Social Media Buffet

by Jamie Bonnema

The social media experience has some running away, many addicted, and others trying to set good boundaries for its use. In trying figure out guidelines for myself, my trips to buffets with family when I was young came to mind. Everything looked so good when I walked in. The choices seemed to be unlimited. I always loaded up my plate, went back for more, topped it off with too much dessert, and finished the meal hanging over my chair, sick with regret. As a wiser adult, I can now go to a buffet, have a great time, and walk away feeling good and nourished.

I think social media can be like a buffet—it’s possible to have a great experience if we are wise in our choices and guard our interactions. Here is a fresh way to think about our social media use in order to make adjustments accordingly.

Social media is like a buffet experience in these ways:

  • The experience may be influenced by how you feel before you walk through the door.
  • It’s best to keep good company when it’s going to be a long meal.
  • Being polite, friendly, and light-hearted enhances the experience for others.
  • Consider new things, but don’t be foolish.
  • Go with your gut if it screams “no” to something.
  • Be prepared to pass by several options to get to what you really want.
  • Recognize that what you really want may not be what you really need.
  • Don’t think that you have to comment on all or any of the things you don’t like.
  • An unkind, uneducated opinion is best left quiet.
  • A loving, educated warning may salvage or enhance someone’s entire experience.
  • Understand that preferences are different from choices that are truly bad for you.
  • Worry about what is on your own plate first before you comment on another’s plate.
  • Some foods that you enjoyed may leave you with regret later.
  • Other foods will leave you with a smile on your face, feeling good.
  • Speak up if something is helpful and has good taste.
  • In contrast, speak up if something is harmful or without taste.
  • Know when you’ve had enough.
  • Don’t let a bad experience ruin a good future one.
  • Guard your future experiences by being wise in the present.

Just like a buffet, satisfying choices involve many considerations. It’s hard to avoid getting overly absorbed in the content my own news feed while also not ignoring important issues before me. When I do engage with others online, it can sometimes be difficult to do it in a way that reflects the heart of Christ: true meaning, emotions, and intentions are not interpreted as accurately as they would be in face-to-face conversations—even more so with bystanders who do not personally know my character. I can also unintentionally support something that goes against what I stand for.

We must also be mindful of how easily online exchanges can replace honest and meaningful face-to-face interactions. I once heard of a friend giving out “pity likes” (expressing approval for the sake of boosting an ego) on others’ posts. This left me feeling uneasy, wondering how often we are too easily cheating each other of being real about things. A genuine compliment given personally is so much more appreciated and will satiate hunger for far longer—real nourishment for the soul!

Just as selecting the right dishes leads to a wonderful meal, we can combine these ideas to guard our online interactions so that the experience is nourishing and satisfying. Putting this all together, I end with a thought and a Bible verse:

The most satisfying plate is one full of both grace and truth, which can’t be substituted for an appetizer of appeasement. Appeasement leaves everyone hungry in the end and wanting something more.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23

Jamie Bonnema is a former youth treatment counselor for residential care, education, and wilderness programs. She is a married mother of four children, works from home with a nutrigenomics company, enjoys working with GCA in various roles, and loves outdoor recreation.