Friday, March 13, 2015

Sticks and Stones: Dealing with the Ugly Side of Social Media as a Blogger and Person of Faith

If you are a blogger, designer, or creative type who puts yourself out there on the internet, you may have had a negative run in or two (or three, or four...) on social media. Most of us have. It is "to be expected." Normal. Happens all the time. Something to "get over." But what if you can't? What if the hurtful words cut deep? How can we manage to keep our self-worth and value in tact while subjecting ourselves to the possibility of rudeness and ridicule?
A painful Facebook experience that happened to me a couple of weeks ago, left me contemplating this blog and what I am doing here. Whether it is something I can continue for the long haul with social media the way that it is. An ugly cesspool of hurt people hurting people.

Let me preface this by saying I am a sensitive person. No doubt about that {queue up that Jewel song...I'm sensistive and I'd like to stay that way}. I take things personally and wear my heart on my sleeve. I pour myself into all that I do. My love language is Words of Affirmation. I can be built up and brought down in a single word. You get my drift...

So, let me take you back. A blogging friend found a photo of her own shared on a very popular Facebook page. This page has over a million followers, but the person who owns the page does not share their own work. They steal photos, crop off watermarks and give no proper credit. (That alone drives me nuts about social media, but is a topic for another day.)

She later, also happened to find one of mine: a photograph of my living room. She tagged me in it so that at least one person was giving proper credit, even if it would largely go unnoticed. Hesitantly, I went to the post to take a peek at what had been shared without permission. (It was an image from this post.)
Sure enough, there it was, watermark cropped and no credit given. Just a remark from the page owner about how they "would like to cozy up on my couch." Then I did what I dread most on social media, scrolled down to read the comments. And immediately regretted that decision.

"Ugh. I don't like this at all."

"Not styled well. Looks like they just threw together what was lying around or given to them."

"Brown doesn't say cozy to me."

"Ick. Gross."

"So ugly"

"I hate it."

"This is terrible."


I stopped reading at some point. Definitely did not want to click to "read more comments." Sheesh. Those were enough for me. The words cut like a knife. It was late, and I was tired...just about to go to bed. Once in bed in the dark, the words punched at my soul. "Hideous" seemed to do the most damage. I woke up the next morning feeling like my soul had been beaten up.

There were several other comments on the picture...lots of people loved my rug, and there were some "I love this look!" comments thrown in. But those did not settle in like the negative ones. It was as if those ones didn't matter at all, because the mean ones overpowered them. And this is a photograph that has been pinned thousands of times. It's just a hunch, but I don't think most of them are pinning it to their "Hideous" board? Even still, hideous it was. At least, that is what I started to believe.

Even though these were random strangers who didn't know me, the words hurt. Deeply. It was my living room after all. That I have styled to be cozy and comfortable for my little family. I don't have a ton of money for decorating, so I do the best that I can and share it here. I enjoy that...for the most part.

But this other aspect of blogging - the negative Nellies and rude folks on social media - makes me question my ability to withstand it long term. I have been blogging since 2007, but with a small, and 99.99999% courteous audience. As my blog has grown and social media has changed, I live with a small fear of my work being shared on these larger sites. Even when proper credit is given because you know the meanies will be out in full force.
This wasn't the first time I have experienced this, of course, but it was probably the most painful thus far (although they all feel that way at the time. This is just the most recent, so it's fresh). It made me realize how much my home and how I "style" it are an extension of me. Who I am. Or at least, how I have allowed that to become a determining factor in my self-worth.

So for those of us who are sensitive, yet put ourselves out there like this, how are we to cope when "the worst" happens. People telling ya what they think even if you didn't ask.

I wrestled with this for days. Thought about cutting back to just being a casual blogger like I used to be a couple of years ago. Maybe diminishing myself was the answer? Avoid being hurt at all costs.

Days went by. And I won't lie, a few tears were shed. I happen to be currently going through a low period, so this did not help in any way. Eventually, though, I found myself once again, where God always brings me back to: teaching me that my worth and value are in Him. What he has done for me. Not people. Their opinions. Not my gifts. My abilities. My home. My accomplishments (or lack there of). Just in the fact that he made me and he loves me and Jesus gave himself up for me.

I know to some, all of this might seem to be taking those Facebook comments too seriously. Putting too much stock in them. (And you would be right on that note.) What's the big deal? "They are just dumb people." Yeah, I get it. 

But for us sensitive souls out there, it can wound. It can reflect who we are on the inside...if we let it. I could allow something like this to hold me back, keep me from sharing my home, my style, my heart. I could allow it to change me. The way I decorate. The way I share posts. The way I strive to be myself. Literally thoughts like, "Maybe if had more of a "Pottery Barn" style this wouldn't happen." But the truth is no matter what my style or how perfect or imperfect it is, somebody somewhere isn't going to like it. I know this. I do know this. (I just secretly hope I don't have to hear about it!)

The great reminder here is, at the end of this life, it won't matter if my living room was perfect or hideous. If people "like me" on social media or they don't. If my house looks like an interior decorator styled it, or I just threw together what I had and what people gave me (there was some truth in that comment...that is what I like to do ;).

It will only matter what I did with my time here. If I chose to love when I could have hated. If I offered grace, when rudeness in return, would have been easier.

If I held a grudge, or forgave.

This experience reminded me of a specific time in college, when God showed me point blank what his thoughts are of me. And I have never forgotten. At that time in my life, much of my value and self-worth came from what other people thought of how I looked. Even though I received compliments on my looks often, I was still filled with low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness. I never looked in the mirror and saw what others did. I didn't even believe them. I was cruel to myself.

One particular day, when I was sitting in an Old Testament class where we were required to bring our bibles, I was waiting for the professor to begin the day's lecture. The worst feelings of shame and unworthiness came over me. I felt so ugly in that moment. I don't even know why other than Satan must have been attacking me something fierce. I felt an urge to open my bible, that I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit leading me, and when I did, I opened directly to a page in Song of Solomon and my eyes locked on this verse (4:7) -

"You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you."

Tears welled in my eyes. I could feel the Father's love for me. Just as I was.

So that my friends, is where we need to be. Where our value and worth lie. In His eyes. In His heart. in His love. And in that, we are beautiful.

When these situations on social media arise, our first call should be to God. Calling out to him to quickly take hold of our hearts and remind us where our value lies. Then pray against these words. Pray against them getting a foothold. Letting them creep their way into our hearts.

We also need to go further and BE PREPARED for when these situations happen, because unfortunately, they will. The bible tells us to, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" (Proverbs 4:23).We need to pray before these events happen, so that when they do, they can't bring us down quickly and easily or allow us to diminish ourselves or become bitter.

I was weak when my situation happened. Hadn't been reading God's word regularly or praying often. It was easy for me to be "taken down" by those words. If we prepare our hearts prior to them happening and are relying on God's truth, we can put these words in their proper perspective. It will likely still hurt, but it doesn't have to take hold.

I know that this situation will happen again as much as I hope it doesn't. But I will choose to not let it diminish me, change me, keep me from sharing my home, my life or my heart here with you. I am not here to share a "picture perfect idealistic" world with you. That is not me nor my reality. My hope is that what I share here, might inspire another. And if it doesn't that is okay too. My value cannot be measured by that. Our value is not measured in other people's opinions.

Just in the One who sees us knows us through and through.
I created a couple of free printables to be reminders of this, not only for myself, but for you also if it is an area where you might need encouragement from time to time. We all do right? Whatever the case may be...other people's hurtful words, your home, your gifts, your accomplishments, your looks, your weight. None of those are things that will matter in the end or that can be measures of your worthiness. Only in God's love. His beautiful and perfect love.

To download, click on the link for the version you want below. You will be taken to the image in  Google Drive where you can select to download it to your computer. Then print and enjoy! Please take note that these are offered for PERSONAL USE ONLY. No reselling in any format or offering as free printables for download on your own site. Thanks for respecting the hard work and effort that goes into these!

Well, my hope is that you never have to face this situation, but if you are reading this post and have, I am so sorry. Truly, I am. Let's strive today to remember where our worth and value rest and go out and meet the ugliness of the world with beauty, grace and love.

Till next time...
~Alice W.

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