“…sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself…”
― Donald Miller
Sometimes, I’m sitting at the kitchen table or making dinner or folding laundry, and something comes to mind that I desperately want to say to you. Some of those moments take me straight to my computer, other times I don’t quite get there and the thought floats away with the doing of all the dishes and the washing of all the clothes. Other times though, I make it to the screen. I’m laying on my bed while Lila showers in my bathroom. In my nasty stank from a shower-less day full of working out and training clients and running errands and taking the oldest to the orthodontist. I’m gross. But here I am. In all of my stinky glory, ignoring my dishes to share some thoughts about social media with you. Because it can be tricky.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about social media lately. How to juggle it. How to be engaged and present in a way that’s useful but not totally life sucking. Because it can suck you in. All of our social media outlets, while totally life-giving at times, can also have the opposite effect. They can quickly deflate us and make our realities seem far less exciting than those we see on our screen’s. Blogging can create a false sense of self. Am I being true to who I REALLY am or am I just putting on a show? Am I just throwing things out there that look good but that really have no relevance to who God made me to be? These are questions I often ask of myself. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
I’ve been blogging for 2 1/2 years now. I’ve seen bloggers come and go. Some off the grid completely and some far less consistent than at the beginning. Some ragingly successful. The honeymoon phase is nice. I had a super cool 3 day a week schedule. I posted a fitness post on Monday, a real life post on Wednesdays, and a Friday Favorites post on Fridays, of course. It was dreamy. Until it wasn’t anymore. And it’s not just bloggers. The social media culture that we live in can be a hard one to navigate. How much is too much?
Over time, the pressure of the “I have to’s”(that I had completely made up by the way. No one told me to do anything) started to get to me. Then, my husband got busy and I got busy and our kids got busy. Life took a turn. I decided to cut back. I cut back from work. From Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest(well except for my 475 kitchen remodel re-pins) and the gym. I started working out more from home and posting a bit less. No reason really, just didn’t seem to care as much anymore. I just wanted more time with my people. I wanted less pressure to do something simply to keep up. It became too competitive so I retreated to my safe space of home and family. The things that were real and right in front of me.
I took a break from this. From this screen. From this blog. From my thoughts and ideas. Not completely, but a big break for me.
Something had started happening to me. I started caring too much about when the post went out, how many likes it got, how it compared to hers. Was I trying to be a fitness gooroo or just a regular mom writing about life? I didn’t really know. I felt suffocated by it. Like it was on my mind entirely too much. Like a good craving for a hot chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven or Doritos(you know you think about these things too). Once you start thinking about it, it’s hard to get it off your mind. That’s how I felt with all the hype and posting and picture-taking. Like it was consuming my thoughts, and that’s a dangerous place to live.
I had lost sight of me.
Should I vide more? Post more workouts? Post less real life? Care more about making a business out of this? Change my format or my wardrobe or my style? I had no idea.
So, a break was what I needed. This is just my experience by the way, not a list of how to’s for surviving social media in 2016. That you sort of have to figure out for yourself. It’s what I faced and what I learned that I hope you can learn from and be encouraged by.
What I learned was that it’s ok to step back. That may look different for you than it did for me. For me it meant taking those “I have to’s” off my plate. I simply took the expectations away. No more scheduled posts. No more theme’s or early morning posting or pressure. Less scrolling and liking and commenting. Just less.
“Usually the things we think we need become the very things we need a break from.”
― Jen Hatmaker
After several months of this breather, something began to happen. I began to miss writing and blogging. I missed the people I’ve “met” through this crazy connector called the internet. I knew I had to venture back in slowly. I knew I had to be cautious. I knew that I had to hold tight to who I am. And so do you.
Be aware that not everything you see is real. Some is. But most are snippets. All are snippets really I guess. Glimpses into the lives of people. Some who we know, and some who are total strangers. You can’t read tone. You can’t see facial expressions or the moments before or after the photo was captured. The kid who comes in throwing Cheezits or the one with the attitude or the washing machine that overflows or the marriage that’s not what it seems. So be cautious. Determine who you are. Stay true to that person and it will help you navigate the water’s of social media just a little more carefully.
After my little break, I stepped back in. But in a different way. I blog when I have something to say. I’ve decided if I never make a penny off this thing, if no one ever reads anything I say ever again, if no one clicks on my link or my image, if no one ever sponsors me and I never get another pair of free shoes…that I’m still so in. I’m doing this because I love it. Because I enjoy it. Because it’s something God’s given me that He has yet to take away.
So, can I just encourage you today in this one thing?
If social media is a struggle for you, step away. You can. You have a choice. You don’t have to check Facebook every day. You don’t have to post on Instagram or tweet your every move. You simply step back. Maybe it’s completely or just one day a week or for a season. Maybe for one hour every day you turn your phone off or put it away. Step away. You may find a great deal of freedom in that.
And when you enter back in, know that you are completely and dearly loved. You are unique. You are who God created you to be regardless of the public perception of you. You are special and cool and super rad regardless of your presence on social media. Guard your time. Guard your mind. Guard your heart and your tendency to compare. Stay present in the things happening all around you and don’t be afraid to turn your phone off. The world won’t end. Promise. Take a rest.
Be you. Do your thing. Your look. Your style. Your pace. Your sport. Your time. Your gifts. Do them and do them well. Let all the other people in the vast cosmos that is our world do their thing. Cheer them on. Enjoy watching them dance or cook or run or sprint or walk or garden or parent or speak. Let them have their gifts and do them well, and you do yours. Because social media can be a gift and a joy and something we use well, if only we proceed with a little wisdom and a true sense of who we really are.
“To all the secret writers, late-night painters, would-be singers, lapsed and scared artists of every stripe, dig out your paintbrush, or your flute, or your dancing shoes. Pull out your camera or your computer or your pottery wheel. Today, tonight, after the kids are in bed or when your homework is done, or instead of one more video game or magazine, create something, anything.
Pick up a needle and thread, and stitch together something particular and honest and beautiful, because we need it. I need it.
Thank you, and keep going.”
― Shauna Niequist