Here we go again.
Here's to another article about social media but I'm not apologizing because IT'S JUST SO RELEVANT!
I've wrestled (maybe you have, too?) with the option of deleting one or more of my social media accounts and just calling it quits for a good long while on it. Maybe forever. But even if I get off of social media, these platforms are still going to be there and millions of people are still going to access them every day.
So I believe it remains relevant. Therefore, I'm not just going to run from it. Rather, I want to gain enough wisdom to use it maturely and beneficially. And that's what I want for you too.
I want to be practical about this, though. Let's be specific on how we can use social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, you name it) for our own good - and the good of others.
1. Check your priorities.
Do you wake up and immediately open Instagram? I'm not telling you if that's right or wrong, I'm telling you that whatever you do first thing with your day is probably important to you.
A lot of times, we are mindless about how we spend our time. We forget to acknowledge just how exactly the minutes of our day waste away so quickly. Be cautious of whether the things you value (family, job, school work, a project or dream you want to tackle) are being ignored due to social media usage eating away your free time.
Limit the number of times you open the app a day. If you find yourself opening up Instagram and Twitter over and over and over in a single 24 hours, set a number that you're comfortable with and aim to only open the app that many times in a day/week. In the rest of your free time, concentrate on those things you'd be proud of yourself for finishing.
2. Check your heart.
Annie F. Downs made a worthwhile point in a radio talk show I overheard recently. Before she posts on social media she asks, "Do I need something from this?"
If you share something with the world because you need to feel noticed and important and validated, caution lights should go off. You already are those things. Instagram doesn't need to tell you so.
Would the moment still matter to you if you didn't post about it? I had to ask that this summer. I took a trip abroad and chose not to share any photos from the trip because emotionally, I just happened to be in an insecure place at that time, and I didn't need to use social media as a way to gain security and say, "Look at me! Look at the cool things I'm doing."
And I still have to do this. Checking my heart as it relates to social media is a constant, daily thing for me - not a one time deal. I just logged back into Instagram after a 4 week hiatus because about a month ago, I started to realize that I was more concerned with beauty on Instagram and a level of picturesque perfection found there, than I was with the natural and raw beauty around me. Mentally, I was calculating how an environment and the people around me could be better positioned to look good in a photo. Life started to become a project for me to "beautify" and upgrade so that it would look good online.
That was an issue.
Before you post, ask yourself, "What do I need from this?" If you feel good about your answer to that one, then ask, "Would this moment still matter to me if I didn't post about it?" It's a heart check, y'all. No black-and-white solutions here.
3. Check your feelings.
When you click out of Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, how are you feeling? Encouraged? Motivated? Inspired?
If not, I wonder why. Maybe it's that you're following people or brands that are toxic for you. This will look different for everyone. It won't be formulaic.
Occasionally there are bloggers or accounts that I unfollow, not because of anything wrong with them, but because my own insecurities and weaknesses are not a good, healthy match for the content they post. And that's okay. If you scroll through your media feed and are constantly fed with content or photos that make you feel pale in comparison, pinpoint what it is that's causing you to feel inferior and get away from it. Or address it in your own heart. But don't keep subjecting yourself to it.
Follow people and accounts that post content that leaves you feeling encouraged and eager to love your own life even more. Unfollow whatever is negative and not just right for you. If you still feel defeated and disappointed, consider taking a break on media for a little bit. It'll stick around 'til you get back. :)
These suggestions are like me clumsily riding a bicycle for the first time without training wheels, and at the same time, trying to teach a class on the art of bike riding. I feel like I'm learning as I go, and I still fall down and get my knees scraped often.
But I can't escape the fact that this is important. Children are learning almost everything about their world through media. Teenagers are trying to find identity and make something of themselves through media. Adults are scrolling and comparing to see if their lives measure up to their neighbor's through media. Companies are telling their stories and selling billions of dollars of products through media.
Like someone standing without shelter in a rainstorm, there's no way to avoid how much social media is soaking the fabric of our world.
But we don't have to hide when it rains. Or let it drown us.
We can find a way to march through this media-drenched world gracefully and wisely. Every like, share, scroll, and post that we make.