Now that summer is here, social media is teeming with images of happy kids exploring their favorite season, parents enjoying and lamenting the challenge of family travel, and heat wave-inspired rants. There are pictures to appreciate, envy, and like, like, like.
I probably won’t see them. Nor will I post them. Because I am a social media flunkie.
I shouldn’t be. I am technically a millennial. This should be as natural to me as breathing.
But it’s not. The few times I’ve posted on Facebook or Instagram, I’ve received nothing but positive and affirming reactions. When I’ve posted a question for resources or suggestions, I’m overwhelmed by the helpfulness of the responses.
I have no negative experiences to blame for my withdrawal.
Yet when I consider regularly posting pictures or life details for all to access, my stomach clenches. I resist the exposure.
To challenge my reluctance, I volunteered to do an Instagram takeover for a day. After grappling with my technological ignorance and peppering the support team with how-to questions, I spent 12 hours snapping pics of our typical day and trying to write quippy tags to enhance their delivery.
It was uncomfortable, and not in the discomfort-of-growth kind of way.
I didn’t like the filter I felt forced to apply to my reality. I thought I had to present an interesting enough portrayal of daily mom life to generate likes and follows and validation of my life choices. How could I capture 10:19 a.m. on a regular Tuesday in a way that would appeal to the masses?
The obvious answer is that that wasn’t the point of the exercise. But it felt like it. And it stressed me out.
Yet I blog. Isn’t that the same thing as posting pictures? My response is this: paragraphs are different. Anonymity lives in sentences in a way that it can’t live in images. It’s less impulsive. Writing is edited, revised, reconsidered before posting. Also, to be painfully honest, it has a smaller audience.
I know my discomfort with social media could read as criticism; it’s not meant to. There is no overstating the power of social media: personal connection, political movement, individual empowerment. I celebrate those who have used social media to build businesses and provide missing services to the community.
It can make the difference.
And I do consume some of it. My addiction to the swirling vortex of news, terror, and cruelty that is Twitter is proof of that.
But when I take my thousands of adorable kid pictures, I choose intentional targets for their receipt – usually grandparents – who have a vested interest in my family. When I read a life-rethinking article, I email the link to those with some context to appreciate it. If a Tweet grabs hold of my attention, I send a screenshot to a select few.
When I’m having a bad day, I text my people.
Does it keep my world small? Maybe. Does it keep it private? Absolutely.
So while I fully support those who choose otherwise, I will limit my (our) online exposure. Whether it’s my own introversion or an overprotectiveness of my family, that’s what feels right, at least for the moment.
When the kids are old enough to decide for themselves what they put out there…that’s another story.