My girls and I are enjoying some girl time while the boys are on a ski trip! Isn’t it funny how different the house feels when just one kid is away? We miss them like crazy but we are taking advantage by painting our nails and playing with dolls. 🙂
I think everyone would agree that most of the country is glued to their phones, and while I’m not sure what everyone else is looking at (I’m sure only wholesome and delightful apps like “inspirational and motivational quotes,” or perhaps “magic jigsaw puzzles” – duh) my personal addiction is social media. Specifically Instagram, but occasionally Facebook, and even less occasionally Pinterest. So, as a mom who has a lot on her plate, and who wants/needs to use my time wisely, and who tries to be present with my children, HOW and WHY I use social media is something that’s on my mind a lot.
I often ask other moms what they like or don’t like about social media, how it makes them feel, and how they manage their time using it. I specifically asked a few close friends some similar questions before writing this post, and they each offered some wonderful insight that I will incorporate into my thoughts.
How amazing is it that we can connect with friends and family all over the world? Keeping in touch with our loved ones is probably the best part of social media. We can share photos of our day, watch each other’s kids grow up, and together we can celebrate the good and mourn the hard. It’s a journal, a travelogue, a scrapbook, and a way to record our memories. We can share recipes, crafts, projects, uplifting quotes, or funny memes. We can connect with neighbors and buy/sell/trade items with the community. Thanks to social media, we each have our own platform to voice things we are passionate about. We can promote our business, interact with clients, and make new friends.
One friend said it well when she said that motherhood can be socially isolating at times, so keeping in touch with friends, interacting with other adults, and cheering each other on, even if only virtually, can be a blessing. This, and my obsession with photography, is why I can’t quit and keep going back for more.
I think we can all say it in unison: comparison. We see the filtered highlight reel of others and compare their seemingly perfect lives to our imperfect ones. It can leave us feeling small or unimportant. It is habitual and addictive and can be a giant waste of time. We are less in tune with the people and the world around us, and are likely missing out on the beautiful things that pass us by and the opportunity to meditate and ponder on life (or, if you are a churchy person like I am, hear the whisperings of spirit). It can be a place where our feelings are hurt, or where mean, insensitive comments are made. Then there’s the flashy ads, pop ups, links, and inappropriate photos we didn’t ask to see. It can leave us feeling empty, and although we made connections on a screen, in reality, we didn’t actually connect much at all.
How to make it a positive experience:
In spite of all the bad, and although it has made me feel all of those negative things and more, I still enjoy the uplifting interaction and sharing of photographs too much to let it go. So, here are a few things I practice doing to better enjoy my social media experience:
1. Set limits.
Decide when is a good time to be on social media and when is a good time to be off. Set some rules and follow them. I try to stay off my phone first thing in the morning and last thing before bed. In fact, my husband and I try to dock our phones downstairs or in the bathroom, so it is not within reach when we go to sleep. We don’t let our kids have screens in their bedrooms, why not set the example and follow our own rule? In the morning, I check my phone for reminders or anything urgent, but then I ignore the rest as I try to get ready for the day, greet and hug my kids, feed them breakfast, and send them to school. During the day, life is busy, but it is still too easy to get distracted with the phone. I try to be present with my kids and only check occasionally or during nap time. I don’t always succeed, but our day is a million times better when I do. At night, once the kids are in bed, I am exhausted and all I want to do is sit – so this is when I spend the most time on social media. I allow myself some downtime. However, I set an alarm to remind me when to put my phone down, spend some time with my husband, and study my scriptures before bed. Again, I fail… frequently. But I am constantly trying to practice self-discipline and set limits. Sometimes, a social media fast is also a good idea. Deleting the apps that tempt me the most for 1-3 days can be so refreshing and rejuvenating.
If you are following a person or business that doesn’t bring you joy or frequently makes you feel down and less than what you are worth (and you are worth so much), unfollow them.
3. Be Yourself.
This is easier said than done on social media. We want so badly to be our genuine and weird selves, but then, when we’re about to post we think, “oh gosh, people won’t like my weirdness. . . I should be cool and calm and collected like [insert name here].” In my early years on social media, I remember occasionally writing captions that I thought would please specific people. But I’ve come a long way and although I know that I can be totally weird and long winded and random, I try to be “me” with my captions and photos by sharing what brings me joy or what’s in my heart.
4. Be generous with your likes and genuine with your comments.
This might sound crazy, but it works. Practice loving people. Practice being happy for people. I follow mostly friends and family, a few bloggers that I admire, and some businesses that I like. . . Why keep my likes and comments to myself? If I “like” 15 photos in a row, will my phone explode in my hands??? Ok, maybe I don’t like and comment on all the business posts. And of course I don’t have time to comment on each of my friends’ posts every single day. BUT, when I do get on to check, I have found that I can still like and comment on people’s photos and I can do it quickly. It doesn’t have to take up my entire afternoon. One reason I love the “algorithm” of Facebook and Instagram is that it KNOWS who I love and want to see based on my history of likes and comments, so all the people I love sit at the top of my feed when I get on to check. I can quickly give each of my friends photos a “like”, leave a few genuine comments, scroll quickly through the businesses, turn off my phone, and be on my merry way, feeling at peace with myself because I treated my friends on-screen the way I would treat them face-to-face.
5. Develop and nurture meaningful relationships off-screen.
Obviously we need to make real life friends and nurture the ones we already have. It is so rejuvenating and healing to be with people you care about. I try to schedule playdates and lunch outings with friends, and visit my parents and siblings as frequently as I can, because when I do, I leave feeling like the best version of myself. I pray that I can set an example for my kids so that they will grow up knowing how to make friends and be a good friend despite the digital world we live in.
6. Practice self-love and affirmations.
I admit that even as a happy, confident adult. . . no matter how hard I try, social media still gets me down at times. I have learned that sometimes I need to remind myself not to beat myself up, but to bring myself up. We are allowed to like ourselves. We should like ourselves. I practice positive affirmations, because we are what we think, right? If I am feeling devalued, I try to remind myself that I am loved. That I am God’s child. That I am unique and beautiful in my own way. I may not be like that person, or like that person, but I am me. These are the things we teach our kids. . . why do we forget that it still applies to us?
Lastly, can I share with you a person who is a great example to me of finding balance between social media and real life? My dad. My dad is a smart, goofy, quirky, awesome, funny, good guy who works really hard and cares about people. He is an avid cyclist (he wrote a book about it!), true to his faith, successful in his profession, and he loves keeping up with technology and connecting on social media. He does it so well, and so genuinely, without a care in the world what other people think or how many likes he gets. Sometimes, when I’m worried about a post or something I said or did online, or when I wonder if people like me, I think of my dad and say: forget it! What I share is genuine and brings me joy, and that is all that matters. And that’s all that should matter to you, too.