I often hear one of the following phrases when I ask friends how they feel about social media. “I’m on it all the time!” “I hate it. I actually deleted my accounts.” “I want to be on, but I just end up feeling horrible about myself.” I can absolutely relate to all of these statements. I used to (as in, just a few months ago) spend tons of time on Facebook and Instagram. Not long before that I deleted my Twitter account. And I have had to take breaks from all of it because seeing everyone’s apparent awesomeness was making me feel crappy. But, even with all this, there is a whole lot of incredible stuff going on through social media. And no, this is not an ad about why you should be on it, because I just wouldn’t do that to you. But I’d be lying if I said social media has no good points, because it has actually helped me become more of the woman I want to be. So yeah, social media can actually be a decent thing.
Instagram friends who are now real life friends! @thethomps & @dreambiglittleones
If you’ve not seen this side of social media, I know you could very well be thinking, “But wouldn’t this be better with someone I see face-to-face on a regular basis? Isn’t this kind of a fake relationship?” Yes and no. I would love to say that I get to see all my close friends every day, and that I know the big and little things happening in their lives. The truth is, with a busy husband, two young children, and multiple ministries to stay up on, I don’t get to spend even close to the amount of time with my dear friends that I would like. I’m terrible with phone calls and only okay with texts. Play dates can be challenging to schedule with nap times, winter sick-bugs, and tantrums (and not just from the kids, because, let’s face it, we all throw them from time to time). It gets hard to meet with friends in person. Being able to connect online fills in those gaps when we don’t get to connect in real life.
I connected with writer & mama Kelle Hampton on Istagram and then in real life! @etst
It’s not only about the people we already know, though. There is tremendous potential, as I’ve found through Instagram, to connect with countless others on a similar life journey. I began my Instagram life when I found other moms who had kids with Down syndrome. And let me tell you, those connections have turned into real friendships over the last two-and-a-half years. My Hope Spoken roommate, Andrea, for example, has been one such friend. This was the first time we were able to meet in person! The beauty of social media is that it’s almost as though the whole world is available. You can find people in the smallest of niches and actually connect with them. For example, I am now connected to Wendy, a missionary mama of nine, two with Down syndrome, living in Uganda. I would likely never meet someone so similar in my regular circles! Since Christmas, I’ve had the opportunity to meet (in real life!) four friends who have little ones with Down syndrome whom I only knew through Instagram. We were in Florida, Indiana, Texas, and Minnesota. And I’m planning more meet-ups for next month. I really do love how social media can make the world seem a bit smaller.
Andrea & I finally met last month after being IG friends for 2.5 years! @ahtharpe
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you build your community on social media.
1. DO follow accounts with topics that matter to you.
Start by searching hashtags. Some of my personal favorites are #downsyndromelove, #theluckyfew (also Down syndrome related), #thepursuitofjoyproject, #childhoodunplugged, #wildandfreechildren, Click on photos that inspire you and then click on through to see if you connect with the person posting or anyone commenting on their photos. It’s a great way to get started.
2. DO follow accounts that inspire you.
You may not have a whole lot in common with them right now, but maybe something in their photos connects with who you want to be. I follow a few writers, photographers, homeschoolers, and missionaries who show bits of life that I want to adopt into my own life over time. Another big thing that inspires me? Showing pieces of real life. No one’s life is picture perfect all the time. Even if they do post lots of gorgeous photos of their little girls playing in the garden in adorable vintage dresses or sitting in front of an incredible sunset with drippy ice cream cones, I want to see the real stuff from time to time. Like the pile of laundry that has been ignored for two days or the moment their little girl fell asleep on a lovely quilt because she was so exhausted from throwing a fit at the grocery store. Because that stuff happens! Pretending it doesn’t it a bit too fake for me, and it doesn’t do any of us any good. They don’t need to post tons of awful, real-life dramas, just enough to keep things real.
3. DON’T follow accounts that make you feel like you’re not enough.
It’s one thing to be inspired, but it’s entirely different to feel you don’t measure up. Protect your heart and your mind when you choose to follow someone. Even if you feel inspired by them today, those feelings might change next month. You’re not in a relationship (unless they are your real-life friend, of course), so feel free to unfollow them. Again, keep your heart and mind protected.
4. DON’T analyze who has unfollowed you.
It can hurt to lose followers, but the truth is, you have no idea why they’ve stopped following you. So don’t analyze it. And don’t send a message to someone who has stopped following you. That’s just awkward. Someone did that once when I decided to stop following them due to the amount of drama they were posting. It made me feel terrible.
Overall, if you choose to be a part of social media, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, or one of the many, many other options, keep in mind that you can control what you let into your heart and mind, just as Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8, The Message). Perfect guidelines for how to keep ourselves focused on the positive aspects of social media instead of getting caught up in what can get yucky.
I’d love to connect with you on Facebook or Instagram! I can be found under TheMangoMemoirs on both or by clicking the links in the sidebar.
Do you have a favorite part of social media? Who are your favorites to follow?