Too often, it appears that social media can create the illusion that everyone’s life appears perfect and unflawed. I used to get annoyed or jealous when I would see pictures of women posting about how they had lost weight or how a family would take a trip to some far-off land. “Why does she make it look so easy to lose weight? How did they afford such a big and fancy trip?” I would often become jealous or resentful of others’ happiness, especially in times when I would find that I wasn’t that happy.
When using Facebook, Instagram, or any social networking app it’s very easy to be jaded by the fact that most of the time people don’t post pictures of sad moments or when they are going through a rough patch. When they do, they are often silenced by others for being attention-seeking or unfiltered. Yet the irony is, when rough times occur we often go silent. I recall a friend of mine who was a regular social-media poster and suddenly she stopped posting pictures of her kids or stopped sharing random personal tidbits. It was in those moments I knew her world was shifting: divorce, family crisis, seeking counseling and treatments (and only because I knew her at a personal level.)
In a world where we are quick to identify soundbites and instant messages I realized that identifying someone’s grief, struggle, or sadness isn’t always easy. It was in those silent moments that “real life” was taking place. I also found the exact opposite: when there were those who were going through incredibly rough patches, they would often over post on trivial moments in their life to mask out the bad stuff. A good friend of mine had discovered her daughter was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer. Each time she had a new appointment she would document it on Facebook, but would also capture every small family interactions.
One day we were talking and the conversation came up about her “over-posting” and she said, “Some people may think I’m sharing too much of myself, but as a busy mom and wife, I don’t always take the moments to photograph or take pictures. When I post something on Facebook I am capturing the moment in time so that I can document it later. I take those pictures and those milestones as a way to remind myself of the journey of where we started and where we are now.”
In those words, I realized she wasn’t doing it for get acknowledgement; she was doing it so she could keep track of her own family’s memories. In times where she experienced such grief and tragedy, she was focusing on the positive aspects of her life. It wasn’t to be showy or boastful; it was so that she could keep that history of her family and appreciate all the beauty she had beyond the pain and suffering.
I started looking at what I was posting too. Why am I sharing something? Why do I feel envious of others experiences when I have so much good in my own life I don’t recognize it. Am I sharing for the “right” reasons? I was also led by who my audience was. I had several friends from my church community, and my guiding message that helped me be more selective on what I posted centered around my friend request from Sister Odetta who served in my parish. “Would I feel comfortable if Sister Odetta saw this?” became my catch-phrase before I started posting things.
I started focusing on sharing social media posts of encouragement and sharing moments of positivity. I figured these were more positive to others and sent a message of lifting others up instead of trying to make them feel down. It also helped me think and stay more positive. I still post pictures of my kids at the pumpkin patch or family trips here and there, but I do it now to honor them, not to compare my family to others.
And now when I see others having special moments I no longer look at it with jealousy or envy. Now I recognize it as a positivity in their life, capturing moments of gratitude. So I’ve come up with some guidelines and mindsets to consider before posting AND before scrolling through social media.
- What is my purpose? Am I bragging or trying to show off? Sometimes it’s nice to show praise for our kids or special events, but when our purpose is to show up or “one-up” someone, that it is no longer about showing honor.
- Do I have an ulterior motive? Does it serve to address an agenda? This is where you need to ask yourself if the post is designed to bash someone’s political views, or put down someone’s mindset?
- When in doubt, count it out. It’s very easy to want to share something as a dig at someone or convey a particular emotional agenda. If you’re feeling upset about something wait a while before you decide to jump on line. Don’t let adrenaline or unchecked emotions guide your media post. I’ve learned to wait about an hour. If the feeling is still there, ask yourself, “What good would this do?”
- Is it kind? Is this a godly post? Does it serve to honor God or dishonor Him?
- Does it show gratitude? Does it offer glory to God and give thanks?
- What would Sister Odetta do? If you know that your audience might find it inappropriate, than maybe it’s not worth sharing.
- What is my mindset? If I’m having a bad day, will I be open to hearing positive things from others — or jealous? If the second is the answer, stay off social media.
- Not everything that is posted is always what it appears. Enough said.
- Be happy for others. Repeat: Be happy for others.
- Other’s post are not a reflection of you. Don’t take things personally if you see someone going to a party or having a good time. Enjoy those. You’ll draw more people in by praising than by complaining.
Copyright 2019 Andrea Bear