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The Social Media Guidelines That Help Me Still Enjoy Social Media

For the record, I will always assume that you have dirty laundry and that your life is not “perfect,” no matter what your social media feed looks like.

Life experience has taught me that it doesn’t matter how photogenic your family is or how beautiful your remodeled kitchen, that doesn’t mean you don’t have pain, disappointments, heartbreaks, unhealthy relationships, or real tragedies.

It doesn’t bother me if your social media feed is curated or “just the highlight reel.” Show me your highlights! I want to celebrate with you! It doesn’t bother me at all if you don’t share details on the internet about your kid’s diagnosis, your grandmother’s cancer, or so-and-so’s addiction on social media.

Some people have the interest, time, and skill to share about these types of life events on social media and I am often awed by how tenderly and powerfully they communicate about their grief and loss. For me, in this season of life, I’m not interested in sharing those things publicly when they are still raw. I prefer an in-person shoulder to cry on. I don’t want likes and emojis for the hard stuff. I want flesh and bones and imperfect responses because we all have to learn empathy and compassion face-to-face.

There’s a lot of things we can all agree are pretty terrible about social media. But, it’s not all bad. I have art hanging on my wall that brings me joy every day because I found the artist on social media. I have been able to listen to perspectives and conversations that broaden my understanding of the world. I have been able to find out when an old friend is in my town so we can meet up.

I don’t think there’s any one “right” way to approach social media, but I do think many of the common negative results come primarily from overuse. Over the years, I have collected some ideas that help guide me in my own social media use so that I feel in control of how I use it and how I allow it to impact me. I don’t consider this a complete “social media manifesto” because until I sat down to write this post, it was really more of a working document in my mind.

I should also clarify that I am approaching this as someone who is not an influencer and who does not use social media to get clients or build my business. One day, when I have a novel published that I’m really proud of I’ll certainly be shouting from the social media rooftops asking everyone to buy it. But, for the time being, I have a new baby, a business, and not a lot of free time. My perspective here is just a person sharing her life on social media without any kind of agenda or audience.

My whole approach to social media can be summed up in this quote from Jack Kerouac: “Rest and be kind, you don’t have to prove anything.”

My Guidelines For (My Own) Social Media Use:

1. Prioritize in-person connections always, always, always.

2. Know when to avoid social media. If you are not in a headspace to celebrate good things happening in other people’s lives, you probably shouldn’t be on social media. (For example: when grieving, sad, or even just tired! Know yourself.)

3. It’s okay to be someone who is not quick to process big events and does not comment on everything that happens in the world.

4. I am vulnerable and open-hearted in person. But, I don’t have to prove it or be that way on social media if I don’t want to.

5. It’s okay to be someone who doesn’t like to “talk” politics in digital spaces. It’s okay to prefer to have these conversations in person where you can hug after you disagree.

6. It’s okay to just listen. You don’t always have to chime in or comment.

7. You are never required to share anything. I’m not attempting to use social media to present a complete picture of who I am and everything that happens to me or matters to me.

8. But—don’t be afraid to share! There’s often a generosity in sharing as well. Share a lot if that’s fun! Share the mundane, share the cliché if you enjoy it. (I try not to overthink it or I’d never share anything.)

9. Protect your children’s privacy. (I don’t have a hard-and-fast rule for what this means, but it’s important to consider obviously!)

10. You don’t have to follow anyone you don’t want to. (Whether that’s an IRL friend or a famous person other people enjoy following.)

11. I prefer to share grief and challenges in person with people who can hug me and interact with me. I don’t want digital condolences.

12. Make no assumptions about someone’s life satisfaction, loneliness levels, relationship health, or character based on their social media feed.

13. If it’s draining, don’t bother.

14. Share after the vacation is over. Take pictures during the trip, but don’t interrupt the experience to see what people think of the experience. (Unless you need a recommendation from the locals, of course.)

15. I reserve the right to change or abandon these guidelines at any time.

Tsh and I had a great conversation for the podcast (coming Friday!) about social media and she asked me how I came to this perspective. At the time I wasn’t totally sure of my answer, but later I realized that part of it was my experience going through divorce about ten years ago. It cured me of trying to manage my reputation. People were going to judge me and make assumptions and it was worthless to try to “control the narrative” as they say.  

When it comes to social media here’s what I think is most important to remember: even though you can’t control the algorithms, you do have a lot of control over your experience. You choose who you follow. You choose what you share. And you choose how often and how much you engage.

What are your social media rules?

p.s. Listen to the podcast episode about this post.

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Dee

    Love these, especially about posting vacation pics after the fact.. I’ve been trying lately to turn the phone off in the evenings and read for an hour before bed. It’s amazing how many books you can get through if you just make a little time for reading.

  2. Kathleen

    This is perfect. I love how forgiving and empowering this is. I decided to take a month break from Instagram in March and now it is May and I still haven’t gotten back on. I am just going to listen to myself for now and trust that perhaps someday I will post again and perhaps not. For now, I check in occasionally on my laptop to see photos from real friends and family (I also went through everyone I follow and cut back a lot to mostly people I know in real life) but that’s it. We all have to do what’s right for us!

  3. Amanda Waters

    So, so good! I really resonated with number 3 and 5 – just because I don’t post about something “big” on social media doesn’t mean I don’t have thoughts and feelings about it. I also appreciated that you made the point that you don’t have to use social media as part of your business. I will soon be marketing a novel, and I know that’s going to influence my social media use.

  4. Maggie

    All so true! I struggle with #7 and 8. I often feel like I have to share the complete picture, but I just can’t and then I don’t share anything. It’s hard to find the right balance between the two, especially if you have a split personality (only on the internet, don’t worry). My Dutch accounts are related to my writing business, my English accounts are way more personal. It’s harder to make choices about what to post on the Dutch accounts, because I worry it will influence my business and book sales if I share too much, or too little.

  5. Pamela

    These are very useful tips, thank you. I really struggle with the first picture, though. To see men spreading their knees and taking up so much space, while the women twist themselves up to reduce themselves, makes me very sad.

  6. Robyn

    All 15 of these really spoke to me and helped me understand myself a little better. I think this article gives affirmation where it is sorely needed.

  7. Ginny

    These all really resonated with me. I’m a slow processor and a “feeler”and usually don’t have the need or ability to articulate my feelings online. I do use SM for personal and business and I like that I can separate and mesh the 2 when needed. I love sharing and also when others share, but I’m introverted and highly sensitive so I have to have boundaries. My biggest take away from this is point you made about how the negative stuff stems from overconsumption.

  8. Charissa Steyn

    Loved your perspective and guidelines. Mine are VERY similar!! Also, I try to go quiet on social media for more extended periods of time unannounced a few times a year….

  9. Crystal

    I really like this. So was off nearly all social media for nearly a year about 6 months ago because it just felt tiring to me. But we live really far from nearly all of our family and I missed seeing pictures, so I decided to become active again but have an intention that countered mindless scrolling. My purpose and intention on social media now is to connect so now I comment rather then just like posts and I hope to engage in conversations with friends and family through that. It has been so much better just by shifting my mindset. Social media used to be a place to showcase my life, but now it’s a place to be inspired by my fellow humanity and connect with people I care about as well as share moments from our life.

  10. Tosha

    I like (and already practice) a lot of these rules. However, just know that if you are a person with privilege, then you may have some friends/family/coworkers/church friends, etc who may have less privilege and will resent your implementation of rules #3 and #5 because speaking out about “events” and “politics” makes social media less enjoyable for you. As many on the interwebs have said, it’s a privilege to not discuss “events” and “politics” when they don’t affect our own minds/bodies/safety/community, etc.

    I am currently off of social media for this very reason, because I can’t easily reconcile this right now. As a white, cis-, straight, able-bodied, Christian woman, I could definitely use social media without commenting on events or politics, but I can’t stand the thought of people I care about watching me refuse to spend my privilege on their behalf on social media. I don’t want to hurt people with my silence.

    Clearly I don’t have any answers here – just offering this as something to think about.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Yes, absolutely to this, Tosha. Thank you for saying this. 💯

    • Crystal Ellefsen

      Sorry for this very belated reply, I’m just now seeing your insightful comment. I can totally relate and this has been a big struggle for me as well to figure out how to manage privilege and social media. For me, the reality is that I just don’t spend all that much time on my own social media accounts (I’m primarily just on work/client accounts) either for posting/sharing my own stuff or reading/clicking on other people’s stuff. It’s just not a space I spend much time in. And I don’t think of it as avoiding politics because it makes social media more enjoyable for me. Using social media to listen and learn from BIPOC is one of my primary uses of it. I’ve decided that for me this is a season of learning and listening, not trying to take up space with my voice on topics where I am not an expert. I also don’t like the false sense of action that comes after posting something on social media. I’d rather volunteer or donate to an organization that serves refugees than post on social media about it. I’d rather talk to people in person about what’s happening in the world. And I’ve made peace with the fact that let’s say on an issue like racism, I think me having a conversation in person with another white woman to talk about what I’m learning would be more valuable than spending the same amount of time to craft a social media post on the same topics. At least for me, this is where I’m at right now. I fully expect this may change in the future but for now, I feel at peace with listening instead of adding to the noise if that makes sense. Thank you for bringing this up and sharing.

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