The Habit of Social Media vs. the Practice of Journaling

Here is the truth of things: I do not have it all together.

Somehow, over the years, the internet has changed and morphed into this place that makes us think we have to live perfect-looking lives. Everything has to be Instagrammable, from your food to your living room to your kids to your "I woke up like this" groggy bedhead peering over your morning coffee. Everything has to be posed and set up for the perfect shot. Even your words.

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But of course, nobody's life is perfect, really. And when you get to an average white, middle-class mom of two who deals with health issues, of course it's not perfect. That's why I don't post photos of my living room. Or dining room. Or really anywhere inside the house. Or my backyard. Oy.

But we feel this pressure that anything you post or share has to be RIGHT because once it hits the interwebs, you can never NEVER take it back. It will always exist somewhere in the ether, so it might as well be perfect.

And so it is that I have found myself unable to journal. In any form. When I was younger, I kept journals all the time. One of my favorite entries was written in a cab from Johnson City, TN to Asheville, NC after my parents' car broke down while we were visiting a college. I wrote page after page describing our crazy cab driver in intense detail, from the way his hair stuck out on one side too his intriguing speech patterns and driving abilities.

I brought my journals to college, where I would sit beside a peaceful little (man-made) stream, talking to God and waxing poetic, marking the page with a small flower or leaf plucked from a nearby patch of earth.

Eventually, I took my journaling to the internet, when my cousin introduced me to LiveJournal. Oh I loved LiveJournal. I loved how I could pour out my soul and share it publicly or keep it private if I wanted to. I met some friends in the LiveJournal community that I'm still friends with to this day.

And then there was a shift.

It was called Facebook.

In 2006, my sister wanted to show me a photo of some hot guy on her campus, and she sent me a link so I could see how worthy of her everlasting love he was.

"I can't see the picture. The link says I have to log in."

"Oh," she said. "Yeah, I guess you have to create an account. It's okay though, it's free."

This was back in the days when Facebook was only for college students, so I had to enter in my school info (thankfully, you know, I quit college the first time 'round and so I delayed my graduation by a few years and was back in school at the time). And voila! I had a Facebook account.

And oh, the journey since then.

You see, Facebook quickly became THE place to be. Back in those days, I was a MySpacer, which was my first introduction to social media as we would recognize it today. I've always been a little slow to jump on bandwagons, so it took me a few years of having an account with this weird Facebook contraption before I started really using it. (Eventually I deleted my MySpace account.)

But once I started sharing everylittledetailaboutmylife on Facebook, it was sort of a snowball effect.

Facebook statuses became my journaling. I word-vomited to the world about what I was eating, where I was going, and eventually the funny things my kids were saying and doing. I posted photos, memes, links to videos and articles, and more. I interacted. I joined groups. I made life-long, true friendships. (See? Social media isn't ALL bad.)

And you know what? I still do ALL of that. All of it. Even today.

But something is missing. And I think it's the private, slow, handwritten daily practice of journaling.

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There's something magical, alchemical even, about forming words onto a page with the touch of your fingers. I say alchemical, because it's transformative. The base metal of your soul changes into something more pure when you unload your thoughts, ideas, worries, and joys onto a page that is always silently waiting to hear you. And it's different than just typing 90 words per minute at a computer screen. (Which, don't get me wrong, I really love doing. I can type without looking. I can hold conversations and type out pieces of a book I'm working on.) But that's almost mindless. And I think that the point of writing in a journal, slowly, by hand, so that your muscles feel each word they shape, is that it is mindful.

When you have to think about how much space you have on a page, how big your writing is, how much writing you want to do, you are more mindful of what you say. Even writing something as simple as, "This morning: tea, Earl Grey, hot. Cardinal and blue jay on my deck banister, probably fighting over a worm. Their song is beautiful. Something about the way the sun was shining on the wood floor set my soul at ease," can be so deeply meaningful. Capturing the little moments, engraved in your own handwriting... Like I said before, it's alchemical.

So this year, I'm trying to get back to journaling. I want to make a practice of it. Not a habit. I believe there is a stark difference between a habit and a practice. Again, I think it comes down to intention. The point of forming a habit is so that it becomes second-nature, and you can do it without thinking. Like taking out the garbage on your way to work every morning. But a practice...now, that is something else entirely, something that requires forethought and effort and intention.

So I'm going to focus more on practices than habits this year, starting with journaling.

Have you ever kept a journal? How do you journal—traditional handwritten journaling, or art journaling? Or something else? Share your tips on keeping up a journaling practice in the comments!