What your social media posts say about you
Updated: Jan 7, 2019
It seems to me that many of us have a conflicted relationship with social media. You may feel shame about how much time you spend on it. You may be proud of how little time you spend on it. You may proudly promote your posts and be secretly satisfied with a growing following (although you are quick to admit that followers mean nothing engagement is what really matters!). You may have a private account and don't post at all and spend a lot of time judging what other people post.
I think that social media is at the top of the list of what people fast from these days. It seems like half my Instagram feed announces they will be fasting from social media during Lent. Like chocolate and wine we see Instagram as an indulgence and addictive. Or perhaps we have some concern that social media is impacting us spiritually? Whatever it is - we feel a need to fast from it.
I’ve been thinking about some of the critiques I hear about social media. The privacy critique is valid. We need to be aware that we are not only sharing our lives but also selling ourselves with every post we make. Someone is making money from our ‘free’ account. There is much to be said about this loss of privacy and the accompanying risks that we take in sharing our lives. By now we all know there are risks. But many of us have chosen to continue posting and taking precautions to minimize the risks. I want to look at another critique of social media.
You’ve heard people say, especially in reference to platforms like facebook and Instagram, that we present a curated image of our lives. The concern is that spending time on social media is bad for our mental health. We see a lot of pretence on these platforms. I laughed when I read this line from an article in The Guardian,
"If Facebook demonstrates that everyone is boring and Twitter proves that everyone is awful, Instagram makes you worry that everyone is perfect – except you.”
If we are naive enough to believe that the images posted are representative of the whole of a person’s life, yes, we may find ourselves depressed, envious, and discontent with our own lives. And those feelings can be harmful to us emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Here’s an image for you - I’m writing this wearing a brown housecoat (that should tell you something about how long I have owned it). I’ve been feeling under the weather for a few days and other than getting out for a walk yesterday I haven’t left the house in two days. I haven’t showered either. I have naturally curly hair and all you curly hair girls know what two days of lying on a couch does to your hair. It’s wild looking - if I went outside right now a bird would nest in it. Am I posting this image on Instagram? NO!!!
But still - I think we can reframe social media. And since I post more on Instagram than anywhere else I am focusing my thoughts on it. You can apply these ideas to your platform of personal preference. Here's what I've been thinking: What if what you and I are posting on Instagram isn’t our images of our perfect lives but the images of what we value and what we want most deeply in our lives? What if those pictures of perfect lattes, celebrations with people we love, beautiful place we have been able to experience are actually expressions of our hearts longings? What if you look at those posts and saw that what your ‘friend’ is sharing represents what she most deeply values and celebrates in her life?
Instead of being jealous, envious and comparing our own lives, can you see a glimpse of the person who posted. The woman who posts daily pictures of her vacation including multiple shots of groups laughing over the most gorgeous looking meals isn’t saying this is a reflection of her whole life. It is a reflection of what is important to her - travelling, enjoying good food and relationships. It is something she values. It is something she considers post worthy.
What if those pictures of perfect lattes, life giving moments with people we love, beautiful places we’ve been able to experience, are actually expressions of our hearts longings? Reflections of what we value most. They are the parts we share because they make us feel good about our lives. And we all know life isn't perfect.
I believe there is another motive for sharing as well. I think a lot about our spiritual journey. Sue Monk Kidd writes,"The truth is, in order to heal we need to tell our stories and have them witnessed. “All sorrows can be borne if we put them in a story or tell a story about them,” said Isak Dinesen, a writer who had plenty of sorrow and told stories to bear it. The story itself becomes a vessel that holds us up, that sustains, that allows us to order our jumbled experiences into meaning." (From "The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine")
I know for some of you, Instagram is a place where you feel you can express your truth.A place where you don’t feel silenced like you do in other places in your lives. I follow some people that are in the midst of this healing journey. They are sharing their stories to have them witnessed. Their stories are raw. They are speaking their truth and using Instagram as a way to challenge the system that has hurt them. I do this myself on occasion.
These things we are sharing, are images of what we want more of in our lives, what we want to celebrate in our lives and what is important to us. They can be examined to point us towards our own values and passions.
What if you took some time to look at your Instagram feed and ask yourself, “What is the truth of my posts? Is this a life I really want? What values am I sharing? Is this a life I think I should want? Am I sharing this so I can heal in some way? Am I sharing this story so I can help others who are also healing?"
And how about looking at those images that fill your feed with the same compassion? Look beyond their curated life and see the values and truth they are expressing. When it comes to social media, we need to draw on our deep wisdom. Social media is a reflection of the world. What you choose to focus on influences your experience.