Honestly, chewing on this whole concept is part of what has kept me from blogging much for the past couple of months (except for Cora's monthly updates) - that along with some unresolved thoughts about privacy issues (ie; to password protect the blog or not? how to respect my children's feelings/privacy as I blog about them? who reads this thing anyway and how do I feel about the potential that counseling clients could Google me and read about my family? is it foolish to spew pics of my little sweeties out into the interwebs?). So, instead of blogging about my thoughts I've been thinking about my blog. Occasionally I think I should just pull the plug on social media altogether, but then I think of all the ways I feel more connected to people I care about because I read their blogs or see their kids' cute faces on Instagram and I take a few steps back from that ledge.
A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with a woman who has served as a major encourager in my life and was unloading some of my social media angst onto her. Though her words were gentle and carefully spoken, there was enough hesitation and a bit of a look in her eye that communicated to me, "you can chill out just a little bit." I am quick to recognize the signs of that particular non-verbal message, because I need it a lot. I've always been one to pace so many circles around an issue (or non-issue) that I end up wearing away a trench that I have trouble getting out of. I just get sucked into intensity, I think.
Anyway, I'm still not sure where I land on the whole privacy issue; and I'd love to hear from others how you have decided what to share online, specifically as it relates to your kids. However, when it comes to the idea that we put on our best face for social media, I think I have come to some conclusions regarding how I present myself and my family:
- I think I am very similar online to who I am in person: when I leave my house, usually I put on make-up and change out of my pajamas (since kids though, the make-up is a lot more negotiable). Usually when people are coming over to my house, I at least try to pick it up, sweep up the dog hair, and peel the slobbery puffs and yogurt melt off whatever surfaces they have cemented themselves to. Do I do these things because I want everyone to think that I have a perfect house and that I am always perfectly coiffed? Heavens no. It makes me feel better to present myself in a fresh, clean way, and I like to invite others into a home that has at least some semblance of peace as opposed to messy chaos. So, if that's what I do in person, why would I behave differently in the world of social media? Sure I usually have make-up on in pictures I post, and I may crop a shot of my kids to exclude the pile of dirty laundry or the messy kitchen table; but it isn't because I want people to think we don't ever have messes. It's because I want the focus of the photo to be on what is precious or special to me about that moment - the sweet smiles or the silly wrestling - not the fact that my house bears witness to my long chore list.
- Don't we usually want to document the good? When I look back through old family albums and baby books, I don't find that my mom took tons of pictures of dirty dishes in the sink or people arguing with each other. Yes, we had dirty dishes and we argued, but I'm guessing that's not really what she was hoping she'd look back on and remember when she is 80. Likewise, when I take pics of happy times, I am highlighting what I wish to remember. It's also a great way to train my brain to focus on what is good and lovely in my life, and isn't that Biblical? ("... whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think on such things" Phil. 4:8) I want my life to draw attention to the beauty God has created around me, not chaos and drudgery.
- I assume that the people I interact with on social media are responsible for themselves, just as I am responsible for myself. There have been times when I have had to stop following someone on Twitter or hide someone's updates from my Facebook feed because of my own sin issues of being judgmental or envious. There are times I have had to take a break from posting things myself because of my own sin issues of pride or desire for affirmation. Matthew 5:29 says, "if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away ..." If reading my blog or seeing my posts on some social media venue causes someone else to struggle, I sincerely hope that they would unfriend, unfollow, or stop reading. I will not be offended. I will not hunt them down and question them. I know that seeing joy when you are hurting can be painful and amplify the discontent. In my "in person" relationships with friends I strive to be sensitive to what is going on in their life as we converse, but it just isn't possible to be sensitive to multiple life situations when using a more impersonal form of communication. I can try my best to avoid writing stupid, insensitive things; but I can't know when something I post innocently may be difficult for someone else to deal with. For example, when I had a miscarriage just before becoming pregnant with Cora, it would have felt really insensitive if a friend with a healthy pregnancy was constantly inundating me with texts and phone calls about her excitement. However, if I chose to read her blog updates about her doctor's appointments and feeling the baby move, that's on me. (This is a made up scenario, I didn't actually have a friend who did this). We need to ask the Holy Spirit to teach us to notice when we are posting things with wrong motives, or when we are sinning as a result of reading what others post. When we recognize it, we need to remove the temptation.
- Social media can allow me to celebrate with friends in ways I could not otherwise. I stink at long-distance friendships. I think this is largely because I am not much of a phone person. I mean, I don't hate long phone calls; but especially now, with kiddos, it is hard to find the time (and quiet) to sit down and really get caught up with a faraway friend. Blogs and instagram, in particular, have helped me to stay connected to some friends who I DEARLY love. When I read their blogs there is nothing voyeuristic or comparison driven about it - I care about them and their families and I love hearing about what is going on. I love feeling like I know their kids a little bit, even though I never get to see them, and I'm often so encouraged by what God is doing in and through their lives. Additionally, there have been a couple of times when I started reading a blog of someone I didn't know well and thought I didn't have much in common with, only to find myself cheering them on and later becoming real life friends with them. All that to say, for me social media has enhanced many of my "real life" relationships, as opposed to replacing or damaging them.
I'd love to hear feedback on this topic, though. How do you keep your mind and heart healthy both in viewing and posting things on social media? Do you ever realize you are attempting to portray yourself in a particular way? What decisions have you made regarding privacy and why?