Warning: EXTREME transparency ahead. If honesty makes you uncomfortable, don’t read it. If you think that I’m ‘cool’ and would prefer to live in that world, don’t read this. You’re going to realize really quickly how nerdy I truly am.
I recently did a social media fast for Lent and I wanted to write up a post of some of the conclusions I found while they were still fresh in my mind. I almost kept this to myself, but after a chat with the amazing Morgan Weber, I realized I’m not actually the only person who thinks like this and it might be worth sharing.
Here’s some background information:
I used to work as an art director for an ad agency where i was constantly surrounded by witty, creative people. It was an extremely social environment and as an EXTREMELY social person, I LOVED it. I loved laughing all day and brainstorming and being surrounded by visual stimulation.
Then my side photography business took off and began to earn me enough to be a full-time business. This happened simultaneously with Jared and I decided to start a family. Perfect timing! I quit my day job and began to work from home.
All day long.
Enter social media. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, my blog, Vimeo. I do it all. I love it all. And it almost created the illusion that I was surrounded by people all day. I don’t recall when social media began to take up a large portion of my day, but it had and I started to wonder if I might actually be addicted to it. My thumb navigates to Instagram idly before I even realize what has happened.
I don’t like addictions. I don’t want to be addicted to anything in this world.
So for Lent this year, I decided to give it up. (Also I got called out on it by my friend which isn’t a pleasant feeling but hey! what are you gonna do?)
Now if you’re reading this you may prefer a particular social media, I know for a lot of people it’s Facebook, but for the sake of this post, I’m going to focus on Instagram because it seems to be the media that is most addictive to me.
Let me walk you through my relationship with Instagram.
My photographer friend Janae told me I’d love it. When I first downloaded this app, I 100% thought it was an editing app and I thought “Oh cool. Here’s a way for my crappy cell phone photos to look less crappy on their way to Facebook.” I did not know there was a social component to it at all. (Brandon Goodwin has a funny story about how he would use Instagram to edit goofy-seductive-joke-one-eyebrow-raised-photos and send them to his wife before he realized other people could see them. Whoops. Hilarious.)
Then I started noticing people’s names appearing by my photos. How elderly am I? I really thought “why does it say ‘tshelburn’ next to my photo? Oh. I guess he ‘liked’ it? Wait, people can see these? Oh, you can follow people. I get it.”
Then almost overnight, I understood the wonder and awesomeness that is Instagram. As a visual person, it is the ultimate treat in social media. It’s just bad@ss photos. Coming at you. All day long.
But then things got weird. Part of me wants to blame it on VSCO cam. And also the MASSIVE improvements on the most recent iPhone cameras. But something happened where suddenly every photo on my feed was BEAUTIFUL. “They took these on a CELL PHONE? Seriously?” And it wasn’t just the quality of photo. It was what the photos were of: amazing vintage furniture, delicious artsy food, flea market finds, DIY makeover projects, beautiful children doing awesome craft projects. I follow some SERIOUSLY creative people. This has it’s perks but it also can create some dangerous mental patterns. Here’s what I’ve found:
“Inspired, then Tired”
Some of these crafty people get my visual heart SO PUMPED that for a minute I want to go create something. Anything! I want to go make beautiful art. I want to go flea-marketing. I want to cook a beautiful dinner. But then it’s almost immediately followed by exhaustion. These people ARE SO CREATIVE! I really just want to take a nap. Failure, failure, failure. What happened? How could I go from 0-60 so quickly and back? Social media should not be a source of comparison and self-doubt. That’s crazy!
“Only 12 likes?”
Just as quickly as self-doubt can creep in, validation can also take over. I remember I used to get a kick out of people liking a photo. “Sweet! People like this!” If enough people liked it, their little names would disappear and instead a number would take over. If I got more than 10 likes, then I’d feel pretty legit. But then 10 became 20, 20 became 30. Now if a photo gets a lowly 12 likes, I deem it a failure. THAT IS RIDICULOUS! This is the hilariously bizarre false-world of popularity and validation-from peers. It’s never enough. I follow some seriously popular instagrammers. The ones that post a picture of their shoes and you hit refresh one time and instantly has 156 likes. I guarantee you right now that even they have a moment where they think “oh. that photo only got 2492 likes. Bummer.” Social media can not be a go-to source for validation. That’s crazy.
“The Instagram Couple”
1. I am a romantic. A hopeless HOPELESS romantic and I LOVE the ‘Instagram couple’. I think they are adorable. You know the ones? Sometimes they have a matching username even. “iammegwest’, ‘iammattwest’, ‘herwelshness’, ‘hiswelshness’. THAT IS THE CUTEST THING I’VE EVER HEARD. Seriously. Husbands posting photos of their wives with a caption like ‘i’m the luckiest man in the world’. I swoon. Sometimes audibly. Then I silently take it out on Jared for not being on Instagram. This is real love. Instagram love. Jared doesn’t really love me unless he tells Facebook about how much he loves me. Wait. What? My husband does not enjoy social media. He is an extremely private person. (Unlike me who truly desires to be honest and vulnerable with complete strangers. We’re two extremes. I get it.) But guess what? My husband ADORES me. He is always doing the sweetest stuff for me. He is THE BEST dad. He IS a romantic. He DOES validate me. And he does it all in private and that doesn’t make it mean less.
2. The ‘Instagram couple’ does cool things together. They went hiking. And they went and saw that band. And they spent all Saturday gardening. Me and Jared just rented a movie. We aren’t cool. Failure. Failure. Failure. Social media should not be source of comparing my marriage with other people’s marriage. That’s crazy.
“What if I lose followers?”
What if I talk about Jesus too much? What if 6 posts of my kids in one day is too many and becomes obnoxious? This photo isn’t the best light, maybe I shouldn’t post it. After all, people at any moment could realize that I really AM NOT THAT COOL and decide to stop following me. Are you getting by now that i am an OVERANALYZER? Social Media should not be something I think this hard about. That’s CRAAAAAAZYYYY!
By now you should be exhausted by the way my brain works, but here comes the good part:
Logging off for a month was the best thing I could have possibly done because you know what I realized?
Social Media IS NOT A BIG DEAL.
I can live with it or without it. Deciding to log back on was because I decided there were more positive things than negative things. Relieved? Me too. Now let’s talk about those:
“I love my Instagram Friends”
I love seeing what @alicecalvery ate for breakfast when she is in jackson, tn. I love that I actually consider @nathaliebearden a dear friend even though we HAVE NEVER MET. I love staying connected. I care about people. I care about the details of their life. I LOVE their kids. I love that they spray-painted their .99 unicorn they found and now it looks SO COOL. It’s silliness and I love it.
“Art is made to be shared”
I have this crazy urge that as soon as I make art, I’m BUSTING at the seams to share it with someone else. Even if it’s a backlit sunny iPhone photo of my daughter on a swing. It’s still art. And what is the point of art unless you’re going to share it with the world?
“Pause and look at how beautiful your life is”
I love photography because it makes you pause. My life is fast-paced and my kids have needs all day long. But taking a photo makes you pause. And looking at that photo can take me to another dimension. “Look at this photo of Callie. God, she is SO beautiful. When’s the last time I stopped and looked at her eyelashes? Look at how long her hair is getting. She is growing so fast and I am so grateful for this photo where time is frozen and i can just stop at stare.”
“This is how I see the world”
I want to share my perspective with you. I see things differently than you. I want to show you how I experienced that picnic. And I want to see how you experienced that road trip. What a gift photography is! What a cool way to show people how you view things.
Like anything addictive, moderation is key, so here’s my plan for a HEALTHY relationship with social media. when I say “you” I really mean “me”. These are all directed at me, Katie Day. So if I sound bossy, it’s because I need to boss myself around sometimes.
The most addicting part of Instagram is the Insta part. I like instantly making art and instantly getting a response. But the problem is if I’m editing and uploading a photo while I’m at the park with my daughter. I’m NOT really present at the park with my daughter am I? Sometimes I see an Instagram of two pairs of feet propped up on a coffee table with the caption like “snuggled up with my husband watching a movie. perfect evening.” Nope. No, you’re not. You are “on instagram while a movie is playing that I’m only half watching because i waiting to see if this photo gets ‘likes’” And I know you’re still logged in because you just responded to my comment about how much I like your TOMS. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take the photo, Take the photo. I want to see it! I will definitely “like” it…But take it and then put your dang phone away. You can post it later with the perfect amount of vsco ‘fade’.
“Real People > Instapeople”
When you’re in the room with real people. Put your phone away. Again, I’m all for taking a photo of the experience. Take the photo. You can edit it and post it later when you’re alone again. This includes your kids. Your kids are people. Wait til nap time.
“I was at that birthday party and It wasn’t that cool.”
Sometimes the right lighting and filter can make a moment look 40million times cooler than it actually was. Believe me. My house isn’t always clean. Every moment with my kids isn’t 100% meaningful. I only post selfies if my face looks skinny. I’m actually okay with this. My friend Alice Calvery reminded me that most humans clean up their living rooms before they invite people over. Most people have a layer of manners and politeness when first meeting someone. I’m a-okay with only posting the best stuff on Instagram. I don’t really want to see your dirty kitchen floor. Just keep in mind that you are seeing a small portion of people’s lives. (But if you do enjoy visual transparency, @brechang started a hashtag project called #myREALreallife and it is hilarious.)
“I do what I want”
When I find myself overanalyzing whether or not a photo is “worthy” of posting, I’m going to try this new tactic called ‘i do what i want’. If i feel inspired to post something about Jesus, I’m just going to do it. My kids are reading books, is that worth posting? YEP! I may lose followers. I WILL care when that happens. I’ll pout and say “I’m sad that person stopped following me.” And then I’m going to get over it, and move on and post a photo of Callie eating cereal.
“Log the Eff Off”
My main takeaway from Lent is that I love social media. I think it’s fantastic, but I need to have times where I’m logged in and the rest of the time I need to log the eff off and be present in the real world.
Guys, I’m passionate about Jesus. My one true dream in life is to change everyone’s mind who has a bad taste in their mouth from some “Christian” who wronged them at some point in life. I want to shine Christ’s light in the world. I want to represent joy and encouragement. I would MUCH rather post something that makes you think about how cool God is rather than make you think about how cool I am. I’m not. I like junk from flea markets, yes. I like spray-painting furniture, true. I’ve got hipster glasses and can take a decent photograph. But I would listen to Oldies music over Bon Iver ANY day of the week. I’m the MOST ridiculous improv comedian and make a complete FOOL of myself on stage. I sometimes get so involved in recreating a scene from Aladdin with my daughter that SHE gets bored before I do. I am truly a RIDICULOUS person. But I also REALLY like myself. I LOVE the way God made me in all of my ridiculousness. And I love you too. Exactly the way you are. VSCO filter or not. And so does God.
In conclusion, Instagram is not a big deal. Jesus is a big deal. And the coolest part is that He thinks I’m a big deal and that’s like getting 3000038282904 likes. My validation comes from Christ. Period.
Now I’m going to go post this to Pinterest and Facebook and Instagram and see if i get any likes.
But then I’m logging off.