How to Be Real on Social Media

Do you wonder what’s appropriate to share on social media? These four tips will help you balance what goes public and what stays private.

Do you have that crazy friend that seems to share every bodily function on Facebook? Or the one who shares every terrible deed from her kids? Or maybe, like many people, your friends only share the good things, and their social media feeds look perfect. Perfect and fake?

It can be a struggle to figure out what to share and what not to share on social media. I have family and friends scattered around the world, and social media is how we stay posted on each other’s lives. Those of us who are in online business are also encouraged to share our lives on social media to better connect with our audiences. So how do we decide what goes public and what stays private? Here are some of the criteria I use for sharing personal stuff:

#1 Safety First

There are some creepazoids on the internet…and some of them may even be on your friend list. I don’t typically post location-specific information real-time. When my family goes on vacation, we don’t announce it online or post pictures until after we come back. You do this for the same reason you hire a house-sitter or have a neighbor bring in your mail; you don’t want to advertise to the world that your house is empty! Since I am choosing to share my life in a blog, and there are people reading that blog that I don’t know personally, I don’t want to check in online at a location and have stranger danger come track me down! I don’t live in fear, but I do try to use wisdom in showing my location online.

#2 The internet is everywhere and forever.

Is this post going to bite me in the rear end tomorrow or down the road? Will it bother me if my parents, my boss, a future date, school, or hiring manager sees it? Will it hurt me if they do? Could someone in my family be hurt by this information? Could someone misinterpret this? I’m cautious of pictures that might misrepresent me, my business, or even my church.

#3 What’s the fruit?

What will be the outcome of my sharing this? Will it benefit my reader? I want to use Ephesians 4:29 as my guide: “Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say.” (CEB) Sometimes, something negative is helpful and builds up the community, and sometimes it is just complaining! Sometimes it isn’t necessarily something I would be proud to have out there, but the benefits of someone else needing to hear it (or me needing the accountability!) outweigh the discomfort.

For example, I decided to get really real about my debt payoff journey, including sharing the numbers that I owe, while I’m blogging my way out of debt. I really struggled with this decision, but I went forward with it for a few reasons:

1) I wanted the accountability and I decided I don’t want to have secrets in this area anymore. Hiding is a sign of an unhealthy situation.
2) Other people will be encouraged to kick it into gear but also encouraged by the stumbles along the way.
3) If blogging about paying off debt can help me pay off more debt and stay motivated, sounds like a good deal!
4) This was the kicker – I realized that it would only hurt me to have this information out there for a future job, loan, or spouse. The first two are going to run my credit report anyway, and the third I should be talking finances with, so why not show them how fiercely dedicated I am to get out of this mess?

You guys, I felt so FREE after just letting down my guard and hitting “post.”

#4 Is social media the most effective place to share this message?

This is a really important one, especially during politically charged seasons. If you do need to share a piece of news or a political viewpoint, is the internet the best place to do that? Online, people don’t catch your body language or your heart. If you need to convince someone of a particular viewpoint, will it be most effective to blast it all over the internet or to spend time with that person and have a discussion in the context of relationship? Is it worth destroying a relationship or harming it, or hurting someone’s reputation, for the convenience of sharing information online?

A Parting Note:

These guidelines can also apply to what people post on my social pages, not just what I post myself. If someone asks me how my vacation is going, or about a job search or something else, I just hide that comment or delete it entirely, and then send the person a private message about why I’m not ready to share that on social media just yet. The same goes for the person that picks a fight on my blog’s Facebook page or shares something politically provocative on my wall. It is my responsibility to protect my space. This means that comments on my blog and shares on my Facebook page have to be approved before they go public, and that I’m not afraid to remove something that doesn’t fit within my own guidelines of respect and appropriate internet communication.

There are some areas of my life that I need to keep private, but in the areas where it is appropriate, I want to be open and honest, because I will never know when that personal story helped someone else be encouraged or find their own victory. Have you been encouraged because someone took a risk and shared the struggle? Hit “reply” and share your story!

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