Social media can get bad reports, and rightly so, but what if the sinister side of social media can be outweighed by the storytelling we can do within it? What if social media can help us share not just our highlight reel, but our struggles, questions, joys and even embarrassment? I honestly believe that it can do that, and that when social media is used for this purpose – both for personal and professional use – we’ll find ourselves being saturated with authenticity, rather than perfectly photoshopped false reflections of life.
The main social platforms I use are Instagram and Facebook, so I’ve been reflecting on these, but hopefully if you’re ten steps ahead of the game and are already on other platforms these thoughts will still be helpful. It’s two simple sections to go with the two primary functions of the platforms – feeds and stories.
Feeds are sort of like journal entries for us. We record snapshots of moments in life and we share the image and words that go with it. It’s capturing a moment in time, but we’ve all been guilty of trying to create the perfect moment just so that it’ll look pristine to those who are looking on from their own screen. When we do that it ruins the moment, and when we look back over our posts we don’t remember what other people saw – we remember how we lit the birthday candles a second time and made people awkwardly sing all over again just so we could get the right photo that would get likes.
The accounts that I love are those that share their lives. They have images that capture me, and words that resonate with me. Allison Kimmey does a brilliant job of this. So does Jenna Kutcher. They share parts of their themselves – body image, marriage, parenting, holidays… and it isn’t always glamorous, but it’s always honest. The Husband peeked over my shoulder when I was scrolling through Instagram one day, and one of Jenna’s photos was on my feed – she was in a swimsuit having a blast at the beach. He commented, “how good is that? She’s not a size six and she’s loving life. That’s got to be good for you to see.” And it was. It gave me permission to frolic on the beach in my own swimsuit! That’s the beauty of storytelling on social media. You open up other people’s stories.
So, on your feed, share. Share your life, thoughts and stories in a way that doesn’t just show what’s good but shows what’s real. Those moments will capture the imagination and heart of those who are scrolling on by. Heck, you might deepen a few friendships along the way.
Stories disappear in 24 hours (unless you highlight them on Instagram, but more on that later) and so there are opportunities to be less curated and pretty and more real and awkward and silly. I use it to post whatever I want, really, and often it spurs some private conversations with friends and contacts that make me smile a lot. It seems to be an easier way to engage with people without the pressure of curating pretty images and writing captions… it’s what social media used to be, I suppose. Use stories to ask questions, share things you’re loving, post Boomerangs (because they’re fun) and take advantage of polls and filter and all that fun.
But wait, there’s more! Highlights. I’m loving the Highlights feature right now. This week I created some images to use as covers for the categories of highlights and it lets me look back at the best and brightest moments. The other day it even helped me remember which cafe it was that I fell in love with in the CBD two weeks ago. It’s a simple way to add extra engagement to your profile (which is fun if you’re on a personal account, but extra special if it’s professional!), and it gives some permanence to those Stories that you want captured for longer than 24 hours.
Here’s the thing: social media is meant to be fun. We’re meant to enjoy sharing our lives with one another through it but we’ve gotten so caught up in algorithms and the pressure to be perfect that we’re just not enjoying it anymore. Take a step back, enjoy sharing stories and lives, cheer other people on as they share, and have some fun along the way…
And, if you enjoy things being pretty like I do, I’m giving away my Instagram Highlights cover images! Just sign up to the mailing list and I’ll send it your way! Otherwise, go and enjoy sharing stories on social media. I promise, it’s better that way.