What’s behind our social media connections?

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Willie Nelson’s song “With a little help from my friends” pays tribute to the importance of friendship and having a support team. We know the lyrics by heart:

“I get by with a little help from my friends. I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.”

When Facebook was born, the premise of a network of online friends was tantalizing. With a click of a button, we could see what our friends were up to, we could share what we were doing, and a virtual connection would be born. Eighteen years later, the world of social media has exploded. There is a dizzying array of platforms including Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, Reddit, and Linked In.

You’d think there would be no more loneliness, no more isolation, no more disconnection. But of course, we know the opposite is true.

Quick show of hands:

How many of us see posts on Facebook that create a twinge of envy? How many times do we compare our lives to others based on the glamour of their Instagram photos?

Sure, we all have that reaction!

Social media has the power to be damaging to our psyches if we don’t understand the underlying premise. Yes, our connections are real people. But we see only a snapshot of their lives, making the connection as ephemeral as reading body language in a zoom meeting!

A healthier way to look at social media posts

All social media posts are curated. And that’s okay. I am guilty as charged!

Let’s face it. Who wants to share images of themselves at their worst? I want my connections to know what I am doing that is entertaining, amusing, or thought provoking. Research shows most of us view posting that way.

So, instead of feeling jealous about the posts shared by your connections, think of what you see as a sliver of realism. One image cannot reveal what goes before and comes after the moment the photo was taken.

I’ll give you an example. On July 4th, I baked a sheet cake. With white whipping cream icing, blueberries clustered in the upper left-hand corner for the stars, and horizontal rows of strawberries representing the stripes, the cake is an American flag. It looks (and tastes!) great. My post of a cake photo was a hit.

But, what the photo didn’t reveal was any of the following:

  • I had to run back to the store to get more eggs midway through the recipe.
  • Half of the blueberries were mushy.
  • The mixer flew out of the mixing bowl and got goop all over the counter.
  • The strawberries sunk down in the icing and had to be cleaned up for the photo.

Four rules to maintain social media relationships 

  • Think of social media as primarily entertainment. Source or post whatever you want, but keep in mind that lighthearted content will be digested better than serious material.
  • Keep expectations for views of your posts in perspective. The algorithms of social media platforms may not serve your posts to people you want to view them. Don’t get your feelings hurt if they don’t comment. They may never have seen it.
  • Build your connections virtually, but cultivate the meaningful ones offline. If you have important news, share it with those closest to you in person. It’s hurtful to believe you are in someone’s inner circle, only to learn about their big events on the internet. (Examples: weddings, new babies, moves, job changes, etc.) 
  • Don’t get hung up on how often you must post. Do you take a tally of how often your friends post? Not likely. Likewise, you don’t have a quota to meet. The frequency of your social media posts needs to work for you. 

Best wishes to you on maintaining a healthy perspective on your social media connections. Write to me at Ann@AnnLouden.com with your questions and comments.


  • Ann Louden

    A seasoned executive in the nonprofit world, Ann Louden is the founder and CEO of Ann Louden Strategy and Consulting. Recognized for her expertise in fund raising, high profile special events, and campaign planning, Ann provides counsel to chief executives, staff, and volunteer leadership. Ann’s primary interest areas are education, health care for women and children, the arts, and adoption. As a cancer survivor, she led and was the twelve-year spokesperson for a breast cancer advocacy initiative that engaged thousands of survivors, volunteers and medical providers. With a mantra of bringing big ideas to life, Ann focuses on identifying a compelling vision and creating a goals-oriented plan for execution. An in-demand national speaker for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Ann is the recipient of the Steuben Excellence in Teaching Award and has been named as a CASE Laureate. She is the author of the upcoming book: From Social Courage to Connection: Lessons from Leaders Who Change and Save Lives. You can find her at www.AnnLouden.com.

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