I recently decided to take a month off of social media. It was one of the best decisions I made for that whole month.
Here’s the thing. I really don’t know how to do social media “right.” And by right, I don’t mean how to have my particular brand and get followers and post really cool things. I mean, I don’t know how to do those things either.
But in this instance, when I talk about “right,” I’m talking about how to do social media in a way that feels healthy for my soul. Maybe you’ve got a lock on this. I really hope you do.
But maybe you're like me and you’re using social media but there’s a sneaking suspicion that it might be too much of a distraction or an addiction. Or it might be feeding into a sense of narcissism. Or it might be giving an eternal sense of FOMO. Or it might be feeding into insecurities about why more people didn’t like and comment on that last post. Or it might be causing jealousy and envy.
That’s a lot of ways social media can wreak havoc in my soul.
So I stepped back for a little bit. In part just because I was in a season where I needed to create a little more quiet and a little more space for myself to process a lot of life that was happening. But also in part because I wanted some time to think about what in the world I was even doing with social media, and what the real motives were behind why and what I chose to broadcast to the world.
I helped run a social media channel for a non-profit for a few years, and have a small role in helping with some of our social media channels for Saddleback Small Groups. Basically, I’m nowhere near an expert, but I do know a few basics. I know about the importance of building a “brand.” Having a consistent voice/look/feel across channels so that followers know what kind of quality and content to expect and why they should follow you.
But I also kept wondering why I needed a brand. I mean, I get it for a business or an organization or a ministry. But why do I, Laura, need a brand or followers? Why do I need to advertise my life?
Y’all, there were some major wrestling matches that happened with these questions. And now as I slowly start picking back up social media, I can tell that I’m doing it pretty tentatively. I actually miss the quiet and space it created in my soul when I took a break for a month. I think I still have more questions than answers about how to do this in a way that is best for my soul.
But as with most things in life, avoiding it doesn’t actually bring resolution. So I’m going to wrestle. And I’m going to be oh-so-self-aware about what’s going on in my soul. And I’m going to use it as a way to bring to the surface what’s really going on in my heart as I broadcast my life to the world.
As I move forward, I’ve given myself a few guidelines to help keep me on track.
Reasons NOT To Post
1. To get more likes or more followers
I’m sure you’ve never done this, but there’s been times when I post things just because I think it will get a lot of “likes” or will help me attract more followers. But…why is that a good thing? Again, I’m only talking about the scope of an individual, not for an organization. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you want more followers?
Popularity? Influence? Ego?
As a follower of Jesus, I’m not called to make myself popular. Getting 1,000 followers means NOTHING if the character of Christ is not being developed in my heart. So I’m trying to avoid posting just because it’s something that is trending.
2. To impress you, make you think I'm cool, brag about my life, or pretend to lead a life different than I actually do
I’s a pretty normal human thing to dream about how our lives could be different. It’s another thing to pretend and actually try and convince the world (and ourselves) that our lives are different than than they actually are. There is a very real danger of falling in love with a fake life.
You are exactly who God made you to be. He didn’t make a mistake when he made you the way he made you. You are loved exactly as you are. And if you spend all your time pretending to be someone different, you might never do the important work of self-awareness and growth that will help you reach the full potential of who God made you to be.
3. To entertain myself
Waiting in line at the store? Why not post to Instagram? Wait, what?
I’ve done this so many times. And it’s not the worst thing in the world, but I wonder what it would look like if I used time when I’m bored to text something encouraging to a friend, read a few verses on my Bible app, or take a few minutes to pray for people.
Reasons it's OK to post
1. Mark important moments in my life
I live far away from a lot of family and friends, and one of the greatest gifts of social media is keeping up with the Taekwondo tournament my niece participated in, or the new project my dad just completed in the backyard. You better believe that when I ran a marathon this last year I posted about it, and it was so sweet to get to share and celebrate that moment with people far away. Tell me when major events happen in your life, because I want to celebrate with you!
With this though, my hiatus from social media reinforced the value of not just posting but also calling or texting or setting up a coffee date to keep people updated on my life. I went to a Dodger game during that month off, and while my friends were posting to social media I sent a picture to my dad and brother because they’re also big Dodger fans. Not every moment has to be shared with the world; it might be better shared more personally.
2. Inspire other people
A surprising number of people have mentioned to me that they love seeing how I do so many outdoor adventures. They say it inspires them to do it themselves, or it gives them ideas of places to go and things to try.
The world will be a better place when more people do more of the things that make them come alive. So post the things that give you life, and inspire people around you to do likewise.
Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Post the kind of things that will spur your followers on to live a life filled with meaning and purpose and joy. Jesus came to give us an abundant life; don’t be afraid to live it.
3. Share resources and ideas that have helped me grow
I love books and podcasts, and I love sharing about what I’m learning. I love when other people share resources that have helped them grow, because I’m always on the lookout for a good book or podcast recommendation. If I’ve found a new podcast or book that’s been particularly helpful, you’ll be hearing about it!
4. Talk about things that matter and people that matter
As someone who struggles with FOMO, I always hesitate when posting pictures with friends because I hate to inflict a fear of missing out on others. While being sensitive to this, I also think it’s really important to celebrate community. It’s a good moment for me to check my motives and make sure I’m not trying to make myself look popular, etc., but I love getting to celebrate and express gratitude for the amazing people God has put in my life.
I also think there’s times when it’s important to talk about hard issues. Specifically, there are times when I make a point to talk about things I struggle with. It’s not because I’m looking for sympathy, or trying to get some group therapy or social media therapy. It’s just that we all struggle and sometimes it’s good to be reminded that you’re not the only one, and that God’s grace is sufficient.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul writes:
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
There’s an appropriate way to boast about our weaknesses. I always find it so interesting when I’ll have coffee with a friend and an hour later read something she posted about a personal struggle she said nothing about when we were meeting. Social media is never the place to work out your problems. Social media therapy is never the best way to share. It’s not “just being authentic.” True authenticity is looking someone in the eyes and sharing, and opening yourself up to their response in person. That being said, I do think there are times when it’s helpful to share honestly and appropriately because you never know who else is struggling with the same thing. I just make sure anything I post to social media is something I’ve already been talking out with a real live human face-to-face before I broadcast to the world. I don’t share hard things because I’m looking for a response; I share hard things because I know someone else is struggling and might need to know I’ve been there too.
5. Share the story of my life in such a way that Jesus is the hero.
I hope you’re still with me because this is the most important point. I don’t want to craft an image on social media that makes me look great. I want to tell the story of my life in a way that only points to how great Jesus is.
What about you? What are reasons you think we should post or not post to social media? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!