There's an extremely common belief that social media bums us out more than it builds us up. And, honestly, there is truth to that.
As inconsequential as it might feel for us to share a photo with friends at brunch, we neglect to remember the Facebook users seeing it, who might have had no plans that morning, no brunch to mention and no friends to call.
But as much as an innocent photo can trigger us to feel sad, lonely or depressed, that reaction only comes if we are the ones passively scrolling our news feeds for content — a key behavior called "lurking."
It's a bad, yet easy habit to fall into. When we “lurk” online, we are not sharing. We are hiding behind our screens and passively digesting the things we see, which can be very disempowering.
With lurking, we aren't the ones creating the content we see. All we can do is react to it.
Lurkers live with their emotional walls all the way up, leaving only a hole to peek through and watch the outside world go by. They might feel safe by not being seen, but they're actually hurting themselves in the process.
I suffered for my choice to stay silent online. I lurked on social media when I was going through my divorce, and it took me a pretty long time to figure out all the lurking I was doing was one of the big things that kept me feeling depressed.
I was recently separated from the person I thought I'd spend the rest of my life with. I had no gorgeous husband to speak of, no inordinate wealth, no babies on the horizon and no house paid for in cash, unlike what seemed to be so many others on Facebook.
All I could do was scroll Facebook to pass the time and see all the things I didn't have.
Professionally, I'm an online marketing expert who helps entrepreneurs find their voices online. And here I was, going months saying little to nothing to my own social media audience.
I was overwhelmed, and I just didn't know where to begin. When you are silent for too long online, it's hard to pick things back up again.
So, because of the nature of work that I do, I was acutely aware of my serious lack of posts, so I opened up to a friend of mine about the issue I was having. Between her advice and toying with what worked for me, here's what I learned:
1. It's unlikely anyone will call you out on your silence.
Although finally posting after not posting for a while can feel like you're breaking a silence, it's likely no one will think it's weird when you start posting things again.
Naturally, no one is as invested in you as you are. I was actually sort of worried someone would call me out on my silence or ask me about my breakup.
But the fact is, even if someone notices you've resurfaced and started posting again, the most they will do is say they are glad to hear from you or they'll click "like."
Bottom line: Posting a status, quote or photo is not going to be breaking news... unless you're Kim Kardashian.
2. Limit the time you spend lurking.
Limiting the time I spent lurking online made a huge impact on how good I felt about myself. I actually ended up deleting the Facebook app because I could not trust myself with it.
When you keep checking your phone for text messages or “likes,” you trap yourself in a passive state, getting upset when you don't see any notifications.
Instead, I told myself I could only go on social media if I had something to share with friends, which helped me take my power back.
3. Try coming up with a sharing schedule you can stick to.
It sounds a little ridiculous to call it that, but if you schedule a time of day for sharing something nice or posting about something of interest, it helps keep you accountable.
Personally, I told myself every day at 5:30 pm, I would post something on Instagram. And once a week, I'd even post a video.
The more I began to share content instead of absorbing it, the more confident I felt because I was putting myself out there again.
I realized as long as I was the one sharing photos and creating new content, I was in an active state of empowerment.