I mentioned yesterday my concern about the LIKE ME aspect of social media. I’ve been thinking about for a while but it has really come to a point as I consider what it will be like to the mother of a young woman in just a few years.
After I speak at schools and conferences I end up with lots of new young followers through Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I’m honored that you/they have any desire to see pictures of the chalkboard in my kitchen or the thoughts I share in 140 characters. But I’ve also noticed how few young people utilize the privacy settings available. Even though I live a fairly public existence on-line, I am very careful and cautious about the personal information that I do share. The majority of my teen friends on Instagram typically have a thousand followers. When I asked them about the account they could tell me to the precise number of how many people were following and liking on that day.
And then I saw this piece on Good Morning America.
I don’t know about you, but I find using tags like #hotornot, #beautypageant, and #amIpretty to be alarming, to say the least, especially when that’s being asked by young women to friends and even strangers.
Has Instagram become a self-esteem meter? Are we, in essence, asking Social Media to tell us that we are pretty?
I know I’ve only addressed teens at this point (none of my friends in their 30’s are posting “selfies” every day), but I want to acknowledge that the world of “likes” can be a dark addiction for any age. When we seek the approval of our peers to the detriment of our contentment, that’s a dangerous place to be.
So do we toss it all out the window in hopes of finding a cure? Maybe. I definitely admire people who take a step back from Social Media or who have never wandered into the format. But personally I find value in being able to connect with my friends and family who are so far away. I love seeing pictures of weddings I miss. I treasure the baby pictures. (I’m going to try to not go overboard when I’m a mommy. Hold me to it.) Facebook is one of my favorite ways to send my brother a laugh and let him know I’m thinking about him. But I also know that comparing myself to others is a real option when we are all checking out the “best-foot-forward” images of our idealistic lives.
So here’s my challenge to all of us. A few questions to consider before you post:
1. Why are you posting this picture? I try to ask myself this each and every time I hit “post.” I let this question lead me to really consider my motives. Is this true, noble, lovely, or excellent? (Sometimes it’s just funny, and that’s cool too.) Am I looking for an emotional shot in the arm through likes and comments? Am I seeking emotional empathy through a website?
A lot of times I will sit with a photo for 20 minutes and then decide not to hit post. Perhaps I’m over-thinking everything, but in a world that tells me to post everything, I just have to put my foot down and sometimes say NO.
2. Is this humor at the expense of someone else? There’s laughing WITH someone and then there is laughing AT someone. I post funny and ridiculous video clips on my brother’s timeline all the time. It’s our little shared love language. But I’m also careful not to let that humor spill over into being mean. Screaming goats = funny. Celebrities embarrassing themselves while drunk = unkind.
3. Am I posting out of anger? I’ve blogged about this one before. If we are to be known as a people of love we should really be slow to post. May our words (typed or spoken) bring joy and encouragement to anyone listening or following.
“Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” Ephesians 4:29, MSG
4. Have I checked my security settings lately? I had to throw this out there. Be careful about geotagging your location. With whom are you sharing your daily routine and schedule? I don’t want to become someone overtaken by fear, but at the same time, I want to be smart and protect the privacy of my family. Who can see your pictures? Why do you need them to see your pictures?
5. Am I looking for social media to boost my self-esteem? Even if you won every Instagram beauty pageant and received 300 likes on your next post, my guess is that the high would only last for so long. The “likes” of others can never fill us up. Genuine peace and contentment come when we love ourselves without the approval of others. But true self-worth is found when we see ourselves through the eyes of our Creator.
“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7, NIV
At the end of the day, my hope and desire is to run everything I present to the world through this filter…
“Am I saying this now to win the approval of people or God? Am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Galatians 1:10, NIV