Today is beautiful. Spring in all it’s “fresh start” glory with irises in my flower beds bursting in showy purple and dogwood blossoms covering our tree in pale yellow. Just beautiful. The newness of life emerging from limbs that looked dead all winter and baby birds hatching and turning the calendar page to a new season are all refreshing to my spirit. I have learned some helpful lessons during my fast from social media this past Lent and am excited for a fresh start in my usage of Facebook and Instagram this year.
First, and this is important, I think most social media usage falls under a matter of conviction, not necessarily categories of bad or good. We all need to be willing to look into our hearts and behaviors to see if regular patterns in our lives are consistent with our beliefs and God’s truth. Using other areas of our lives, we should occasionally ask if TV shows we watch line up with what we believe is appropriate or if we are handling money in a way that reflects people who place our value in Christ. And on and on. When I read a post bashing social media I tend to disagree with the premise- that social media is either exclusively good or bad- but rather I think it is a matter to be reflected on with a willingness to challenge ourselves if we find some inconsistencies. That being said, here are three areas I was personally challenged to change the way I use my Facebook and Instagram (my two main platforms):
Use social media as a way to connect, not impress. As a high end extrovert, I have many people I love and enjoy connecting to. Facebook especially, is a way to “check in” with more people and stay current on life. However, I found as I was not on the site, what I often missed in the beginning was sharing some insight or story I knew others would like and therefore be impressed by. As I honestly reflected, I could see where my motive in posting pictures and cool or funny status’s at times was simply to earn approval. Not always though. I truly did miss being able to see current events in others lives or share an encouraging scripture or thought. The bottom line in this area was motivation- why am I posting?
Be present in your experiences, post about them later. I became aware as I was purposely not posting any pictures or events, I had developed a really bad habit of getting my phone out to immediately post about something I was still in the middle of experiencing. I found I was so much better able to fully enjoy and connect to my life when I was not busy posting it in real time. I also was more focused on others and less distracted by the constant updates after posting. This was a total no brainer once I realized how much I was robbing myself by updating and adding during an experience. The easy answer to When should I be posting and checking my social media? LATER!
Review your content to be sure you are keeping both hurts and precious things private. I think as an extrovert one of my defaults is verbal processing over internal processing. Sometimes this means I regret what popped out of my mouth without a solid filtering. On line especially, it becomes extra important to carefully choose what stories, thoughts and feelings I share. Many conversations and situations are extremely personal to the others involved- children included. I love sharing antics and updates about my girl but I can see the need to get permission prior to doing so now. Additionally, social media is a terrible place to share hurts and offenses because by nature our negative feelings will skew what we post. And there will be many people eager to jump on a bashing bandwagon who can’t have the full picture of reality based on one post on line. We need to share those issues face to face with loving friends who can affirm truth, not just our feelings, and challenge us to look at other points of view or our own issues. One acronym I have seen to use for filtering posts is THINK. Asking yourself is it True? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind? will answer What is appropriate to post?
I’m thankful to be sharpened and more intentional about the way I use social media. Like any other tool, it can be used for good purposes and it can also slip into a destructive or negative pattern. Fasting for 40 days was a helpful exercise and I’d encourage you to try it sometime to see what lessons the Lord teaches you!