One of the most difficult parts of being called abroad is the distance between family and friends. Being thousands of miles away from your loved ones is undoubtedly challenging, but the double-edged sword that is social media can help ease this. Though it can be an unnecessary distraction, it can also be a great way to keep loved ones (and donors) up-to-date on life overseas. Missionaries can attest that as they gradually acquire more culture, they become changed themselves. Now, the ability exists for those closest to you to see that change as it happens. Listed below are five simple tips for shaping social presence into a striking global timeline.
1. The mundane may not be as dull as you think.
Everyone from Michigan to Mali has to do ordinary chores. The difference is one person may do dishes in a sink with hot, sanitized, running water and the other uses a solar bag to ensure their family does not end up with cholera. Exposing followers to a new version of what’s commonplace is a great way to share an aspect of your life they wouldn’t usually think twice about.
This could be a picture conveying the frustration of attempting to make a trip into town when a herd of goats insists they were there first. It could be a picture of all the delicious termites collected after a rainstorm for the neighbors with a more sophisticated palette. Something as simple as a street sign in another language can help display an everyday occurrence that would be hard to spot in the United States.
2. Get some fresh air.
When taking a picture, people often fill the whole photo with the subject. The problem with this is the followers miss out on the context of the photo. We know not every missionary has the luxury of stepping out of the door and taking a selfie with a zebra, but even a cloudy shot of the Irish countryside trumps one sitting on the couch. Step outside, take a few steps back from the focus of the shot so you can see about two-thirds of the background, stay out of a direct light source, hold the camera very steady, and click.
3. Take too many photos.
When I said “click,” I meant “click click click click click click click.” It can be hard to get the right photo, especially when there are multiple people in the photo. Blurriness, constantly changing cloud cover, blinking, and changing smiles all have to be accounted for. The best way to do this is take about 10 photos for every location. If there’s not space on your camera, immediately delete any unusable photos.
4. Use your words.
A photo is only as good as its caption. If someone doesn’t know the context of a gripping photo, it can often get overlooked. Don’t be afraid to express personality when captioning. Instead of saying, “This is our family on Easter,” give details about how you celebrated differently in your country. The length of the description can vary, but it is best to keep it to one paragraph.
5. Use filters to make a photo pop.
If a smartphone or tablet is used to post your pictures, there is a good chance Instagram is the app of choice. It’s a good way to host pictures for an audience besides Facebook, while not having to post more frequently. Facebook links directly to it, and it has the option to automatically post your content to Facebook.
The real strength of this app is it allows users to apply filters and adjust many other photography variables (i.e. lighting, tilt, saturation). For those who are not familiar with Photoshop, this is a simple way to boost the quality of photos.
Social media is usually the furthest thing from missionaries’ minds when doing their work on the field. When someone is focused on planting churches or running an aquaponics business, it can be hard to fit in time to update newsfeeds. These tips are not meant to take away from that work. They are to help family, friends, and supporters partner in that work by seeing life through an online scrapbook, made one photo at a time.