“Being You, Being Real,” Ensign, Dec. 2020.
Last year, my family experienced a major change that left me feeling confused and frustrated. I wasn’t exactly sure how to let people know what was going on in an authentic way. I decided to write about it on social media and share both my fears about the situation and hopes for how things would turn out. Doing so helped me process my own feelings and realize I could be strong in difficult circumstances. To my surprise, my friends were genuinely appreciative of my honesty. I was grateful for the perspectives and optimism I gained from them because I opened up.
But understanding how to always be authentic while posting life updates can be a bit trickier to navigate. This becomes even more difficult when we’re going through a challenge but still want to share goodness with others. If you’ve ever wondered how to communicate your real feelings online while being true to your circumstances, you’re not alone! Thankfully, I’ve found a few pointers as I’ve tried to answer this question myself.
Your friends on social media are there because they’re interested in you. The real you. Your messages, your experiences, your voice, and your confidence in your divine identity are the most important things you have to offer them. And when you’ve experienced a trial and want to share what you’ve learned from it, your unique voice can be a positive tool in helping others overcome their challenges too.
It’s absolutely acceptable to share more than the sunny, shiny sides of life. We’re all experiencing this imperfect mortality together. We can relate to one another, even through the messy and the miserable (though we should be careful about sharing too many intimate details). And when you share about your difficulties, you give others the strength and courage to do the same.
As tempting as it is to follow the standard of only posting a “highlight reel” of your life on social media, you also need to be willing to share the parts of you that aren’t perfectly curated to really form meaningful connections. (And I’m not talking about ranting about the inconveniences, annoyances, and bothers of everyday life—because you definitely don’t need to do that.)
And if something does happen that makes you feel like ranting, you can instead describe the negative event and share a thoughtful reflection or inspirational message about what happened. Here are a few ideas:
Share a lesson you’ve learned in life, like insights you’ve gained about inclusivity because of an experience that made you feel isolated.
Express your disappointment about a failed project and how it has helped you recommit to learning new skills.
Take a moment to lovingly educate others after overhearing a racist or demeaning remark.
If you’ve had a day where nothing has seemed to go right, share three things you’re grateful for despite all the unlucky events.
And, as always, make sure to ponder and evaluate your words before immediately going to social media. Additionally, never call out anyone specific or subtly shame someone for his or her actions. Pray about how to best handle these interpersonal interactions. The answer is never to publicly belittle or humiliate.
Every so often it’s a good idea to take a look at your current social media habits. If you find that you’re often sharing only the bad, carefully consider why that might be. If you’re feeling depressed, don’t post cryptic messages for help on social media; instead, seek the advice of someone you trust.
Now that we’ve covered the bad, let’s get back to talking about the good moments in life!
When you have good news or a happy thought to share, think about doing more than just captioning a photo with the typical “#blessed.” Expand and expound! How, specifically, were you blessed in that moment?
Take a quick second to share a sentence or two about how God has watched over you or how living the gospel has had a positive effect on your life.
While you may see things like a loving relationship or someone getting his or her master’s degree as “#goals,” take some time to write about your current ambitions, and share those with your friends and followers. They can help keep you motivated, even if you get distracted or face setbacks.
While a cute photo of you getting ready for church on Sunday is good, captioning it with your testimony of Sabbath worship is even better.
You could share a “#quoteoftheday,” which might help someone else find motivation that day too.
Social media is truly a powerful tool that can be harnessed for the building up or tearing down of others. Use your words and photos to bless.
Even if you’re striving to share messages in a grounded way, be aware that not everyone else in your circle will. Always remember that a life shown in a perfect picture does not equal a picture-perfect life.
Understand that your peers are also learning how to appropriately share information while finding their authentic voices. It can be all too easy to feel worthless when you compare yourself to someone who never seems to experience difficulty, but trust me, they are experiencing difficulty—we just don’t always see it. Don’t fall prey to that comparison trap. Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, also expounds on this by saying, “We can stop comparing our worst to someone else’s best.”1 And that is what most of social media portrays—all of us at our best.
We’re all more similar than we may realize, we all have divine worth, and we’re all here for the same purpose. And sometimes we can all do better at sharing our unfiltered, unedited lives.
Before posting to your social media, consider the following questions:
What is the intent of this post? Am I trying to make people feel jealous of my life, or am I attempting to share an authentic experience?
Can others find a meaningful, uplifting message in what I’m attempting to convey?
Does this reflect who I’m truly striving to become?
As you learn to balance your social media content, the connections you make with friends, both online and in person, will deepen. As Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “Success in life doesn’t come down to how many likes we get or how many social media friends or followers we have. It does, however, have something to do with meaningfully connecting with others and adding light to their lives.”2
You have the power to cheer and strengthen. Your example can be a template for others to share their own life lessons with authenticity. And that’s worth more than a few likes.