Three years ago I uploaded my very first instagram photo; a cheery yellow sunflower sitting on my kitchen table. I added a filter and thought it was the fanciest thing I’d ever done on social media. I didn’t know about hashtags, and I only had maybe 30 ‘followers’. So when a username I didn’t know liked one of my photos, I immediately texted a friend of mine, frantically asking her what was happening. After learning the ropes, I tentatively found myself searching hashtags like ‘baby wearing’ to search for like-minded mamas in the world. I slowly started following and commenting on people’s photos that I didn’t know in ‘real life’, and before I knew it, I had actually started making friends! This was back before I knew the power of social media and how we make connections and use this strange online world for good, because we all know it can be a place where our time gets sucked away from us, negative comments are made, and jealousy can rear its ugly head. Here are my thoughts on keeping it positive and meaningful.
Be Intentional In Building Relationships
The past few years have been a slow, steady, and organic growing of relationships, followers, and friends on social media. I’m not completely sure how the 1,000+ fabulous people found me, but I appreciate and value them. I try and visualize what a room full of 1,300 people looks like, and I’m not sure I can. Which is why I craft and think and am careful with what I share and what I say, because for some reason, I’ve been given this space, and I want to use it for good, genuine things. I want to share things that are meaningful, real, raw, honest. Photos that touch on the human experience, words that are written to build-up, not tear down. I want what I share and say to matter, and be intentional. Our time is valuable, and who we choose to follow and how we choose to comment are important. When someone has taken time to comment on a photo or respond to my words, I reply. It might take me a few days, maybe a few minutes, but I always do. Sure, it can be time consuming on my end, but it’s also important to me. I’ve actually unfollowed some women because I tried in earnest to comment and connect, and it was a one-sided thing, never getting a reply. If you approached me in person, and said, ‘wow, the home birth story of your daughter is so inspiring to me,’ and I stared at you and walked off…that would be kind of awful. That, to me, is the equivalent of not interacting or replying to people on social media. If someone has taken their valuable time to follow and care about my life, I will give that to them in return. I would say this is the biggest component in the way I use instagram to foster community and connection, and have made real friendships.
Be Real // Don’t Compare
Honestly, I’m not really into twitter, or snapchat, and I don’t really use Facebook very frequently (are there other forms of social media these days? I don’t know…I’m getting old). I do love instagram, because I love photos, and I love the genuine vibe that’s happening on that space. I love how instagram has served as a memory keeper, a quick way to share my heart, and grow my community beyond the walls of my home. I look back at some of my early instagram photos and cringe a little at the poor lighting or uninteresting subject , but it also documents a time in my life. I love that. But, let’s be careful. Let’s be careful with how we craft our lives. Remember, this is literally a small picture of someone’s life. We can create an image and a photo to look any way we like it. An instagram photo was taken as one second piece of a day, not the whole day. It’s a picture, but not the whole one. The way we ‘see’ others’ lives might be very different than the reality. I TRY and stay transparent and naked in the world, sharing real life in all its beauty, but maybe sometimes I fall short. Social media shouldn’t be all doom and gloom and hard stuff…because…well, that would be depressing. It also shouldn’t focus on ONLY joyful things or carefully crafted photos and words. There must be a realness, a genuine flow of words, and a balance of things big and small. If I’m feeling a struggle, I know there is a mom somewhere in the world that is too, and maybe my words will help lift her up. If I’m feeling happy, I want to share that, too! I know some people aren’t as comfortable being raw and completely open, and that’s okay, but let’s be careful to not showcase only our perfectly coifed hair and iced coffee and clean houses and well-behaved children. Let’s also talk about hard things, real things. Things that matter.
As a side note to this thought, remember that quote, ‘comparison is the thief of joy’? Well, it should probably be the motto for social media. DO NOT let someone else’s instagram steal your thunder. There are so many, many, many ‘right’ ways to live and do things. Please know that everyone struggles and fails, has highs and lows, no matter what is represented online.
This exists, people. There are mean girls, who are actually just mean grown-up, adult women, tearing each other down online. Does this shock you? It shocked me the first time I saw it happening, and then it happened to me a while back and it really just hurt my feelings and made me sad. Someone publicly accused me of stealing an idea from them, which was false, but the women were commenting and rallying behind in support of this person and how terrible it was that I would do such a thing didn’t even know me…it was just so much unnecessary drama. Use your brains, be mature, and LOVE each other. Women block people (that’s rude-that’s like saying, don’t sit at my lunch table). Women talk badly about one another. Women, can be the best, and they can be the worst. Ladies, women rule the world. When women are empowered, we ALL benefit. Do you think anyone, in the history of the internet, ever changed their mind about something because someone left a rude comment about it? Nope. Negative words and energy serve NO ONE.
We’re all guilty of this. I am, for sure. But please, refrain from passive aggressive comments and judgements. A jealous or insecure remark on someone’s photo, followed by a ‘hahaha’ or a ‘just kidding’ or a smiley face, is still a nasty comment hidden in disguise. Women need one another. If you don’t agree with something, be respectful. And if you’ve been the victim of a meanness, remember that people usually lash out in ugly ways when they are feeling insecure in their own lives. So maybe we can be empathetic to their situation, and then move on, surrounding ourself with women who want the best for us.
Do Good, My Friends
Whether you have 40 followers, or 4,000 followers, do good with your space. My only goal, aside from sharing cute photos of my fabulous offspring, is to connect with people. I want to support women. I want to be your advocate. I’m a highly sensitive, introvert, shy, maybe awkward in real life type of person. It’s true. I’m probably a lot cooler online. Ha! And I’m a stay at home mom, and that first year of my son’s life I struggled with anxiety and depression and I was lonely. And instagram opened up a whole new world for me. Where other moms could relate. Where I could ‘talk’ and ‘connect’ to people outside of my home. I am filled with a vibrant energy and love when I read comments saying ‘me too! I can relate to this!’. Just a few days ago I shared a post about how discouraged I’ve been feeling with laundry and dishes and small children and having zero time for myself. I know I’m not the only one.
While it is so important to have friends you can hug and cry with and meet for coffee or walks in the sunshine, filling in the gaps is a good thing. It’s hard with nap schedules and life to have quality conversations and real time with friends. It sounds cheesy and ridiculous but instagram and blogging really helped lift me out of a fog when I was in one. And I’ve made honest-to-God incredible friendships. Just today I got a package in the mail from my friend across the country, with the sweetest note, Starbucks gift card, and adventure tote. When I was pregnant I had people I had never met in real life mail me hand-me-downs and made me clothes for Ellie. People I consider real friends who I hope to hug and squeeze in real life someday. You women, you are amazing! I’ve been able to share the sadness and story of my son’s cesarean birth, all the way to my healing birth of my daughter. You all were there along the way, sharing in my life. Wow! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m blessed by this amazing community. Follow along over on @thewholesky and say hello!