"Luke . . . beware the dark side of . . . social media!" (Just a little Star Wars humor there...)
In his article titled Social Media’s Dark Side: Learning to Set Boundaries, Kouris Kalligas (CEO and Co-Founder of Therachat) writes, "Social media may have redefined what it means to have a 'sense of community,’ but the combination of overuse and the need for validation and attention has proven to be destructive to mental wellness as well as distracting and detrimental to productivity."
Social media definitely has its positive sides (connecting us with family and friends who don’t live near us; sharing pics of newborn babies, graduations, weddings, and vacations; or laughing at cat memes), but like everything else it also has its "dark side." Just Google "social media addiction" or "cyber bullying" or "social media use + depression/anxiety" to get an idea.
Social media has made it increasingly easier to spend more time in a virtual social world rather than interacting with people IRL (In Real Life). But this virtual social world is often not conducive to "dwelling with each other in grace and truth" (see previous blog post about "safe people"). Aside from the cute cat memes and birthday reminders on FB, perhaps we are really longing for something "more" — more IRL connection as we strive to be safe people to/with each other, over coffee or a shared meal together, or in a small group (like MiniChurch) that we don’t (or cannot) experience in texts or comments or tweets.
In their book Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend write: "Our deepest need is to belong, to be in a relationship, to have a spiritual and emotional 'home.’ The very nature of God is to be in relationship: 'God is love,’ says I John 4:16. Love means relationship — the caring, committed connection of one individual to another. Like God, our most central need is to be connected."
IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE
Here’s why I need to set boundaries in my use of social media:
- Social media can only take me so far when it comes to meeting my need for authentic connection. But I might be tempted to spend more time on social media to meet that need, even though in reality it will remain elusive.
- It can distract me from interacting with my spouse and children and meeting their needs for authentic connection.
- Making time to meet up with friends and loved ones IRL for coffee or lunch beats just commenting on their FB or Instagram posts. (Note: My brother and I live five minutes away from each other, and we are FB friends. But we have recently made time to meet for lunch about once a month. I think it helps us stay connected and maintain healthy communication.)
- I don’t think I’ll ever look back on my life and wish I had spent more time on [insert any social media platform here]. In other words: I need balance.
If you feel led to re-evaluate your "relationship" with social media, maybe your reasons for boundaries are different from mine – or maybe similar. Either way, here are some tips to help set up some boundaries (one blogger calls it "social media selfcare"):
TIPS FOR SETTING BOUNDARIES WITH SOCIAL MEDIA USE:
- Start with the "WHY." Why do you feel the need to be constantly checking FB/Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat, etc.? What’s the underlying need in your life that you’re trying to meet? It might help to journal and/or talk about this with a safe person in your life – someone who can speak the truth in love without judgment, who wants to help you become more of the person God created you to be.
- Do a "social media detox." Some people have "fasted" from social media for a period of time. At times, I’ve temporarily deleted my FB app from my iPhone and committed to 30 days without FB. It might feel a little weird in the beginning, but you might be surprised at what you gain in time and productivity.
- Allocate yourself a certain amount of time each day at a specific time of day to check social media channels -- such as 20 minutes every morning and in the afternoon. Second, avoid being on your phone during meals, especially when others are around. To remove temptation, delete apps from your phone so you can only access social media from a computer.