This picture was taken just four short years ago. I feel so disconnected from this girl. She based her worth on likes and followers, she compared herself to everyone, she looked like she was living the perfect life but on the inside, she was racked with insecurities.
Getting off social media was the best thing I could have done for her. It immediately changed my perspective on life.
I no longer had to worry about taking pictures just to get the perfect angle for Instagram. Instead, I was living life and capturing each moment without caring if my hair looked frizzy or if I had a double chin.
I was freed from comparing myself to other people and from all of the negativity that comes with social media. And I can honestly say I have loved every minute off of social media.
Making the decision to return was really difficult for me. I knew that I had changed so much since then, but I didn’t know if I would be able to handle returning to social media without becoming what I fought so hard to leave behind.
I knew social media could be a great place to share my love for the Lord and reconnect with old friends, but I didn’t know if I would be able to keep that as my only focus. God freed me from the demands of social media and I refuse to ever let it consume my life again, which is why I created this list of boundaries to keep my intentions pure.
They have really helped me keep my heart in check. I have been shocked at how little I care about what others think on social media and what little amount of time I give to it. I thought maybe these could help do the same for others.
#1: Don’t brag.
This one sounds like it’d be super easy to follow. As long as you’re not flat out saying “haha my life is so much better than yours, loser” then you’re not bragging, right? Wrong.
Bragging can come in a lot of different forms. It may be a humble little brag on your story talking about how sore you are from the gym last night or it can even be as simple as posting a picture that you know will make other people wish they had your life.
This may seem really innocent, but there is a lot of hidden evil behind these intentions. I mean how awful that we actually want other people to be jealous of us, we want to lead them into sin and cause them to covet the things we have and what we do.
I am just as guilty of this as anyone else, and I think a lot of people do this without even looking at it as sinful. But we have to look deeply into our heart and make sure our intentions are always to encourage others.
Is jealousy what we want for our brothers and sisters? To make them feel left out and lesser than? Or do we want to encourage them, to lift their spirits? We need to consider how what we post impacts other people.
#2: Watch your time.
A lot of people go to bed with their phone in their hands and instantly wake up just to stare at it some more. It has consumed the lives of so many people.
When I look at my life, I don’t ever want to let a day go by where the first and last thing I did was check social media and spend all of my free time constantly on my phone. Life has so much more to offer if we would just look up from our screens.
Even if you don’t look at social media as a bad thing, I think it is vital to set limits. Too much of a good thing can always become bad. I have my phone set to lock me out of all of my social media apps after 15 minutes each day.
This can sometimes become a problem, especially with Pinterest, but I think 15 minutes is more than enough time for everything else. Try it out and you’ll see how easy it is to not even use half of that time.
#3: Don’t flaunt your spirituality.
It is really hard to find a balance between sharing about Christ on social media and making it look like you’re the perfect Christian. Like sharing a picture of your quiet time with your bible and cup of coffee can be good to encourage other people to do the same, but it can also be a way of trying to make sure everyone knows what you’re doing.
I think a lot of people get the same feeling when people share tons of pictures from their mission trips or while they’re doing service work. It can sometimes feel inauthentic like “hey look at me I’m serving the Lord.”
There is a lot of grey area here because I think it is such a beautiful thing to share about what God is doing in your life. We just need to be sure our intention is to brag on how amazing God is and His works rather than our own.
A.B. Bruce said, “we are to show when tempted to hide and hide when tempted to show.” To me, this means if we’re feeling like we want to show off to the world, then it’s probably something that doesn’t need to be shared. We don’t need to seek other people’s affirmation when we do good things, our affirmation will be from our Father in heaven.
#4: Be authentic.
Lately it seems like it’s become a trend for people to make a post and say “I’m not always perfect” in an attempt to be authentic with others. But I don’t think that is enough.
We obviously already know that no one is perfect. We have to do more than admit to that. We have to be able to show off more than the good parts of our life. To share our struggles and failures and hard-learned lessons.
#5: Feel joy not jealousy.
We should look at other people’s pictures and feel joy for our friends. It should be an excited “oh she’s having a baby yay I’m so happy for her” not a sarcastic “great another one of my friends is pregnant and I’m still single, amazing.”
When we feel joy for our friends, social media can provide so much opportunity for prayer. This is what I loved most about returning to Instagram. I was able to scroll through and see so many people to pray for, friends entering into new relationships, graduating school, getting their first job.
I always pay attention to where my heart is at while I’m scrolling. If I find myself rolling my eyes or growing jealous of other people, I know it’s time to take a step back and consider what insecurities are leading me to feel that way and bring those to God instead of taking them out on others.
#6: Keep it positive.
There is enough negativity going on in the world, and with the upcoming election something tells me that is only going to increase regardless of the outcome.
The world is divided on so many different issues, and while I think we are all entitled to our opinions. But to be bluntly honest it seems to me that no one actually cares about other people’s opinions, we only care about our own and reading someone else’s post on Facebook isn’t going to change those beliefs.
Social media is a great place to be a light. To share things that will bring encouragement to our friends and family instead of creating unnecessary division.
#7: Fact check yourself.
Maybe it’s the journalism major in me, but I think it is so important that what you are sharing is true. In a world full of fake news, we can help rid the world of falsities and lies by ensuring our own content is correct.
I am especially careful with this when I share anything biblical. I don’t want to blindly share Bible quotes and “Christian” sources. I think it is important to truly read what you share and make sure it is not taken out of context.
#8: Don’t obsess.
I get really frustrated watching my friends obsess over making a post. It seems like people in our generation spend endless time coming up with the perfect caption, flipping between photos to determine which one makes their arms look thinner, and hours editing out all of their blemishes and bad lighting.
My process consists of picking a picture, using the same edit I use every time so I’m not bothering with doing a million until I find the perfect one and then writing a caption, reading over it once for typos and posting it. Obsessing can consume you, and I get it posting can sometimes feel like giving a presentation in class because you’re putting yourself out there, your words, your photos for all your friends and family to see.
#9: Avoid comparison.
Don’t compare numbers. Comparing how many likes or followers someone else has is such a dangerous game. It’s funny how much worth we assign to these numbers, when in all actuality there is no real worth to it.
We spend so much of our time trying to get more followers. We think “once I reach 1,000 then I’ll be happy” but after 1,000 comes 2,000. It’s never enough. It reminds me of the children’s book If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. We just keep wanting more and more, we are never satisfied with what we have.
I promise this is not a race you want to be in. Nothing comes from it, except for feeling like you’re better than people you have more followers than and worse than the people who have more.
But when you’re on your deathbed you’re not going to look back and wish you had more followers, unless there is like a Instagram serial killer who kills everyone with less than 100 followers, in that case, you may wish you had more. Other than that very unlikely scenario, your number of followers and likes will be so worthless.
Avoiding looking at numbers seems like it may be hard, especially because it’s stamped right beside every single post. But I’ve gotten to the point where it just doesn’t register. And if I find the wheels in my brain starting to think about it I quickly scroll on.
#10: Take a break.
If you find yourself crossing all of the above lines, then it may be time to take a break. Delete it from your phone. I promise it will be the breath of fresh air you’ve been searching for.
When you decide to take a break, don’t feel like you have to announce it to the world. I think a lot of times people will do this as a way of showing off. Instead, you can simply take a break. The world will wait.
And remember, you always have the option to make your break permanent. It may feel like getting off of social media isn’t a possibility in today’s world where so much of life takes place online, but I promise it is more than possible and true life stems from it.