Dealing With A Common Addiction

"It is said that if you wake up in the morning and the first thing you crave is a drink, you might be an alcoholic. If you wake you in the morning and the first thing you do is check your phone to read email or scan through your social media before you even get out of bed, you might be an addict." Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last

Social media is an addictive thing, isn’t it? Days can be wasted away coming up with a clever #hashtag, the perfect foody picture or the long rambling blog post that wastes time and grammar that does things good (see what I did there…?). And it IS a fun thing. But it can also be a dangerous thing that adds to moments of ego, low esteem and projecting an air of perfection that isn’t real. 

Here’s what I mean by that: When I get to talk about social media with students and leaders, I always use the idea that if people had to choose between a beautiful picture of themselves/family/house and a messy one, they’ll choose the beautiful picture nine times out of ten.(1) Or if we tweet, we’re less likely to tweet about the down moments in our lives as opposed to a great leadership line or a shout out to someone who’s not even on twitter. 

So I’ve had to reexamine how I use social media, especially now that I work at Master’s College and Seminary where many students tweet, like, pin and link on a daily basis. So this is what I do, or at least try to:

Twitter: One-off thoughts (dry humor, some serious), blog promotion (large audience, quick updates from friends (mainly ministry friends and sports), live tweeting events (like the time I stumbled on someone's first date) and talking about important causes that mean a lot to friends of mine, like the following:

Man, I coulda used a BIT more lotion that day. #datashywristtho

Instagram: Pics of my kids (If you hate my kids, don’t follow my ‘gram, son!). They’ll be some other pictures in there but it’s mainly Eliana Dorothy and Liam Xavier. I also protect my Instagram because so many pics are of my children. In life we don’t get to control a lot, so this is one of those “stick it to the man” things!

Facebook: Connection with my family (my parents and sister, in-laws, extended family in Barbados) who never get to see the kids, MCS students (it’s easier to FB them then to email, them), old friends, blog promotion (the majority of readers, depending on the topic, are FBers), and shout outs.

Google+: Blog promo. I don’t know anyone who really uses it beyond self-promotion.

Linked-In: Things to add to my junk mail.

Vine: Evil Liam vines. That is all. Join the movement.

Blog: Longer thoughts and conversation, talking about issues in a controlled space.(2)

Pinterest: Something I watch Becca do.

...And here are some things I try not to do on social media:

1 . Announce breaks from Social Media
Reason: if Kanye West (who LOVES attention) leaves twitter unannounced, who am I to tell my friends I won’t be tweeted for a while. Leaving social media is not on the same level as me leaving my family unannounced to go to the Dominican Republic with the Master's College and Seminary first year class. My family NEEDS to know where I’ll be…you don’t☺. So next Lent, just go away for 40 days! Enjoy your holiday. We’ll be here when you get back!
2. Get into arguments on FB or Twitter…at least in public
All blogs and bloggers are subjective. That said, there are cheers and jeers on both sides. If someone feels strongly that what I wrote was wrong and calls me out on it, I take the conversation to an email/Direct Message and if necessary, phone call level. It’s not so that we’re friends at the end but so that they can hear my thought process and “hear my heart” as it were. I also try to avoid reposting blogs that I know are too polarizing or one sides. There's a difference between going out looking for a fight and stumbling into one...
3. Be the worst version of myself
There is a different between being really honest and airing out laundry that hurts myself and others. This goes ditto for sub-subject tweets (“saying things” without saying things) and weird, vague facebook posts. If you can’t sit down, be grown and say it to someone’s face, then don’t put it online. That’s what journals-that-you-put-in-between-your-mattresses are for. 

That said, sometimes real topics are needed. Over time, I’ve written about our family’s journey with Becca’s post-partum depression after having Liam, how having kids has changed our sex life, suicide in ministry, and more recently, race and gender issues. In these posts, I don’t aim to win people to a side. Instead, I try to paint a picture out of my experience and open up the door for someone to say, “Thanks for saying that out loud.”
4. Not get jealous of others
More followers for someone shouldn’t limit me or make me itch for more for myself. The perfect family picture posted probably took 20 takes (I know any pic I put up with Liam does. I love him but he’s the worst).  The one who gets followed by a celebrity isn’t better than me, just simply cooler (shoutouts to my homie Thaddeus Stewart for getting Sam Mitchell to like his post. You’re a boss, Thaddie!). A lost twitter followers isn’t the end of the world, or even the end of the day. My esteem can’t be connected to the best of someone else’s picture of their lives. It shouldn’t make me wish for a different life. So I’m careful to watch and read things subjectively, looking for the story behind the picture besides the story itself.

And finally, I aim to not live on social media. One of my favorite moments of this year, was at our Prodigy Days here at Master’s when Becca and I got to hang out with our guest speakers and we got to talk about kids, ministry and life in general. Our laughs were realer than a LOL any day and enhanced how we see each other online. Real always recognizes real.

So questions: how do you use social media? What’s your favorite platform to you? Least? What are some things you love about it? Hate about it?

1. Once, I put a video of Becca and the kids on Instagram. Becca’s first reaction was, “Awww, look at the house!” (I’ll let her explain that reaction on the blog one day) whereas MY immediate reaction was to say, “No one even cares!” Now I can’t look at the video without seeing “the mess”. So now? I have make sure the room has to look spotless before the video or picture before I even try to take a picture, thus removing the “INSTA” out of the gram…

2. Thought: If you’re facebook thoughts/twitter convos are always full paragraphs, I’d suggest starting an online blog where you can expand your thoughts. Most people can only handle a shorter amount of text before they’ll just like something without really reading when you wrote. Those who really like you will follow you and read your stuff.