Updated: Jun 3, 2021
If I broke up with social media tomorrow, I wouldn’t be the first, and no one would be impressed.
Another thing that wouldn’t blow anyone's mind is that I have a love-hate relationship with social platforms, and I wrestle with how to use them with balance and for good.
Well, duh, right?
So do you, probably. Let’s set aside the typical reasons why we love and hate social for a second while I share two new reasons that have surfaced lately in my world. They’re not pretty and I have no one to blame but myself.
I have two social media accounts. Facebook, because apparently, that’s where all of the over 40 parents live, and Instagram, because I have a fear of missing out (I refuse to use the acronym, it makes me feel like a twelve-year-old).
The new reasons why I’m struggling with my social media accounts stem from a couple of personal confessions. I’m not proud of these, y’all, but I’ll share them with you to create some accountability for myself moving forward. (sigh)
Judgy Von Holier Than Thou
Y’all, this one just plain hurts to acknowledge because it’s ugly, I’m ashamed, and I believe it isn’t my true nature.
I wake up in the morning and grab my phone from the side table. First, I open my FitPro app to see how many hours of deep sleep I got, because I’m obsessed. Then, I check for texts, emails, and finally, I head into the big, noisy world of social media.
It starts innocently enough. I open an app, I start scrolling. I like a couple of things, comment on a friend’s post… It’s all downhill from there.
The heavy load of “look at me, look at me” begins to take its toll. Here’s a look inside my head as I’m scrolling (I warn you, it’s not pretty).
I see that an acquaintance has posted another ten pictures of her teen’s accomplishments this week and I roll my eyes. “Good grief, we get it. She’s really good at that and super awesome in every way.”
Then I see a woman sharing about the good deed she did yesterday. “Oh please, can’t she just do the nice thing without elevating herself publicly?”
Someone posted pictures of their fabulous night out. “You needed us to know that you look fabulous and you go out and do cool things with all the cool people. Got it.”
Then it gets even uglier (if it were possible) when I see a fancy pants, overly-filtered mom I don’t even know solo TikTok dancing on Instagram, trying hard to look as adorable as possible — and I super judge her.
Dang it, I just did again, didn’t I?
“She’s so pretentious.” “He’s so fake.” “I would never let my teenager wear that.” “How many selfies can one person post in a week?”
So now that I’ve confessed, my social media friends are going to see my “likes” in a whole new light, right? Y’all, I need you to know that these are private, fleeting thoughts that I abandon as soon as they come to mind.
I also genuinely celebrate my friends’ joyful moments, aspire to encourage others with my comments, and enjoy the pics of my friends’ cute kids doing cute things. It’s not all judgy all the time.
But, I’m pretty sure that I’m more snarky on the inside than I used to be. I don’t like it.
While we’re all likely to slip into a little judgy-ness from time to time, I’ve invited it to take root in my heart by engaging in the scrolling and watching of others too often. Maybe if I stop looking so much, I won’t be as compelled to think these things.
The sheer volume of what I’m consuming on social media is a recipe for a judgmental attitude. One ugly thought leads to another, and another. Before I know it, a critical spirit has dug its claws into my formerly nice nature.
Here’s what happens every time I have these private “OMG, did they really just do/say/wear that?” moments. There’s instantly a tug on my heart and I’m convicted by the Holy Spirit for my judgy-ness. Every single time. And in my heart, right at that moment, I tell God that I’m sorry.
But then I do it again. The cycle of “OMG” followed by “Oops, I’m sorry again, Lord” goes on and on.
I’ve asked God to remove this ugliness from my heart and to help me see others only through His eyes. I’ve also acknowledged in my prayer life that the primary reason I’m responding critically to others’ posts is that I deal with a little jealousy, a lot of insecurity, and I’m watching others too closely. So, there’s that.
Is it possible to watch others’ posts on social media without viewing it as everyone’s desperate need to be seen and heard?
Except that I get that part — because I want to be seen and heard, too. I’ve done the “I need to post this so people know it happened” thing. Many times. I’ve also posted to social with no braggy motive at all - I was just plain proud of my family and wanted to tell the world.
So, if I’ve posted with a genuine motive, why am I so sure “she” has a shallow one? Something I need to ponder, no doubt.
Please know, I’m not always ugly on the inside. God has given me gifts of empathy, encouragement, and most of the time, I only see the best in people. There’s nothing that I love more than lifting up my friends, and I'm not a gossip.
But I’m also struggling with this other thing, and I need to deal with it.
I want to get back to a place where the scrolling doesn’t lead to a holier-than-thou attitude. I want to see others through a lens of grace, and not through my lens of personal insufficiency.
Oops, I did it again.
Alright, so the second new reason why I’m loving and hating social media these days? Apparently, I have no self-control on Facebook all of a sudden.
I was proud of myself during the recent Presidential election. I didn’t go all “listen to my perspective or be damned” for my candidate of choice at any point. I stayed quiet and let the louder personalities do the shouting for us.
Then, it was time to elect new school board trustees and city council members in my city. I care deeply about both; this time, it involves my friends and neighbors.
Naturally, I followed my preferred candidates on social media. I’d “like” a post, and from there, would begin receiving notifications (all the livelong day). It was then that I surprised myself.
I said things.
Nothing horrible, all pretty mild and benign. I’m not an argumentative person, nor am I hard-nosed, so you won’t see me go ape you-know-what about these things.
But, I’ll tell you what — after a few replies came in contesting my viewpoint, I’d regret it. I’d think, “Shoot, I kind of wish I hadn’t engaged with that post. That was foolish.”
I’d commit not to do it again. But then, I would. And again… And a couple of more times after that. It’s so hard not to get sucked in when you feel injustice or misinformation is being spread about someone you respect.
This sounds worse than it is, I assure you. If you were following the heated election that I’m following you’d barely notice my mild-natured, non-slanderous comments buried beneath the sea of harsh back and forths between supporters on each side. But, here’s what my husband said to me (more than once) that I have to admit, is wisdom:
He reminded me that when people are passionate about something, they hear what they want to hear, and read between the lines. Something I commented on that was, to me, perfectly rational and pragmatic, may not be interpreted that way by someone else.
He also reminded me that while I feel that my comments have been very sporadic and are unlikely to be noticed by anyone, that’s not how social media works. When your “friend” posts something, whether you’re following the conversation or not, they’re likely to see it. It may start to look as though I’m all over the place commenting on all the things. Which drags me in deeper…
I’ve had a few things to say, and that should be okay, as long as I’m showing respect for all sides of the equation. But here’s the deal — this election is LOCAL. I know these people, some of them very well. We’ll continue to be neighbors following this election and I don’t want to lose the good rapport and friendly nature of our relationship.
So, how do I stick up for my viewpoint without getting pulled into back and forths with people who appear to be very comfortable engaging that way? Well, I haven’t figured that out yet. I could choose not to reply, sure. I could choose to turn off notifications and disconnect from the topic. But therein lies the second new problem I’m having with social media. I can’t seem to control myself in this space!
To my credit, I have a bit. There is so much more that I want to say, but either I don’t have the guts or I’m tapping into the last bit of self-discipline left on social media. The truth is, every time I engage, I’m left with a heavy heart and regret that I got involved even a tiny bit.
I think that’s God saying, “Don’t, Nicole. Pray that My will would be done. I already know how this ends and I’ve got everything under control, whether it turns out as you’d like, or not.”
How do I fix myself? Well, prayer, for starters. It’s always, always, prayer. I need God’s help to find more self-control both in my thought life and in my social media behavior. I also need an extra dose of the Holy Spirit to adjust my sensitivities toward others again.
Practically speaking? I can fast from it. Like, “Peace out, social, see you in a bit.” They say the only way to break a habit is to, well, break it. So, my habitual behavior needs to change.
As easy as it is to point out the grievances of social media — the obligation, the distraction, the comparison trap — I doubt I’ll give it up altogether because I value it as a vehicle for keeping in touch with people I care about who aren’t in my daily world. That part is nice.
I also understand that for many, it’s a small business tool — an important one. For others, it’s used to minister, to share important information, or as a means of self-expression.
It’s not all bad, used with kindness.
A while ago, I stopped posting pics very often of my kids and our vacations and their awards and all of it because I couldn’t do it consistently. More to the point, I didn’t want to do it consistently. It became a responsibility, and that’s just weird.
Yet, my kids deserve to be bragged on once in a while and it’s fun to share photos of a trip for viewing by those who care about us. I’m proud of my family and sometimes there’s something fun to say.
For now, though, I’m going to take a little social break in the name of dropping a nasty habit. I know I’ll be back because I’ll still have that hard-to-shake fear of missing out. Maybe when I return, however, I’ll be a little more disciplined about it, both in my heart and with my actions.