My best friend spent six months writing her mother’s 60th birthday social media post. She curated photos, memories, and carefully crafted sentiments to express her gratitude for the woman who shaped her into the person she is – and did it ever show.
She dug up photos of their unforgettable night at an Elton John concert, highlights of her mother’s triumphant ascent into the hills of Inverness, Scotland, and a handful of favourite Christmas photos with enough happy memories to last a lifetime.
Her mum loved it. She was overwhelmed with love, and the day was richer for the thoughtfully planned and created message. But, best of all, my friend could enjoy the day without the stress of distilling decades of life into one social media post.
We probably all know someone who feels it necessary to share “everything” on social media. (How many new relationship photos have been posted only to be removed within the span of just 24 hours?) Some of us may have felt compelled to unfollow certain “friends”, after they were not selective with what they shared.
There are some very real benefits to resisting the urge to immediately share every experience, unfiltered. It’s often not only more respectful of your time with friends and family but also better for your mental health. Here are five benefits of selective sharing on social media.
More time for yourself, your friends, and your loved ones
In the multitasking world we live in, delaying your post is a decision to prioritize your emotions and well-being over the cultural obsession of “pics or it didn’t happen”. Social media can be a time-consuming distraction that prevents you from engaging with loved ones and strengthening those important bonds.
Furthermore, by getting off your phone and getting out of your head, you can carve out time to converse with friends or loved ones and embrace the moment before you shift your attention to the endless distractions on social media.
Protection of your ‘personal life’ and privacy
User beware: depending on your privacy settings, yesterday’s big joke can become tomorrow’s red flag in the event of a background check. A recent Harris Poll reported that 71% of US. hiring decision-makers agree that looking at candidates’ social media profiles is an effective way to screen applicants.” Just as certain personal revelations might land you in hot water at your current workplace, they could also limit your future career opportunities.
Consider taking your time to craft a post and maybe use a bit more structure in the way of a prompt. In any given week, you can post a #ThrowbackThursday, reflect on #MondayMemories, or revel in nostalgia with a #WaybackWednesday post. Rest easy that your memories won’t expire, and the digital world will always be waiting for you when you choose to prioritise it.
More space for meaningful reflection and less for regret
The second you post an image, consider it fair game for public eyes and public reaction. (Just because your settings are “private” doesn’t prevent someone from taking screenshots.) If you were looking for reactions, brace yourself: You may get some surprising responses that could require some time spent subduing ruffled feathers.
Say you want to post a photo album of a recent trip. Did you thank your friend for watching your cat? Did you thank your boss for the time off? How many photos include your travel companion/s, and how many just contain you? What about your colleagues who covered for you while you travelled to Mexico?
By allowing yourself time to organise your thoughts, you can control the nuances of how your message is interpreted, and the people, hashtags, and locations you include or don’t include.
Mitigation of the negative mental health effects
MIT Sloan recently reported that “people who use more social media may become more depressed, or, conversely, people who are more depressed may be more active on social media.” Beyond mental illness concerns, too much time on social media has been linked with:
- Feelings of isolation and loneliness
- Insomnia and sleep quality issues
- Self-esteem and body issues
- FOMO (fear of missing out)
- Jealous and insecurity
- A loss of trust in others
A survey of your social media feeds will quickly reveal that divisive discussions and heated political debates dominate daily conversations. While Twitter has the option to report a comment as abusive or harmful, the reach and engagement of negative posts often significantly outperform more positive content.
It’s not all bad news; social media holds endless opportunities to develop personal and professional relationships – but it is a mixed bag of emotions reflecting life’s ups and downs. So, don’t miss out on the intimacy of face-to-face contact in favour of the dopamine hit from scrolling.
Empowerment of the next generation to value their mental health
A look around the globe reveals nations view adolescent social media usage very differently. The Chinese version of TikTok only allows children under 14 to consume just 40 minutes of content per day. TikTok content in China also skews more educational instead of trendy dance, “stitch”, or challenge hashtags that capture kids’ attention in the US.
Meanwhile, studies show that 24% of American teens report that social media negatively affects their lives. Child Mind Institute noted that “teens often try to compensate by sharing pictures that make them look perfect, too. Then, when their social media identity doesn’t match how they actually feel, they can end up feeling worse.”
Fast-forward 10–15 years, and the consequences for Gen Z’s self-esteem and interpersonal skill development should rightly give parents concern.
Vices and virtues often pass down from parents to children, and your social media habits can shape the adults your children become. Don’t be afraid to establish tech-free zones in your home, disable notifications, remove apps, and pick your moments to engage with your virtual “friends”.
Slow and steady wins the race!
Mark Zuckerberg famously advises his staff, “move fast. break things,” but that mentality can be reckless on a personal level. You could break up relationships that you value, publicly misrepresent yourself, or worse yet, lose your job.
So, take your foot off the accelerator and learn to live in the moment. Your friends and loved ones, maybe even your future self, will thank you.
Meghan Blackford is a social media manager at the national behavioural health provider FHE Health.