Today’s episode is a first! I’m talking about boundaries and social media on both the podcast and the blog today. Why? Because it’s an important topic, and it’s one that I find myself navigating constantly.
In this episode, I will list four boundaries that I am finding helpful for forming my own healthy relationship with social media. I hope you’ll find them helpful as well! To read the transcript of today’s episode, visit my blog at: pauserenewnext.com.
Are we ever really alone anymore? The truth is, we can have an audience anytime we want with the simple use of an app or two.
Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, I find that I have a choice. I can keep my experience to myself, or I can post about it online and make my experience available to the masses.
Everyday life becomes an opportunity for social media posts. A coffee date with a friend can translate into beautiful pictures of steaming cups of coffee for Instagram. A date night with my husband means taking cute pictures of ourselves, not for posterity’s sake, but instead so that I can document our date on social media. Actually, if we’re being honest, I might not even wait until the end of the date to post our pictures. Each and every experience in the day creates a choice of whether or not to let my online community be a part of my life. So long privacy, and hello global connection!
As much as I love the opportunities that this kind of connectivity affords us, I find that in my own life, it also breeds some unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. Can you relate? If so, I’d love to share four boundaries that I am finding to be helpful in forming my own relationship with social media.
Boundary #1: Taking a Break
More often than I’d like, I find myself interacting with social media in obsessive ways. This can look like checking and rechecking posts for likes or comments, or aimlessly and repetitively refreshing my feed out of boredom. Even more disturbingly, I sometimes have a difficult time being present with my family, because I’m thinking about how I could be turning our day out into a social media worthy post later. These are just a few of the ways that I know it’s time to take a social media break.
The spiritual discipline of fasting shows up often in the Bible as a way to repent, refocus, and reset our fleshly desires. As we take a break from the things that feed our worldly nature, we find that it resets not only our body and attitude but also our thinking patterns. Although people usually mention fasting in the context of food, social media fasts are equally important to our mental and spiritual health. I’ve found that blocking off a day, a weekend, or a week for a social media fast is very beneficial for helping to refocus my mind and priorities.
Taking a break from social media helps us recenter and focus on our present lives with the people who are physically present with us.
Boundary #2: Being a Respecter of Persons
When my children were little, one of my favorite things was to record their funny quotes on Facebook to share with friends and family. Now that I have two teenagers, I’ve found that I must be much more selective about what I post online. Unsurprisingly, teenagers have many opinions about what they do and do not want shared about themselves publicly!
An important limit for what I now post online is to respect the lives, privacy, and opinions of the people that I care about, including but not limited to my teenagers. I try to ask my family members’ permission before posting their pictures, stories, or anecdotes in a public space.
I hope one day when they have their own platforms, they remember to do the same for me!
Boundary #3: Keeping the Personal, Personal
Have you noticed that not many marriages or families survive reality TV shows? I don’t think our personal lives are meant to be shared with the masses. The essence of our closest relationships remain special because they’re shared in close and personal spaces. For instance, my husband and I share secrets, jokes, memories, and heartaches that are special and private to our relationship. This is part of the beauty and sacramentality of marriage.
In some ways the same is true for our closest friendships, our relationships with our parents, or our children. When we share the very personal in a public space, we risk breaking the trust of those we love. We also risk turning the precious parts of our relationship into a public spectacle. Major life conflicts aren’t meant to be played out on Facebook. At the other end of the spectrum, our precious memories and private moments may not be appropriate for social media either. The internet can be an unforgiving place, and we risk losing our special and private things when we place them in a public square.
In my own life, I am trying to differentiate between what stories need to be kept safe and “pondered in my heart,” and which stories from my personal life may be safe and beneficial to be shared with others through a blog, podcast, or over social media.
Boundary #4: Keeping the Sacred, Sacred
In the same way, I find that there are parts of my spiritual journey that are not yet ready to be shared publicly. This concept of the sacred can be broken into two general ideas.
1) Sometimes we’re just not ready to share the sacred parts of ourselves. For example, I firmly believe that in the middle of a painful season of healing, it is probably not yet time to share wounds publicly. The story is still being written, and mid-healing we may not yet have the perspective or strength to share our story in healthy ways. Although I definitely think we should be continually sharing our stories with close and safe people, it takes much more discernment to consider sharing our raw wounds with the online world. Social media does not discriminate people: safe versus unsafe. So, we must discern for ourselves, when and how we want to share about our own personal journeys of hardship, trauma, or healing.
2) The other sacred space I want to be careful about sharing online is my relationship with the Lord. Just like I want to be a respecter of persons, and keep my close relationships personal, I also want to keep my walk with the Lord close to my heart. When leading a ministry, it can be easy to turn every spiritual lesson into a public platform, but some things need time. Our alone time with the Lord is special, and it can take discernment to know when or how to share some of what He is teaching us in a public space. Everything the Holy Spirit teaches us in the quiet doesn’t immediately need to be shouted off of the rooftops. There certainly may come a time for sharing publicly, but I think understanding the when and how takes prayer. Even Jesus took time by himself in the wilderness to pray and discern what He was hearing from His heavenly Father. We can learn from His example.
Also, side note: he didn’t take his phone out into the desert with him to snap a selfie and document his alone time. (Not that we would be tempted to do that, right??)
Pause, Renew, Next: What about you? Do any of these boundaries resonate with you? Where are the places that you find yourself needing to set boundaries with social media these days? I encourage you to think about where your relationship with social media could use some tweaks or changes and consider what steps you need to take for your own soul-care.
I was never a bad kid. I didn’t have that kind of reputation with friend or teachers, yet I received my fair share of punishments and detentions. Why? Because of a little talking problem I had. I talked to my friends during class. I talked to the teacher without raising my hand. I talked aloud when I had a question. I talked standing in line or during assemblies. You name it, I talked. To be honest, I haven’t completely outgrown it. My mouth still gets me in trouble to this day.
Self-control is not my strong suit, but truthfully is it anyone’s? Perhaps there’s a reason that it’s listed last out of the nine fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and then Self-Control.
These days, I have another self-control problem, and it’s one that many people struggle with: the overuse of social media. Unfortunately, there’s no detention for it. No one is there to monitor my behavior, or dole out punishments if I spend too long scrolling Facebook. The platforms themselves are designed to be addicting. There’s no natural end to it, because scrolling can last forever. There’s no end to the likes and the comments that are possible. Each positive interaction receives a dopamine hit in the brain. Social media gives the essence of social interaction, but without most of the positive benefits. Even knowing all of this, I struggle to maintain control over it.
Over the years I have been through cycles of how to manage my social media use. After all, awareness is the first step, right? I desire to have self-control in this area, but somehow I always find myself overstepping the boundaries that I put in place. I can tell myself that I won’t look again for two hours, but, without meaning to, I impulsively check Instagram again as soon as boredom arises.
A few years ago, I heard Henry Cloud, co-author of the bestselling book, Boundaries, speak about this issue. He told a story from his own life, explaining that when he was at home he could eat well and work out regularly, but, whenever he went on the road for business, he inevitably started gaining weight. He couldn’t seem to stick to his healthy lifestyle choices while traveling. So, he reminded himself that whenever self-control fails, it’s important to bring in outside accountability. He then hired a trainer or life coach that he could check in with while he was on the road and found that afterwards he was better able to maintain his healthy lifestyle while traveling.
I have tried to remember this wise advice: Whenever self-control fails, bring in outside accountability.
Outside accountability can look like many different options. For phone use, it could mean having a timer on social media apps. It could mean shutting off all internet at a certain time of day. It could look like having an accountability partner. There are no limits to the creative ways that one could employ the use of outside accountability.
Usually, when we think and talk about boundaries, it’s within the context of relationships. Sometimes, however, we need to set boundaries with ourselves. Sin exists in others, but it also exists within. Solomon wrote about this concept long ago:
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.
Proverbs 25:28 ESV
Self-control is our boundary line. Without it, there’s little with which to keep the good in or the bad out. We alone have control over how we spend our time, what we consume, how we behave, or what we say.
If only it was easy. There’s a reason that self-control is listed not as a trait or characteristic we should exhibit but as a fruit of the Spirit. By my own self-will, I cannot achieve self-control. I can’t white knuckle it long enough to maintain goodness, patience, kindness, or peace either. They are fruit given by the Holy Spirit.
Gifts can be desired. They can be prayed for. They can be cultivated.
Although self-control may not be a fun fruit to cultivate, it sure is worth the effort.
Pause: Inhale deeply, then slowly exhale. Take a few moments to meditate on the above verse.
Renew: In what area of your life are you like a city broken into and left without walls? In what areas of your life do you have self-control, and in what areas is it lacking? Pray that the Lord would reveal these areas to you.
Next: If there is an area of your life in which you lack self-control, think about how you might begin to use outside accountability to help you have better boundaries in that area. Pray for self-control, and, if you feel so led, ask a trusted friend or mentor to pray for you as well.