I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I love it because it allows me to connect with people I would otherwise have a difficult time being able to connect with. I hate it because it aggravates my struggle with being content with the life I already have.
The trouble with “Likes.”
Everybody wants to be liked. I am no exception. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to translate the “likes”, re-tweets, re-pins, “+1″s or whatever into a representation of whether I am accepted by the world. It’s like a currency of sorts. If I have a lot of affirmative nods, I feel rich. But if my posts garner no thumbs ups, it’s easy for me to wonder if what I have shared with the world matters. There is always the temptation to link my worth to people’s responses to what I post.
Reality is not a highlight reel.
Social media by nature requires us to present an edited life. And usually what ends up there is a collection of highlights: my daughter’s cute smile, the amazing food we made, the funny conversation that happened, our anniversary photo. Rarely do we post about the hard times or struggles and even more rarely do we see the mundane. Who wants to know you changed your car’s windshield wipers? Or who wants to see the 50 blurry photos of our baby that we took in hopes of getting that one clear one? And yet, those moments make up real life just as much as the interesting parts. What people see of my life then is only a small portion – but they think they know what’s going on. And that’s the trouble. It’s an incomplete knowledge of each other.
I want what “they” have.
Seeing other people’s highlight reels often leads me to a place of discontentment. I read about my single friends taking the day off to go to the spa and envy begins to grow in my heart. I hear of so-and-so going here and there and I feel stuck in my own life. All to easily, I forget that behind their smiles and wonderful snippets of news, they too, have mundane moments, hidden struggles and unspoken grief.
Controlling others’ perception of me.
The hardest part about social media for me is that I am constantly battling against wanting to control how others perceive me. Not long ago, Tim thought the cereal I bought looked like dog food and he posted about it on Facebook. He thought it was funny. I was horrified. What would people think of me? What if they judged my choices? Of course, caring too much about what others think of me was a struggle way before the invention of social media. But I think having everything online has exacerbated the problem.
How then shall we tame the ego?
Keeping my social media ego in check is not an easy task. But I think it is possible. To do so, I need to remember that life – real life – is a lot more than what I see represented on the screen in front of me. I need to remind myself that I am valuable and worthy already. That regardless of how others perceive me, I can be confident in who I am. Once in a while, I can post something that is not amazing as an exercise in keeping it real. I also need to connect with the people who matter to me in ways beyond online interaction so that I can get a fuller sense of how they are doing. I need to take time to look at my life, to be present to each moment and cherish what I have.
Above all, I need to practice gratitude. Being thankful frees me from comparison.
How do you tame your social media ego?