How to Be More Honest in the Age of Social Media (And Why It’s Good for You)

I don’t think I’m the only person to have a love-hate relationship with social media.

I’ve honestly found a lot of inspiration through social media. Mainly beautiful quotes, but also ideas for outfits, home decor, organization . . .

I’ve learned about new restaurants, coffee shops, bars and breweries in my city, events going on near me, brands that I love, and I’ve even made some new friends and stayed in touch with old ones.

Oh, also, social media led me to my current job . . . but that’s a story for another time.

That’s all the love part.

The part I don’t like is the FOMO, envy, resentment, and feelings of inadequacy that often arise.

There’s this disconnect between who I am and what people see.

Recently I’ve been challenged to be more honest. I’ve found profound honesty to be refreshingly attractive and inviting, as well as incredibly freeing and healthy.

I’ve started to get more and more annoyed with myself when I say something I don’t mean, laugh when I’m not amused, write something that’s not authentic, or post something that encourages this image of a perfect, fun, photogenic, exciting, and just-so-gosh-darn-wonderful life.

My life is good. It is all of those things, but it’s not only those things. It’s also hard, painful, boring, exhausting, not photogenic (what’s the opposite of photogenic?), and entirely imperfect.

I even considered switching over to a flip phone (can you imagine?). I haven’t completely ruled it out yet, but there are reasons smartphones can be important (part of it is definitely my 100 percent reliance on my GPS).

You don’t have to worry too much about how many likes you get, being seen as the most profound person on the planet, or having the perfectly curated photo. Have fun with it.

I also love photography and believe we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Social media is, in itself, a neutral thing that can be used for good. Having said that, here are some “rules” I will be following to aid me in my pursuit of honesty in an age of pretty pictures and clever captions.

1. Be sad

I know there are times you feel sad (just call me Oprah). Instead of looking through old photos and posting something cheerful and upbeat (because being sad is bad and illegal), just post something that kind of matches your mood. It doesn’t have to be a photo of you crying (please don’t do that), or a long sob story about why you’re down (I won’t read it), but you can post a photo that’s a bit nostalgic or a caption that is honest without being dramatic or long-winded. If you’re going to post about the happy, fun, exciting things, it’s okay to post about the less amazing times, too.

NOTE: Don’t post because you think it’ll make you feel better—it won’t. You can express yourself for the sake of honesty, but seeking consolation in the arms of likes is unadvised.

Example: When you’re homesick and a little lonely, post a photo with friends or family back home and mention something about missing them.

It’s honest, to the point, and relatable—and channels your emotions in a healthy way!

2. Share the love

Whether it’s a song lyric or quote you feel particularly strongly about, reveal a little of your heart. Allow your followers a glimpse into what you’re really about. It might feel vulnerable or cheesy, but life’s too short to play it cool anyway. Regardless, I’ve often been inspired by a cool quote or caption I’ve seen on social media. It can be a good way to practice authenticity while also sharing a little goodness and beauty in the virtual world.

Example: I recently posted a photo of a toddler I’ve babysat a few times. The caption read, “It just takes some time,” a line from “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World.

3. Latergram

To be honest and live an honest life, you have to be. I am the queen of documenting every moment as it’s happening. But, recently I’ve been better about either posting something quickly and then putting away my phone, or snapping a few photos and saving them for later. This allows me to enjoy the moment more while still having something to commemorate the fun outing, party, sunset, etc.

Life—especially the absolute highs and lows—is meant to be lived, not posted about.

Example: A few days ago, I posted a picture I took about a year ago of my sister and her boyfriend. The caption was, “Kiddos – (can’t wait to be back with them in ONE WEEK!).”

4. Save the best (and worst) for RL

A little sad, frustrated, lonely, happy, excited . . . that’s okay. But if you’re experiencing something truly meaningful (whether good or bad) take a break. Social media isn’t meant to be a platform for you to share the absolute best and worst days of your life. I mean, if you get engaged, awesome! So happy for you! But make sure to enjoy the moment. Don’t grab the ring and immediately post a pic—just be. Same goes for really hard things. If you are legitimately experiencing a deep hardship, don’t wallow or avoid it by endless scrolling in social media. Sit with it, and seek good counsel offline. Life—especially the absolute highs and lows—is meant to be lived, not posted about.

Example: After a bad breakup earlier this year I deleted the social media apps off my phone for a few weeks - it helped a lot.

5. Lighten up

It’s not your autobiography or obituary; you don’t have to evaluate your posts from every angle to see how they will be received. Your identity does not lie in your Instagram quilt. As long as you’re doing it for the right reasons (see below), you don’t have to worry too much about how many likes you get, being seen as the most profound person on the planet, or having the perfectly curated photo. Have fun with it. You can be goofy, post the quote or lyric that maybe others won’t get or will read too much into . . . you can’t control how they’re going to interpret it anyway. Take the opportunity to express yourself while realizing that it is just a small (itsy bitsy) reflection of who you are.

Example: I used to nanny a baby girl, and one time I caught her on camera digging into my purse. I posted the photo with the caption “attempted robbery.”

6. Pause before you post

Motives play a big role in whether something is good or bad. Posting on social media might seem like a good thing, but if the motive is disordered it becomes unhealthy. Before you press Share, ask yourself why you are posting this—and why now.

Good reasons to post:

  • You want to express yourself (this is a good thing, but must be moderated—review number three and number one).
  • You want to inspire.
  • You want to encourage.
  • You want to inform.

Bad reasons to post:

  • You want attention (in general or from someone specific).
  • You want to bash someone.
  • You feel insecure.
  • You want to vent.

It can be difficult to be honest with yourself about why you’re doing something, and even harder to practice self-control when you really want to do it (even if you know it’s not the best).

I recommend you try, mainly because it’s healthier. Again, social media is a neutral thing. But, it can be used inappropriately, which isn’t good for anyone. It isn’t good for you (or me) because social media isn’t a therapist, a reliable source of self-esteem, a close friend, wise grandma, or anything else other than a platform that allows you to connect with others and share a glimpse of your authentic self with them.

If you’re looking for anything else, you’ll only be disappointed (speaking as someone with experience).

I want to be more honest—I think life is too short to be anything other than the-best-version-of-yourself (not a false image of that person).

I also like pretty pictures and clever captions—here’s to hoping there’s room for both.

. . . unphotogenic? Antiphotogenic?

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