It didn’t really happen if you didn’t Facebook or Instagram it.
At least, that’s what it often feels like. Our lives are becoming less and less separate from the interactions we have on digital platforms. Conversations in person revolve around what so-and-so posted the other day and how many times what’s-his-name was retweeted.
Are we trading in a real existence for a digital one?
The reality is social media is not inherently evil. It can even be really useful, unless it’s relied upon to the extent that people are neglecting offline life in favor of spending their time in the glow of a computer screen.
There is certainly some nourishing value to the endless streams of our news feeds, but there are also numerous ways to irritate your online friends and use social media in unhealthy ways.
Here are three things you should stop posting on social media right now.
1. Every Single Emotion You Feel
No one cares to hear the roller coaster of emotion you’ve experienced every day this week. Not even your mother. These are details best left private, unless you want the online world to see you as an overly sad (or overly cheery), neither of which a balanced person should be. If you’re struggling under the weight of your emotions seek out a trusted friend, pastor or counselor to talk to and practice dealing with your feelings before going public with them. Perhaps your sentiments may even change and smooth out in the meantime.
Save yourself from wasting time (and losing friendships or followers) by posting information that is purely uninteresting and self-centered. It’s one thing to be honest about a bad day, but your real friends should know how you’re doing without having to read it on their Facebook news feed.
2. Using Social Media As Your Default Love Letter
OK, we get it. You have a mountain of affection for your significant other, boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife. That doesn’t mean you should select every picture of you two hugging/kissing/whatever else as your profile picture.
This isn’t some sort of love contest. You don’t need to prove to the world that you love your significant other more than any other person loves his or her significant other. Untold billions of lovers have lived and died before you, and their love was no less sincere just because they didn’t (and couldn’t) flaunt their relationship status online.
It’s acceptable, commendable even, to post the occasional (read: once a month maximum) praise for a spouse or fiancé for something specific and actually noteworthy. For example: “Got home to see my husband did laundry, made dinner, and correctly constructed Ikea furniture without burning down the house or breaking Ikea furniture components across the skull of the neighbor’s incessantly barking dog.” Now that is a praiseworthy feat, though it rarely needs to be publicly declared.
If your friends see too much of this sort of thing online, they’ll rapidly grow annoyed and begrudging. Moderation in posting is vital. And please, no inside jokes or pet names.
(And for the record, single girls, your Pinterest boards of “future wedding décor” aren’t helping attract any potential suitors.)
3. The Same Content Over and Over
We know that blog post you wrote two years ago got hundreds of likes, but that was then and this is now. It’s permissible to post a link to your favorite band’s music video a few times, but then give it a rest.
Nobody is one-dimensional, no matter how web-entrenched a person can become while locked in his or her dark bedroom in the glow of a computer monitor for extended periods of time.
Consider new ideas. Update your blog. For the love of everything good and pure, expand your vocabulary, your reading list, your websites to troll. Spend more time reading (and engaging) credible people’s opinions than you do posting your own incomplete, oversimplified perspectives.
But also don’t be afraid of your own voice online. After all, you do post to your own profile, don’t you? It should reflect you, not just reposts of one source’s content or a composite of all your friends’ likes. Talk to people offline, develop a worldview, then post your original thoughts online, but concisely and in moderation (because no one wants to hear everything you think).
Essentially, stop posting your best (and worst) moments on social media. Leave a little mystery. Make people wonder what you’re really like, how you act in person and if you’re as funny as your Twitter bio promises you are. It will leave things to talk about when you see your friends in person, and they may even follow more of your social media accounts in the long run.
Relationships are meant to flourish over shared information, but use discretion in what details you share and where, especially online. Context makes all the difference.
is a writer in Greenville, South Carolina, and is the author of The Variable Life: Finding Clarity and Confidence in a World of Choices, from which this article is adapted. Visit thevariablelife.com to find more.