Is Your Digital Life Healthy?
I have been meeting weekly with a sister in Christ for several months, we have been doing a Bible Study with the focus on "Boundaries". At first I thought this is not for me. I don't really need this. But we kept struggling to answer the really hard questions. After seven months I realized today I did really need this and it was so relevant because of all the stuff going on with social media. Just think if we all learned to set healthy boundaries on social media maybe people would not be getting so upset and annoyed.
Technology and social media are not inherently bad. In fact there are many ways they can enhance your life and relationships. The important thing is to make sure you are controlling your digital life, so it doesn't control you, which is why we need to set boundaries.
Boundaries exist to define a property line. They define what is yours and what is not. They are like a fence. A fence has a gate. You can open or close the gate to let people/animals in or keep them out. I like to think of it this way, you close the gate to keep the bad stuff out and you open it to let the good stuff in. Our eyes, ears, and mouth are like gates to our heart and soul.
The challenge is deciding what your "gate" policy is going to be for your digital life. How will you decide when and who to open the gate to and when and who it needs to be tightly shut on?
Just for fun let's do a little history lesson. If you are old enough remember back to when a doctor or professional person carried around a pager. This was a way to alert the person who was on call for work that they need to get somewhere right away for an emergency. You could be contacted only if you had the pager and the only ones who could page you were the select few who had the pager number. It was the ON-CALL life and it still had limits. There were boundaries on both who could find you and when you could be found.
Next came the cell phone. Remember the big box phones that were expensive and not everyone had one. But it wasn't too long before everyone had a cell phone. Now you could be found anywhere at any time by anyone who had your number. But there was still a limit.
Then came the internet and email. Now you could be "paged" not just in case of an emergency but pretty much anytime. Emails made you feel like you "had to respond" or do something. There was no escaping anymore. Even when you were at home your work went with you invading your personal space and time.
And then it got a lot worse. The cell phone and the internet got married and had a baby. Now anyone could use an email, a text, and even an old-school phone call to find and reach you anytime, anywhere for any reason. The on-call life had not limits or boundaries because now you were carrying this intruder of your time and space right in your hand or pocket all the time.
Just when you thought technology had reached its boundary-busting limits, you decided that not only should your phone be in your life, but your life should also be on your phone. It is mind boggling to think of all the different social media sites. Did you know that even Bill Gates said he had to get off Facebook because it was taking too much of his time?
That brings us to the present where there are no more boundaries to protect you. Time and space were the natural boundaries that protected you. But now there is nothing that separates your work space and time from your personal space and time. These same natural boundaries also applied to relationships and activities outside of work. If family, friends or neighbors wanted to communicate with you, they had to ring a doorbell, call on the phone or goodness sakes write you a letter and (gasp) wait several days to reach you. You were protected naturally by the boundaries of both time and space. BUT NO LONGER.
The breach of boundaries goes even further than that. People used to have to go through some sort of channel to reach you. Like voice mail, a mutual friend, or association. etc. But now, think of this, everyone has direct access to you. They can bypass any gatekeeper or protections.
So what does all this mean? Boundaries on technology and social media are entirely up to you.
Whatever the context, boundaries are about freedom, self-control, responsibility and love. We are called to be Free, but with this caution in Gal 5:13 "Do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love" You are free and your boundaries are meant to protect that freedom. But do not use your freedom to hurt yourself or anyone else. Use your freedom to love.
You are certainly free to use technology, but you must not allow freedom to bring about destruction to you or anyone else. this is what boundaries are for: to keep the good in your life and the bad out of your life. One way to do this is to make sure you are using technology rather than allowing it to use you.
The digital age is here to stay. Overall it is a positive development. But making it work for you and not allowing it to disrupt your life will require some work and some reasonable rules.
One of the greatest boundaries you can create to stay healthy in the digital age is to have a FULL LIFE. A full life is one where you are investing your time and energy in relationships and activities that are meaningful, enjoyable, and worth engaging in. For a full life I encourage you to:
find God's mission for your life
have deep vulnerable conversations with loving people
discover and express your passions
develop ways to give back and serve others
With the right boundaries and rules in place, you can have the time you need to connect with people with whom you want to connect and to accomplish the tasks you need to complete. It won't take an overhaul of your time and effort. And the results will be more than worth it.