A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with my daughter after she got off school. Naturally, she did something astoundingly cute, so I unconsciously surrendered to the automatic reaction of reaching into my pocket and pulling out my phone to take a photo.
I took the picture. Opened Instagram. And then I hesitated.
See, I’ve written about this kind of thing before, but have lately fallen back into old habits. I’ve long used social media as a personal scrapbook. Photos of family, scenery, and special moments filled my feeds. But this year, I’m taking my life back from social media (well, at least some of it).
I want to keep more moments for myself.
I mean, seriously — why do we do this?…
Why do we put out our most sacred personal moments on social media to be judged, criticized, and scrutinized by other people?
Why should that fleeting moment with my daughter — a moment I’ll never get back — be a source of stress as I mentally churn over what filter, hashtags, and caption to use?
How could I subject the significance of that sacred moment (and countless others) to the preferences of others — many of whom I either don’t know, will never know, or would prefer not to know?
It’s amazing what we’ll do for a brief dopamine fix.
Now, we need to be gentle with ourselves when it comes to this. Yes, social media is inherently an egoic activity. We do it for attention, status, and confirmation (no matter how ‘authentic’ and ‘raw’ we say we’re being on there). It’s easy to virtue signal against it all day.
But the ego is an integral part of the human experience. We just need to be aware of what’s going on and own it.
I’m going to give you a quick look at how I’m going to try to handle social media this year. But I’m trying not to be too dogmatic about it. If I slip up and post a photo of my daughter holding a puppy or a selfie with a Chicago hot dog (yes, after almost two years of living here, I’m still a tourist), I have to chalk it up to being human.
- First of all, I’m trying to pound into my own brain that I am the product on social media. Whenever I go online, it’s largely a business transaction. So I may as well use it to further my work as a freelance creator (or whatever you call what I’m doing here with this blog and whatnot). I mean, the .com should tell us something. It stands for ‘commercial’. It’s a commercial medium, not a scrapbook. I don’t fault people trying to sell things in an ‘authentic’ (whatever that means) way online. I follow several coffee shops, tiny home builders, authors, artists, musicians, etc. (and love the ads on Instagram — seriously, they’re so good).
- Any family photos and videos that I take, I put into an iPhoto folder that I only share with close family and friends. These people don’t care about my blog or the work I do in the world. All they care about is my cute kid, my gorgeous wife, and my scruffy-yet-adorable dog (if I do say so myself).
- As I said, I still slip. There are some personal/family moments that I can’t resist sharing on social. But I keep them on Facebook and Instagram stories (separate from my Instagram static feed, which I want to keep focused on blog/Patreon stuff).
- I turned my Facebook page private and keep it as a curated personal scrapbook of sorts. I actually like how they provide a space to do this. Plus, Facebook is very much pay-to-play for business purposes and I don’t have the time or money to do that at this moment.
- Twitter is a tricky one. I went through and deleted all of my old tweets (there are a plethora of apps with which to do this, just search for them). Twitter is so political, it’s toxic. I’ve also unfollowed everyone who triggers that primal urge to hate (you might know what I’m talking about). I don’t know if I’ll ever tweet much — I may even delete my account altogether. The jury’s out.
I hope this helps provide a new perspective on your digital social life. Claim those sacred moments back and share intentionally. If you understand the internal and external dynamics of what’s going on, you can hopefully get the most out of it. Social media doesn’t have to be a horrible, toxic thing — well, maybe just enough to enjoy:)
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