this week, i have taken a little break from social media. i try to do this every so often to get refreshed and focus on things outside of a five-inch piece of glass. when i reflected on the last time i fasted from social media, all i could remember is how bad i wanted to tweet about how well it was going. ironic, right? let's just say that i did not fully get the point of why i needed a break. this time, however, i made a goal to not just refrain from using social media, but be present in what was right in front of my eyes-- to not feel the need to look down at my phone as conversation started going stale and to not take a photo of every event of the day (did you know you can still have brunch and not instagram it?!).
i remember reading a cynical, better-than-you phrase a few weeks ago that said "you are not all that you post to be". after a slight humph, i thought to myself of course i'm not all that i post to be, i'm more. yet, and more notably-- we are all more than what we put on the internet. i think we have this misconception that how we are perceived on social media is an accurate assumption of ourselves. why? because, that is exactly what we think of others. oh, they are always hanging out with friends and eating healthy food AND have a close relationship with their parents (you know what i am talking about, teens-- those three-paragraph long instagram captions to your parent who does not have an instagram on mother's/father's day), or wow, why do they always look so cute? how do they have enough money for a $6 cup of coffee everyday? how do they balance work, family, and fun so well?, or whatever you may think when a follower posts. we are so quick to assume that what we post, and what others' post, is all we are.
i often times get compliments from friends and followers that i "have such a cute instagram" or the even more 'hip' compliment, "you're instagram is so aesthetically pleasing". while flattering, i dislike being recognized for something so minute and unimportant in the long run. when someone says that to me, all that comes to mind is how i will tell my children someday how "cool" i was for posting photos on the internet and multiple people 'liked' them (or clicked a button on their device). i can only imagine the smirks and chuckles as they mumble yeah right under their breath. do not get me wrong, i love social media. i really do. yet, as for me, i use social media (mainly instagram) as a creative outlet-- i try to make my photos artistic, somewhat decent quality, and have a creative caption (you're such a try-hard, cate). i do this not because i want likes and comments, but because i truly enjoy it. yes, i really do love finding a creative way to capture what i am doing. yes, i really do love editing a photograph of mine for way too long than i am willing to admit. and yes, i love to write and love to express just a little of who i am through captions and tweets. note i said "a little" of who i am-- because i am (and you are) more than what i (you) post. i bet you did not know from my social media that in this past week alone i have cleaned out and given away over half of the contents in my closet. or that i frequently walk around the container store by myself (i do not think i should be admitting this one). or that i have an extensive candle collection because i cannot bear to throw away beautiful candle holders after they are out of use. and no matter how authentic i try to be, social media can never capture the true joy i get when i have "real talk" conversations with a friend. it can never speak the thousands of words and emotions i feel about a current event. most of all, it can never tell you how much growth and peace i have gained through trust in Christ. the list goes on. all this to say-- social media cannot tell our whole story. yet, i believe there is beauty in the mystery and the unsaid. it opens the door for curiosity and conversation outside the realm of likes, shares, and comments.
though social media does not tell the whole story, it can be used effectively and positively. for instance, how cool is it that we can connect with any and everyone? whether that is a friend from high school you haven't seen in 10+ years or someone from another country that shares in your love of [fill in the blank here], the possibilities are endless. sometimes i just think about that, and i'm like DANG, i love living in the 21st century. another one of my favorite aspects of social media is that when meeting people in person or catching up with an old friend, you do not have to go into your whole life spiel (your family, your job, what you do for fun). instead, you can dive into deeper topics since you have the basics covered (or maybe that is just an introvert's comfort). lastly, social media can be used as a marketing space. stores and brands that post quality content frequently draw me in. for example, ban.do has excellent social media handles. fun, colorful, inviting posts on not just items for sale, but behind-the-scenes action around their studio. they even have a social media coordinator whose job is solely to focus on how to market their brand on the internet (talk about dream job!).
yet, despite the positive effects of social media, i have realized that every time you log onto facebook, instagram, twitter, etc. your focus directs to yourself*. whether comparing what you are doing to your friends or deciding how to make your life attractive and "post-worthy", this can be such a dangerous cycle. the thing is this: we only post what we think others want to see: perfection. when in reality, all we really want to see is that someone else can relate to our situation, whether good or bad. as we log onto our social media accounts, we are faced with images of smiling faces and beautifully written accounts of good news: high test grades, job promotions, vacations, and [insert that annoying person on facebook who brags about his or her child 24/7]. we scroll aimlessly and automatically think that everyone is doing just fine, actually better than fine-- they are at the beach with their perfect family who all gets along while still having the most relaxing time. right?! or is that just what social media tells you? it once again displays only one aspect of the story. we are not shown the messy, un-photo worthy details of life-- the fights between families, the lonely friday nights, or the multiple failed attempts to get one's math grade up (the 'one' i am referring to is me my entire high school career). not that those details and life events should consume every post, but we need to remember that everyone is dealing with something-- whether now or later, small or large. what parades our eyes on the internet is not always the complete truth.
as my week of social media-lessness comes to a close, i have learned a few things:
one // i have connected with people more this week even without social media updates.
two // i have found myself forgetting to photograph what is happening. (that, i think, is when you know you are truly enjoying yourself.)
three // i have indulged in activities that i love when i have extra time instead of staring at my phone. (i have written four long letter to friends, finished a book, journaled multiple times, as well as many artistic pursuits. woo to the hoo!)
four // i have been less "self-focused". (*revert to previous rant on how selfish humans are, myself included)
five // i have been way more productive. though this is a given, it reminds me how much of a time-sucker that the internet can be.
six// people are not waiting hand and foot for an update on your life. i know, it's hard to believe, people. as much as you think that your posts are needed for the internet to stay alive, they aren't. life still goes on without you. let's stay humble, folks.
i hope this post reminds you that you are, in fact, more than what you post, and that sometimes it is healthy to step back from social media for a short time. yet, do not feel pressured to go off the grid for a month or even a week (but more power to you if you do!), but maybe just for an evening or on a rainy day.
let's consider this: what would change about our lives and the lives of those around us if we unplugged and were truly present?