthony Weiner.
There is now a whole corps of "social media experts" who will tell you "how to build your personal brand." Ignore them. The nature of networking hasn't really changed -- it's still about who you know, staying in touch and being willing to put yourself out there -- and no number of marketing gimmicks will change that.
Be genuine. Be someone you'd enjoy talking to at a party. If you're using social media only to collect likes and followers, you're probably doing something wrong.
But you still might want to hold off on those knee-jerk Twitter rants or Vines of yourself naked.