The spring issue of the Magnolia Journal hits newsstands tomorrow! This year, the overarching focus for all four issues is identity, and to kick it off, the theme of this issue is authenticity. Here you can read Jo’s thoughts on how she approaches authenticity on social media. You can also find it in the journal on page 57.
It wasn’t so very long ago that I had only a handful of followers on Instagram. There wasn’t any pressure to post anything at all, so whenever I did, it didn’t really cross my mind whether or not people would “like” it. When that number started to rise and people were sharing their opinions about what I was posting, that changed. I could feel insecurity start to creep in, and posting a photo was no longer an act of enjoying the in-the-moments of life but rather a more calculated decision. With every picture I found myself critiquing if there were messy backgrounds or blurry smiles. I think this is how we can end up losing sight of what is worthy of sharing and what is even more worthy than that—moments worth simply experiencing. Eventually, I realized that I was letting this small square on my phone become yet another thing to perfect.
It is so easy to let social media rob us of authentic moments. I think part of why this happens is because these platforms can easily become our own alternate reality if we let them. There is a certain, creepy allure to a place where we can present ourselves any way we choose with very little accountability. But one could argue that the more versions of ourselves we present to the world, the less real any one of them can be.
And what happens when we don’t think our “real life” looks as good as someone else’s? We make adjustments—find better lighting, dress our kids in something nicer, place a vase of fresh flowers in the background, or add the perfect filter. They say you should take a picture to make a moment last longer. I don’t disagree. But it seems to me that if you’re present, really present, the memory is what outlasts anything else.
Many of us genuinely benefit from the beauty and inspiration that lives on social media; I know that I do. It’s a way we can both share and expand the way in which we see the world. What it shouldn’t be is a means to measure our worth or compare our lot in life with another’s. It is not an honest mirror or window, because that view is always obscured to the point of only catching a glimpse. Don’t fall for the trap and believe it’s anything more than a snapshot in time, even if it’s highly edited and beautifully presented. Let’s not miss or critique the beauty that others are trying to put out into the world by evaluating them based on our own set of criteria or by making it about ourselves.
How healthily or carelessly I use social media is on me. Not on the companies that create the platforms or the people who I follow or who follow me. It’s up to each of us to abstain from or partake in these mediums with whatever level of grace, kindness, or confidence they require by their very nature. I am inspired by the everyday beauty and encouragement that can come from seeing through other people’s vantage points. I am also, finally, mindful of when the red flags of comparison or anxiety begin to move in. They kindly remind me that something in my own heart or mind is a bit out of sorts. My best next step is to stop scrolling and put my phone away. That’s way harder for me to do when I’m not in a great place in my head or heart, but continuing down the rabbit hole never, ever helps a thing.
I’m a firm believer that how we spend our minutes can become the way we spend our life. Don’t get me wrong; I love to snap photos of my kids whenever it’s physically possible. My camera roll is constantly full because of it, but when I hear myself start to say something like “move slightly to the left” just so I can get the perfect angle, that’s when I know it’s time to check myself. That means putting my phone somewhere it won’t be a distraction. Perhaps I’ll post that photo in a few days when I have some distance from it and a fresh frame of mind. Or maybe I won’t. There are no true rules or set timeline. What I can’t get back to later is the beautifully imperfect view that’s unfolding right in front of me—no edits required.