Are we friends on social media?
If so, chances are I’ve been jealous of you. I might envy your new house/awesome partner/amazing drool-worthy eats/healthy but beautifully delicious food/great time you had with friends/before and after shots and how amazing you look…
I might feel like a loser as I look at pictures of of your amazingly fun plans as I’m at home by myself, scrolling through posts.
I might even have judged you once or twice (just keeping it real here).
Let’s face it: social media is weird. It often can make you feel like there’s a party going on that you’re totally missing out on, am I right? It’s often not a real or accurate portrayal of the lives behind those posts. There are lots of negatives about it. I don’t really like it when I find myself doing any of the things above.
…so what gives? Why am I still on it?
I go back and forth on social media, to be honest with you. I certainly don’t hold it against you if you have opted out of social media accounts (fun fact: I am the only one in my immediate family who is active on social media). But I’ve decided that social media is worth it for me right now, and I’m willing to tell you why…
*First of all a note on my social media usage: I am most active on Instagram and Facebook, with a little bit of Twitter thrown in (the last one is mostly used to post cute/hilarious anecdotes of my students, if you’re interested). There are some weeks where I won’t post at all, other times I might be posting once a day, but typically not more than that.
Social media is, above all else, a tool to connect. It’s imperfect, flawed, and can be used for all kinds of unhealthy or negative purposes, but at the end of the day, it has so much potential to bring people together. Yes, it is weird that you can know what a high school friend you haven’t talked to in years is doing (but on the flip side, I love being easily able to catch up on the lives of faraway friends and family). For sure, people post their “highlight reels” and neglect to show the less glamorous behind the scenes footage.
But I have several stories where someone has reached out to me BECAUSE of something I’ve posted on social media. And while I won’t pretend that I don’t post a lot of highlights, I do make an effort to keep it real (without oversharing), and make my social media accounts reflect who I am and what’s going on, whether good or bad (see this post, for example). And, I’ve even had conversations, *gasp,* in real life, that started from something I posted online.
There’s also the easy ability to crowdsource for information or resources without leaving your house. I was needing some fresh mint for a recipe one time, posted on FB, and a friend from the gym showed up with some for me the next day. I’m also part of a local trading group where I was able to trade my unwanted snow tires for a gift basket of wine and all kinds of other goodies. Not to mention the various professional groups where you can share ideas/resources.
Social media can also physically bring people together. While I am old-school and love paper invites, you can’t beat the ease of group messaging or setting up an event on Facebook if you need to quickly send out information about a party or gathering.
Speaking of information, that’s another reason I love social media. For me these days, I enjoy my Facebook news feed for articles just as much as pictures and highlights of friends’ lives. I love that I can follow pages that are tailored to my interests, and my newsfeed will be full of articles I genuinely want to read.
On Instagram, I follow a ton of local restaurants. I am constantly drooling and making plans of where to go next. And I often hear about specials and features by checking a restaurant’s feed. This weekend I’m visiting a wine bar for lunch and bottomless mimosas – a special I wouldn’t have heard about if I didn’t follow them on Instagram.
And to burn off all that food – I also love Facebook and Instagram for workout ideas and fitness inspiration (I often joke that aside from friends and family, my Instagram feed is pretty evenly split between food and Crossfit). I often tag my best gym friend (or vice versa) when I see a doozy of a workout I want to try.
…last but not least, I like social media simply because it’s FUN. I’ve mentioned before that I love to laugh. And nothing gets me going like a good meme, better still; when someone tags me on a post that they know will crack me up. And if I’m stuck in a boring meeting or training session, I get a kick out of making a ridiculous Instagram story (#soprofessional I know 😉 ). Will spending my time doing these things enrich the lives of others, solve world hunger or save the world? Probably not. But it will make me laugh, which on some days is worth more than all of that.
So, in a perfect world, I could post all my social media love and positivity, make great connections, get good information, inspiration, recipes and workout ideas and never have to worry about those negative black holes of comparison and judgement. Hate to burst any bubbles here, but the world isn’t perfect (and neither am I).
So how do I (and you) avoid all the negativity and comparison traps that we can so easily fall prey to on social media? I don’t always succeed, but here are a few thoughts.
- Keep it real. You don’t have to overshare or post about every personal detail of your life (we all have that friend, and no one wants to be that person). But every once in a while, don’t be afraid to post a photo or share a status that is maybe just a bit vulnerable, and admit that life isn’t 100% rosy. I can almost guaranteed that the number of likes (not that that’s the goal) you’ll get will surprise you. And as I said before, it can be a great conversation starter (I had this experience when I made a pretty honest post about my struggles with mental health and anxiety on “Bell Let’s Talk Day” earlier this year).
- Think about what kind of story you’re advancing. It’s hard to draw a hard and fast line on what you should or shouldn’t post. But just stop and think about what and why you’re posting, and what you’re hoping to get out of it. If you’re just posting for likes, or because you’re feeling bad about yourself. But if you genuinely have something to say, or think you can help someone else, then by all means share! (This was my thought process when I posted the picture that lead to this post).
- Work those connections – both online and IRL. As I said before, social media is a great connector. Use it to build relationships and make connections – but don’t let it become a substitute for doing that in person too. Use social media as a starting point to building relationships you already have (and maybe some new ones). But if you find that your online time is taking up more time than those real connections, maybe it’s time to step back and set some boundaries.
- Remember that what you see is almost never the whole story. This one is particularly important when you’re struggling with the comparison trap (a huge one for me). Those amazing #cheatmeals were probably bookended with days of lean protein and lots of vegetables that didn’t make the cut for Instagram. And I know that I love posting pictures of fun times with friends, but I have waaaaay more evenings alone on the couch that somehow never get documented on social media. If you’re comparing yourself to an inaccurate perception of reality, you’re always gonna lose.
I think it’s safe to say that social media isn’t going anywhere. And I totally think it’s one of those “great power, great responsibility” things. Treat it as what it is: a tool. Love it or leave it, social media is here to stay. So, post or don’t post. Like or just lurk. But at the end of the day, how about we all just take it easy on ourselves and share some love? I think the results could be a beautiful thing.
*PS: Don’t stop posting your cheat meals – they make me hungry but I love a good #foodporn shot as much as the next person….just make sure you scroll through for a good workout idea after. #balance