It’s no secret social media can be somewhat misleading when it comes to an accurate portrayal of our lives. Facebook and Instagram have been labeled “highlight reels,” but that’s not a bad thing. I prefer highlights over every single detail of people’s lives.
Yet because social media are geared toward showcasing highlights, they can easily become comparison traps (everyone else is always having more fun than I am) or self esteem damagers (either promoting sky high egos or tearing down healthy self confidence). We’re all about the number of likes, and we're all chasing that quick “double tap” to get more red hearts on Insta.
Since I’ve been overseas, I’ve started utilizing social media more in an effort to stay connected with friend and family back in the States. I’ve found I have to double check myself before posting in order to avoid the comparison and self esteem traps of social media. Here are some of the questions I ask myself before posting to Instagram.
1. Is this post accurately portraying my day/life?
Have I had a terrible week and avoided posting, but now that I have ice cream I want to show the world how happy I am? There’s nothing wrong with being pumped about an exciting event (ice cream definitely makes the list), but is all I’m posting those exciting moments? If so, maybe I’m not giving an accurate portrayal of my life to those viewing my posts. I’m not saying I want to read sob stories or posts about how miserable you are. Really, I don’t. I’m saying if I only leave my house once a week but post pictures with dozens of friends each time, people will think I’m a social butterfly, which would definitely be misleading (and that’s a nice way of putting it). On and off social media, I’m a proponent of authenticity, meaning an accurate portrayal of life. There has to be a balance somewhere.
2. Do the filters make this scene seem more beautiful than it really is?
I’ll ‘fess up. I used to add filters left and right because hey, they really do make my pictures look better! Who doesn’t need a little Amaro or Perpetua in their life? However, recently I’ve stopped to wonder: am I adding filters because I’m afraid the landscape isn’t as pretty as everyone else’s #nature shots? If the filter brings out the true beauty in the scene or helps with the lighting—if it helps give the viewer a look that’s closer to reality—I’m all for filters and edits. But if the purpose is to impress, maybe it’s better to go filterless.
3. Is this picture offensive or harmful to anyone?
Especially overseas, we have a tendency to post pictures of the unusual, and those pictures may or may not include locals and their way of life. Those people may never see my post, but if I’d be embarrassed to show them or if the post (including the hashtags) is any way mocking their way of life, it’s time to close out my social media apps. Is our #winning making someone else feel like they’re #losing? In any community, I believe we should ensure our comments and posts are respectful and loving toward all those around us.
4. What’s my motive?
If my motive is to garner “likes” or, as I mentioned above, to impress, I probably shouldn’t post it. Mostly because it’s harmful to myself. It’s a red flag I’m feeling “not enough” and am looking for my value and worth in others’ opinions. It’s a setup for failure. In these cases, posts can very well be harmless to everyone except ourselves. We’re worth protecting, too; our motive is worth checking.
These are just a few of the guidelines I use when posting to Instagram. Often, I’m about to post a picture when I perform a quick mental review with these questions, and I imagine Fat Amy’s voice (from Pitch Perfect) commenting, “Mmmm…better not." And the post is discarded, edits and hashtags and all. Upholding my values must take a higher priority than the little red hearts. It’s simply the only way Instagram will ever be #worthit to me.
How do you decide what to post on Instagram and other social media mediums?
Are there any guidelines you go by, formal or informal?
I'd love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment or send an email over to my inbox!