Do It for the Joy (not the reaction)

I catch myself doing it again – molding the funny words my daughter spoke into a Facebook post, or foreseeing how many likes I will get on an Instagram of the gorgeous, scenic view I’m gazing upon. Our campfire conversation is again interrupted by me searching for my phone to capture my friend roasting her s’more. I set down my fork to document my weekend brunch from just the right angle before digging in. Don’t even get me started on vacation! It is a goldmine of social media posts that my followers (I mean, friends) are going to love.

And then a moment happens. It is a perfect and beautiful moment. It is my baby boy smiling at me, that pure and innocent smile that only a baby can have. It is perfectly quiet as I sit by the fire and read a book. It is the depth and dimension of the mountains in the distance and fields in the foreground. It is a crowded table of friends and food, and everyone is laughing. For a split second, I get the urge to reach for my phone and capture this moment. Instead, I remain still and soak it up, tucking it away into my memory and reminding myself to cherish it always, for these moments are fleeting. 

It’s in these instances of stillness and enjoyment that I question my own motives. Am I being present in my own life, living in the chaos and the calm, the difficult and the delightful? Or am I merely operating as if I’m my own camera crew – stepping outside of my reality to look on, recording videos and snapping photos to share with the world?

Am I “doing it for the 'gram?” Or am I doing it for the joy?

We know that social media is addictive. It can damage our self-esteem or inflate our egos. It can harm our relationships (political Facebook debate, anyone?). It is used as a tool for bullying, self-absorption, and unproductivity. Is it also becoming a means of stealing our joy?

Evaluate Your Motives

It’s a good idea to evaluate our true motivations behind our habits. For some, Instagram may just be a place to store memories in photo form to look back on later. For others, it may be a source of pride. But for us all, there remains the simple truth that logistically, spending the time to post to a social media platform is detracting from real-life moments. 

Set Your Intention

Before you set out on that date with your spouse or that quick weekend getaway to the mountains, set your intention. Do you intend this to be a time to recharge and regroup? If so, set personal limits for yourself with your device. Don’t take the phone on the hike. Put it in the trunk of the car while you drive. Decide to watch your kids ski down the slopes, cheering them on, instead of recording video.

Be Respectful

This goes beyond interrupting someone’s story to check your account for Facebook likes. This also involves respecting others' personal property, natural habitats, privacy, and safety. Are you so intent on posting a photo that you are willing to deny a friend's request not to share a picture of them or their children? Are you willing to trample through someone else's field to portray yourself as "earthy?" Or are you ignoring signs to "not climb over the rails" so that your photo's angle is less touristy? Many of us, myself included, need a reality check about how silly our online presence is compared to the preciousness of our relationships, our lives, and our communities. Getting a great 'gram should never come at the expense of others.

Be Yourself

It's also important to reflect on our online presence and the way we’re portraying ourselves. Is every photo styled and staged just perfectly? Are we trying to create an image that people will love, at the expense of our own originality?

Social media is not all bad. Sharing moments with others is also a way to connect and open up a little of who you are for others to see. But it's important to think about the messages we're sending. Before snapping the photo, ask yourself if you'd like it to be just for you to enjoy, one to share with family, or one you'd want to be public. Before posting, ask yourself if what you're sharing is an authentic, genuine depiction of your life that will uplift others. Before commenting, ask whether your words will build community or tear down unity.

The balance of enjoying life and sharing online will look different for us all. By finding what works for ourselves and our families, we can breathe a little easier, let the moments soak in a little longer, and find real freedom in the joy that being present brings.

featured photo by Melissa Jackson

about the author...Anna Rogers is a transplant from the Carolinas with a background in marketing and graphic communications. She is a wife and mother who loves to garden, cook, and practice yoga. Anna is passionate about travel, which at its core is really a passion for people, as she believes people and community are what truly bring life and beauty into a place.

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s February 2019 issue. 

Check out the digital edition, here