Monday, October 26, 2015

Thoughts on Social Media

Dear Kids,

First of all, while writing this post, I am going to refer often to facebook.  That is because facebook is the social media outlet I am most familiar with, but this applies to Instagram and Twitter and any other social media platform!

I have been on facebook for a few years now.  I have learned lots of things.  I have learned that it can be a catalyst for so much good and also something that can suck away precious time.  It all depends on how you use it, and it’s a process I am still learning.  (:  Today I wanted to share just a few of the lessons I have learned from Facebook.

First, you are only getting snippets of people’s lives.  Just because you have a friend who posts perfect pictures of her perfect family and perfect house and perfect vacations does NOT mean she has a perfect life.  Don’t feel intimidated by thinking she does.  Everyone has struggles.  She may be going something HUGE, but private.  She may be struggling with health or addiction or extended family.   She may be crying herself to sleep every night but choosing to focus only on the good in public.  Or perhaps she IS going through a perfect stage of life.  Don’t be jealous or intimidated by her success and joys-- be happy for her!  It won’t last—we will all face big struggles and trials.  Sometimes it’s easy to love your friends through their hard things (think how we all rally around someone going through cancer) but we forget to love them through their happy times too!  Don’t make false assumptions about someone’s life simply by their social media posts.

Second, you will never please everyone.  This can be hard for a people pleaser who wants to be sensitive to those around them.   You will soon find that there are so many opinionated people out there and you simply cannot make them all happy.  It’s OK!!!  (: 

I remember one day reading a post from a friend who pleaded, “Please, stop with all the quotes and news stories and funny videos.  I want to know about your LIVES, people!  I want to know what your kids are up to and bask in their joys and successes!  I want to see photos of your family and hear stories about how you are doing!”  That very same day, I read a viral facebook post from someone who was “fed up with self-obsessed people bragging about their kids and posting about how great their lives are!”  Hmmm.  Later on I read a post about how people shouldn’t share their difficulties on facebook and how they were tired of people soliciting attention by publicizing “every little fever or scraped knee.”  A comment on that post completely disagreed and said that they were tired of hearing from their “perfect friends with their perfect lives” and would much rather hear about people’s real-life struggles.  Then there was the post pleading for people to stop using facebook to spread religion or political views, and all the comments underneath who claimed people who didn’t share their beliefs weren’t being true to themselves.   Or the post about stopping all sharing of the “Go Fund Me” type posts (people shouldn’t be asking for help, darn it!) countered with the comments that those who didn’t share them were selfish and prideful.  I even read a (very well written, I must add) lengthy post about how people should stop using the phrase, “I’m so blessed” because it was offensive to those who were struggling.  This met with comments on how NOT using the term “blessed” took away credit from God.

Again, hmmm.  So I guess if we try to please everyone, we can’t share quotes or news stories or uplifting messages that aren’t about our own life or family.  If we share about the good things happening in our families, we are just bragging or making others feel bad who are struggling.  But if we share struggles, we are over-sharing or being negative.  If we share our religious or political convictions, we are ostracizing people, but if we don’t, we aren’t standing up for our beliefs.   If we try to share posts asking for help for people, we are annoying, but if we choose not to share them we are selfish.  Oh, and don’t ever say you are blessed.  (;  

Sound tricky?  Well, it is—and I have found myself being wary of posting the most innocent of posts, anticipating how someone might react.   That is, until I decided that I can't let others (especially strangers!) dictate the things I post about.   I want to give you one perfect example.  Last year, I started posting profiles of orphans who needed families.  I was worried because I have had people in the past express that they were perhaps a little tired of hearing about adoption.  I didn't want to appear "holier than thou" since we have adopted.  But I felt compelled to share these kiddos and guess what-- it led to several children getting MATCHED!  One less orphan is worth ANY amount of my time sharing on social media!  What a beautiful thing it was to follow those children as they found their way into their forever families!!

So,  I would love if you would consider these guidelines, coming from a mom who loves you and has learned a lot from her time on Facebook:

1  1.    Share your joys!  People who love you will love to hear about them! 
    2.    Share your sorrows!  People who love you will lift you up! 
    3.    Share your successes!  People who love you will find happiness in them!
    4.    Share your failures!  People who love you will love you even more!
    5.    Share your testimony!  People who love you will appreciate your goodness  and faith!
    6.    Share your convictions respectfully!  People who love you will respect you  even if they don’t
    7.    Share things that uplift you!  You can uplift others in return!
    8.    Share things that make you laugh!  What an easy way to brighten someone’s day!
    9.    Share what you are comfortable sharing!  If you feel uneasy posting something, that may be a little    
           voice telling you not to share.  Listen to it.  A good guideline might be to consider if you would be       
           comfortable sharing it with me or Dad or even Grandma.  Or think about a future spouse reading it 
           someday!  Once you’ve made something public, it is hard to make it private again—even if you 
           erase it, it has already been shared.
    10.   Share things that you want to share.  Don’t spend time worrying about how others might react.
            It’s good to care, but counterproductive to overthink things.   Share things you are passionate  
            about.   Again, you will not always please everyone.  That’s ok.  (: And if/when you mess up, 
            forgive yourself and be better.  We are all learning! 

Third, (this is something I could definitely improve on) if you are taking time to scroll through people’s posts, take time to “like” and comment when you can.   It’s like giving people a virtual hug!  (:   Wanting others to like their posts doesn’t mean a person is  insecure or needy—it means they are human!  Everyone “likes” to have “likes!”  That being said, DO NOT EVER place your worth in the number of “friends” or “likes” you have.  Find your worth in YOU.  You are a child of God, loved beyond comprehension by Him and by US. You are beautiful enough, talented enough, good enough.  We love you perfectly, shortcomings and all, and we always will. 

Fourth, learn to sift.  When I was young, I loved sleeping over at my Grandma Larsen’s home.  In the room that I sleep in was a framed poem that I loved enough to memorize.  It goes like this:

“A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one's heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”

Be that kind of facebook friend!   Find the good in those you interact with on social media.  Use that breath of kindness to blow away what isn’t worth keeping.  Build others up.  Be gentle.  Be kind.  If you feel the need to challenge someone, do it with a great deal of kindness.   Assume the best in people.  If they are being negative, they are probably coming from a place of hurt.  If they are being needy, they are likely coming from a place of loneliness.  If they are overbearing, they likely don't know it.  Give others the benefit of the doubt!  SIFT!!!   If you can be that kind of friend, you will attract others like you who will influence your life for good and make you an even better person.  You will find that social media can be a blessing to your life and a wonderful way for you to serve and bless those around you.   

Finally, don’t let social media take over your life!   In referring to social media, Elder Ian S. Ardern said, “As good as these things are, we cannot allow them to push to one side those things of greatest importance. How sad it would be if the phone and computer, with all their sophistication, drowned out the simplicity of sincere prayer to a loving Father in Heaven. Let us be as quick to kneel as we are to text. Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, earbuds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication.”

 And then this:

 I offer two questions for consideration in your personal pondering and prayerful studying:
1. Does the use of various technologies and media invite or impede the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost in your life?
2. Does the time you spend using various technologies and media enlarge or restrict your capacity to live, to love, and to serve in meaningful ways?”

I know from experience that technology can distract us from things that matter most.  It can also be a marvelous tool in building relationships, enriching our lives, strengthening our testimony and even just getting away from daily stress. 

Use it wisely, my beautiful kids!  And have fun socializing!