“Dear Facebook, I want my life back.” I saw this post show up on my news feed a couple of years ago. I honestly can’t remember who posted it, but it’s pretty profound, don’t you think?
I’m 33, which means I’m just old enough to have watched the social media craze evolve from a clumsy and somewhat disorganized venture to a multi-billion dollar, technically mind-boggling machine. And perhaps, like me, you’re growing just a bit wary of what the long-term effects of this will be.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with social media, I maintain pages on both Facebook and Twitter, but like any communication and entertainment platform, there are risks. I could go into detail here, talking about the kinds of outcomes I’ve seen in those who’ve not set healthy limits with social media… outcomes like social media addiction, reduced work effectiveness, strained family relationships, diminished drive, disconnection from friends… and, of course, the list goes on. But you already know this. And I won’t bore you with more details and specifics. The research is certainly out there if you’re interested.
The key question is: if you choose to engage with social media, as most of us will, how can you maintain healthy boundaries so that you don’t find yourself telling a computer you want your life back? Here are a few thoughts about how you can do that.
1. Institute Social Sabbaticals
Take a rest. Facebook will still be there when you come back. And, I will wager, not much will have changed. I like using the term “sabbatical” because it indicates a season of rest. No matter how engaging and exciting our life endeavors are, we cannot afford to be at the beck and call of any of them all day, every day.
When we don’t rest physically, we lose our edge, our capacity to function at peak performance, and often our judgement suffers. I believe the same kinds of consequences kick in when we don’t give social media a rest. Let’s face it… after you’ve seen a few thousand pictures of cats captioned with funny sayings, social media can start to be a little mind-numbing.
None of us can afford to lose our edge. It’s good to take a break. It doesn’t have to be long, it just needs to be time off. Don’t pull up the app on your phone, and don’t open the page in your browser. Let the gargantuan wheels of the social media machine turn without your help. The rest will do you good.Don't let social media master you. Take a rest occasionally. Click To Tweet
1 Corinthians 6:12b (NLT) …I must not become a slave to anything.
2. Limit Your Exposure to Negative Posts
Research has made it very clear over the past several years that the more we pay attention to negative things, the more we tend to think negatively. While you may be fortunate to have many positive messages surfacing on your social media feed, the truth is that you also have quite a bit of negative material/comments to sift through as well.
Be careful about spending too much time exposed to this kind of content. It can bring you down.Our negativity is often a reflection of the content we view online. Click To Tweet
When trying to decide what to pay attention to online, use this verse to decide:
Philippians 4:8 (NIV) 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
If we’re focusing on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, it means we’re avoiding things that are misleading, selfish, wrong, sordid, ugly, distasteful, second-rate, or pathetic. Our mental environment is shaped by the content we choose to explore. It’s wise to take the positive path.
3. Think Twice Before You Post
This is a reminder I very much need, because many times I have posted before really thinking through what I wanted to say. As a result, I’ve often found myself deleting a post or reply, wishing I’d phrased things differently, or worrying that I had misrepresented my true feelings.
While it’s wonderful that the internet gives us instant accessibility to information, it can be detrimental that it also gives us instant publicity. Many will read our statements and comments and believe them to be a very accurate indicator of our thoughts and feelings. That should be a sobering thought for anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account. The impression we create in cyberspace could become someone’s permanent image of you.
Consider this: many employers scan social media pages of prospective hires before making an offer. For that reason, and many others, it’s wise to think twice before you post. Don’t forget that when you hit “post,” your words will ricochet out there in social media land many times before landing squarely in the big middle of the public record.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I thinking clearly about this?
- How will my comment look to someone who doesn’t really know me?
- Is there any possibility that what I’m about to say may damage my reputation, the reputation of my family, or my company’s reputation?
- What is my goal? What do I hope will be the outcome of my posting this? (Keep in mind, if you don’t know why you’re posting something, it’s probably good to let the opportunity pass.)
Most Importantly: If Jesus had a news feed, would you feel comfortable with Him reading your post/comment?
Proverbs 29:20 (NLT) 20 There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.
4. Maintain Transparency and Accountability
As a marriage coach, social media presents new challenges for me all the time. Often I’ll work with a couple who, collectively, have several social media accounts and neither of them know the other’s login credentials. This, to me, makes no sense. I recognize that we’re told routinely that usernames and passwords are extremely sensitive information that shouldn’t be shared, but seriously, we’re talking about your spouse here.
It is remarkably unwise to maintain corners of the internet to which only you have access. Even if you are a person of profound character (and I imagine that you are), it’s still an invitation for trouble. My wife knows all my passwords, and I know all hers. That’s transparency, and it definitely works for us.Social media usage with no accountability is a recipe for disaster. Click To Tweet
If you’re not married, you can still work toward developing transparency and accountability by inviting feedback from close friends who also use the same media platforms. Invite them to let you know if they see anything from you that appears out of character. Give them the license to ask you from time to time if everything you’re doing online is above board. A healthy dose of accountability never hurt anyone.
John 3:21 (NLT) 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”
5. Broadcast Grace
Don’t let this post discourage you about the use of social media. As I said early on, I believe in the power these platforms provide. As always, power can be used for good or evil. With social media, you and I find ourselves able to fill a role previously reserved for television personalities and journalists—you and I are broadcasters. Why not broadcast grace? Why not take the time you decide to alot to your social media usage and leverage it to show kindness and grace?
Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Social media presents us a huge opportunity to speak healing to the hurting, peace to the disgruntled and conflicted, encouragement to the depressed, and hope to the despondent. In that sense, social media may be one of the greatest opportunities at our disposal to minister to others. But this requires intentionality and discipline… it’s a different approach—but a beautiful one.Social media may be one of the greatest opportunities at our disposal to minister to others. Click To Tweet
These are the five keys that I feel are most important. But it’s very likely you have some great insight on this topic too. I’d love to have you join the discussion below and tell me what your thoughts are about living healthy in the social media world.
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