A few years ago, I made an Instagram account as a way of putting memes on my phone in one place. I started posting memes and text posts related to the INFJ personality type (which is one of the personality types from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator).
It was just a fun space to have a curated collection of funny and/or relatable introvert posts.
However, my little hobby grew more than I ever thought it would.
My account now has almost ten thousand followers. And part of having an account all about a personality type is that I get questions from my followers all the time.
Sometimes they're MBTI-specific or questions about me. But sometimes I am presented with a complex issue going on in a stranger's life and asked for advice on it.
The first time this happened, I was very surprised that people would go to me, but also very flattered. I tried my best to answer their question.
However, a lot of questions I get are about experiences I've never had or things I don't feel qualified to talk about.
I kept thinking "What if I say the wrong thing?"
These people writing questions to me probably don't know I'm a 21-year-old college student. Since my identity is anonymous, I can be anything they want me to be, so they pin their expectations on me. I don't know if they imagine me as a therapist or a big sister type, but I know that I'm definitely not any of those things.
I'm just a person struggling in life as much as them so it can be dangerous to give them advice. They see me as some authority figure, but I'm just as likely to give the wrong advice as I am to give good advice.
So I have developed rules when it comes to giving anonymous advice on the internet.
First of all, I only take on questions I feel qualified to talk about. If it's something I would freely talk about like myself, I would freely and openly talk about it as this INFJ Instagram person.
But even with advice, I feel qualified to give, I always remind myself that this is advice from my life experiences. It's important to specify that what works for you might not work for someone else because everyone's life experiences are different.
Second, when it comes to advice I don't feel qualified to give, I try to redirect them to sources that are more knowledgeable than me.
For example, for people asking about how to deal with mental health issues I've never experienced, I tell them to try to talk to a counselor or therapist. And if they can't find or afford that, I send links to online resources.
Saying "I don't know" can seem like you're failing someone, but it's so much better than guessing and passing that off as real advice. A lot of people on the internet do this and it can cause the asker a lot of harm.
So the best solution is to say "I don't know, but here is someone who might."
After living by these two rules, I've found dealing with people's questions a lot easier.
If I want you to take anything from this, just know that a person you're talking to on the internet might be as clueless as you, so you need to take everything they say with a grain of salt.
Not everyone's implementing the rules I stated above, so being careful whose advice you listen to can impact your life in more ways than you know.