I write primarily about parenting.
This means that I regularly have to decide which photographs of my children and myself are appropriate to share and, equally, which words and stories are appropriate too.
I highly value honesty and transparency—actually exposing “real life” and encouraging authenticity within the world I’m raising children are at the heart of why I write. Yet I’m ironically a private person who respects my family’s privacy above all else.
When writing, I have to remember things like my husband’s boss could be reading what I write, as could my mother or my best friend. This means sharing genuine life experiences while also considering the feelings and needs of those around me.
I’ll be completely honest: I cringe when I see someone share something overly embarrassing about their child on social media. If I were this kid and my mom wrote that about me on Facebook, I would be mortified. I then wonder, was it really worth a laugh? Or, wasn’t there someone in “real life” that could provide sympathy rather than asking all of Facebook for it?
On the other hand, as a stay-at-home mom, my adult interaction is, shall we say, limited (read: non-existent). Social media is, possibly pathetically, sometimes my only “friend” interaction for the day.
Following are the few tips that I’ve personally implemented to make social media something positive within the daily structure of my life.
1. Don’t use social media until consuming at least one cup of coffee.
I break this personal rule all the time, and each time I do, I remember why I generally enforce it upon myself: pre-coffee, blurry morning messages and comments aren’t necessarily a big deal, but I’ve had some…embarrassing emails go out.
If you’re a coffee drinker like I am, this will make complete sense.
2. Don’t use social media after drinking alcohol.
This is playing with fire, plain and simple. There is just no good justification for having two glasses of wine and commenting all over Facebook.
3. Pretend our boss or mother-in-law can read our social media.
Now, in this day and age, many of us do have co-workers and in-laws on social media. Even if we don’t, though, it’s a good idea to refrain from over-sharing and publishing photographs and commentary that could or would offend people like those we work with or the people we love.
4. Share news off-line first.
This pertains specifically to people close to us.
Sharing big news, and things like invitations, in person or via phone call or text whenever possible is polite, kind and overall the best thing to do.
5. Protect privacy that is not ours.
This might seem rich coming from a blogger who often writes about parenting and love. However, I try to write about my perspective within these experiences and refrain from over-sharing about my husband or children because, frankly, it’s not my place to share their lives.
6. Take time to unplug.
My best friend and I often say that we’re unplugging for a bit because social media is making us feel stabby.
Sometimes, the adult thing to do is to realize that social media can bring out emotions that are hard for anyone of any age to deal with—feelings like envy or being left out can make social media something that detracts from life rather than adds to it.
One of the best ways I’ve found to ensure that social media is useful in my life rather than harmful is to take time away from it, at least from time to time, and live out in the real world with real-live people. This way, when I do get back on Instagram or Twitter, it’s enjoyable instead of irritating.
7. Contemplate selfie usage.
I’m absolutely someone who posts the occasional selfie.
I initially started taking selfies when pregnant with my second child, and it finally dawned on me that I never have any photographs with my child because I’m always taking them. So the selfie began.
Still, if our entire Instagram account is filled with selfies, I think it’s best to reflect upon why—why are we taking these selfies.
A friend pointed out once that selfies are the modern-day self-portrait. I love this artistic perspective. I also took selfies, as suggested earlier, because I didn’t have people above waist height around me during the day to take pictures when, for example, I was pregnant and my twin sister, who lives two hours away, wanted to see the bump. I turned to photographing my own growing belly in my bedroom mirror.
But photograph upon photograph upon photograph of a facial close-up at the same angle? No. Just, no.
These rules might not apply to all of us, but it is important to check in with why we use social media as well as with how it’s affecting our lives.
For stay-at-home parents with long-distance family and friends—like my situation—social media is a great way to stay connected and to have adult conversations. Additionally, I began using many of my social media accounts to connect with readers.
Which is one of the coolest things about social media: it takes away the middle man and connects us to celebrities who inspire us or bands we love listening to, and it’s a way that anyone anywhere can share themselves with the world.
Alternately, though, this is precisely why grown-ups need to take care of how we are using things like Facebook—because more people have access to our thoughts, feelings and photographs than we often realize.