We know that social media is huge, but it can be difficult to imagine just how massive it really is. There are so many platforms and billions of users across the world all updating their feeds, and as a result social media can be something of a lawless land sometimes.

With so many users, it’s inevitable that these platforms can be a little unpredictable, and unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules to navigating them. This is particularly true now more people are accessing online platforms through their smartphones, from Facebook and Twitter to the phone casino apps which are becoming increasingly prevalent.

Of course, social media is a relatively recent phenomenon, so a bit of the unknown is to be expected – not least when more than half of the global population now uses social media – but there are some general guidelines to keep in mind if you want to survive in the social media jungle – we’ve outlined the basics here.

It might sound obvious, but on social media, it’s important to consider what you post, share, and say. With billions of users, your social media content can travel further than you might think, while the ability to take screenshots means that even if you delete something, it can remain online and in the public domain forever. Some countries, like India, are taking extra steps to regulate social media sites too, so that’s another reason to consider what you’re posting.

Before you post something on social media, ask yourself if it’s something you’d be happy to have your name associated with permanently. Is it something you’d be fine with your parents seeing? Your partner? Your boss? If not, thinking twice before posting can be a real life-saver.

By the same token, remember that social media is full of real people like yourself – when you send a message, there’s somebody on the other end who’s reading it. Whether you’re talking to a customer, a representative of a company, an opponent in a game or simply a friend or work colleague, be courteous. Would you say it to the same person if you were talking face-to-face? If not, don’t say it online.

You’re not always going to agree with others online, but you can disagree while remaining civil. When you post on social media, you’re opening yourself up to responses that could be critical, but it’s all too easy to fall into arguments when they’re really not needed.

It can be difficult to change someone’s opinion through a few sentences on social media, so just concentrate on sharing your thoughts and accepting that somebody else’s can be different to yours. Things can often come across differently on social media, than they might face-to-face or on the phone, and you should take this into account too.

Try not to take things personally, or over-analyse interactions over social media. Just because you’ve interpreted something a certain way, it doesn’t mean that it was the intention of the person who posted it. Social media can come with its own intricate etiquette that less-frequent users aren’t as conscious of.

Don’t forget about interactions away from social media yourself, too. Ensure that you aren’t glued to your smartphone or computer constantly, as it can affect your mental health and distract you from what’s going on in the real world. It can be difficult to avoid relying on social media for communication, business, news and so many other things, but it can definitely be done.

In essence, surviving the social media jungle is all about striking a sensible balance – as there can be a number of advantages to using these platforms. Express yourself, but don’t be too forthright and know when to rein it in. Make an effort to improve your social media reach and influence, but don’t get so caught up in it that you forget to enjoy it and trust your instincts sometimes.

Be patient too. Whatever your motivations for using social media, it’s no instant fix. Give it time, be sensible in your approach, and you should see results.