I love social media. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram – and so many more – they help me stay connected with my friends throughout the day. But how do we decide what to post, when there really is no rules? Should anything and everything I think and feel be exchanged with hundreds of other people? Before we snap one more picture of our hot chocolate topped with a foam leaf, perhaps we would benefit from a brief pause—an extra 30 seconds to ask five simple questions might suggest it’s time to unplug, or at least reconsider when and how we use social media:
1. Am I seeking approval? When I seek validation through something I post and that little red flag starts popping up to notify me of each person giving me attention, it’s an addictive reward. And it works. I feel better, so I keep coming back for more. But what are the bigger needs asking to be met here? Maybe it’s a desire for community. Perhaps it stems from unresolved conflict with someone I love. Or maybe I just thrive on pleasing people and hearing their praise. If your interaction with the internet is driven by a need for approval, consider healthier ways to address this issue and choose to stop reinforcing the unhealthy ones.
2. Am I bragging? There’s sharing excitement and then there’s bragging. Truthfully, we each know which camp we fall in. Examine your motivations and walk away before using social media as the adult version of show-and-tell.
3. Am I unhappy? Are you looking for something “better”? If so, walk away. Nothing you will read, write or see is going to solve this one. Instead, ask yourself why you are discontent and address those needs. When we view social media from a lens of unhappiness, whatever we find will be colored with bitterness and ungratefulness. The lives of our followers and friends begin to look brighter than ours, while our lives will take on a sense of lacking. Let us not forget—their world is as ordinary as ours and our life is as exciting as theirs. Do you believe that in your core? If not, take a break. Deactivate your account for a couple months. Stop asking the virtual world to solve dissatisfaction with the physical one.
4. Is this a moment to protect? When we interrupt lunch with a friend in order to quote her on Twitter, we invite hundreds of people into a conversation that could have been sacred; and we miss the sweet memories that may have formed had her words remained simply between the two of us.Not every great moment needs to be shared. In fact, some of the best times are most enjoyed privately. If we suspend the present in an attempt to capture its beauty in 140 characters or less, we sacrifice our experience of the moment itself. We also rob each other of something that has been lost in our digital age—keeping a handful of memories between us and those we are closest to.
5. Is it kind? Our culture tells us it’s our right to comment on everything, regardless of whether it was addressed to us and without consideration for how it might affect others. We’ve replaced face-to-face confrontation with sharp comments and mocking memes. We write demeaning tweets addressed to celebrities or openly criticize individuals we have never met, hiding behind the convenience that they cannot directly defend themselves and nobody is putting our personal lives on display for public criticism.
Will you think twice before posting today?