How to Protect Yourself From Social Media Sting…

social media banner

Why do you lock your doors at night?

I’ll tell you why.

Because it would be bizarre to awaken, parched, at 3:17 a.m. and find your neighbor, David, in his boxers enjoying an Oreo in your kitchen.

Or to discover an old high school friend catching up on episodes of The Blacklist in your living room.

Sure, we want to bar the bad people who’ll make off with our TVs and wedding rings while we dream, but truly our objective is to keep everyone out.

And no one’s offended by this measure of protection and privacy.

If Emily, Ross’s mom from your son’s baseball team, rolls by at 10:42 to rant about the coach’s apparent disregard of her little man’s awe-inspiring athleticism, she’s not going to be angry to find your door locked.


Too bad we haven’t created similar protections and privacies about who we allow into our heads.

According to an article published last year, Americans typically check social media 17 times a day, “meaning at least once every waking hour, if not more.” And even more surprisingly, folks ranging in age from 25-54 were found to boast the highest usage. Not teens.

Another source cites that the average American internet user spends 1.72 hours a day on social media alone. That’s almost one day of waking hours per week.

It’s no wonder I can’t get anything done.

 london woman on phone

On a scale of 1-10, how much pain are you in?

The symptoms are as varied as opinions about Donald Trump. Social media burn can present as anxiety:

  • Should I have posted that?
  • Was that oversharing?surprised girl on phone
  • That was really funny, but was it inappropriate?
  • What if people misinterpret what I meant?
  • What if my post makes people angry?
  • What if no one likes what I posted?

The sting can manifest itself as insecurity:

  • Oh look, their marriage is dreamy.
  • Their vacation is extravagant.
  • Her legs are skinny.
  • Her children are beautiful.
  • Her dinner is healthy and colorful.
  • Her dog is so well-behaved and photogenic.

Overexposure can look like anger:

  • [A slow, guttural growl…] I CAN’T BELIEVE SHE SAID THAT [fast typing fingers, tapping out highly emotional, purely opinionated response]!!!
  • Followed by Anxiety symptoms listed above.

Finally, it can look like lethargy. I’ve noticed when I’ve spent too much time wearing my thumb out scrolling through feeds, I just feel yuck. Like my head is so stuck in other people’s lives that I’m not living my own. I feel less present in the moment with the people in front of me. I feel lazy and restless on my insides, and I don’t love that.

Social media sting targets whatever is crippled in us at any given moment.  A healthy relationship with Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or SnapChat is only possible to the extent that our insides are healthy.

Get out!

One way of protecting yourself from overexposure (and the internal yuckness that can result) is to wait as long as possible before opening social media each day. If you turn off the alarm, stretch, yawn, rub your eyes, and grab your phone, this is what you invite into your morning…

crowd

All of us.

We’re all there.

With our loud opinions and our quiz results for which Elvis song is our life anthem (I’m Blue Suede Shoes, btw) and our food pictures and our biting sarcasm and our darling animal videos and our belabored political agendas.

And you haven’t even had coffee yet.

Don’t unlock the door until much later, friend. Because once we pile in, it is impossible to shove us out. Your thoughts have been hijacked by beach photos and hilarious mom ecards. Oh great, now you’re crying. You watched the footage of military personnel returning home, walking through the airport when an impromptu standing ovation erupts from all bystanders, didn’t you?

Your focus is now shot. At least you didn’t have mascara on yet… Silver lining.

And for the love of Mark Zuckerberg, TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS.freedom screen shot

You can also delete the social media apps from your phone, so we, the masses, aren’t crowding under your elbow in the car or creating a spectacle at the grocery store checkout.

Two days ago I was introduced to Freedom, an app that blocks social media, other apps, even the entire internet from your phone. You can choose the applications you want to restrain and then schedule the block to create a distraction-free time period.

For instance, I write best in the mornings. But if I ever open social media the first time…..even to schedule a post for later……my focus is gobbled up. If I wanted to block those applications from 5:00 am – 1:00 pm, I can build a wall of protection around my most productive writing time.

Self-discipline would accomplish the same thing, but sometimes we aren’t so good at that, huh?

 beuatiful woman with phone

Unfollowing is not unkind.

We are not obligated to receive everything everybody distributes. I genuinely enjoy connecting with people on social media, and I very rarely unfollow or unfriend anyone. But if I notice a recurring negative response in me to an individual’s posts, I will create a boundary that actually protects my ability to like that person.

I will mute them on Twitter. I don’t unfollow them, but I don’t see their posts in my feed.

I will unfollow them on Facebook. This is not the same as unfriending; when I unfollow, again their posts just don’t show up in my feed.

I have even used a secondary app, Primary, to hide people on my Instagram feed.

And – to be honest – in 99% of the cases where I have constructed a social media boundary, I have been the source of the issue. I’ve been envious of a person. asian girl on phoneOr too close-minded to graciously handle where their opinions differ from my own, or simply because they keep my eyes and perspective pointed towards the past when my feet and my head are moving forward. To be honest, the last reason has been the most compelling motivation for me.

I love the people I have removed from my feeds, but sometimes protection, with the right heart, has to trump accessibility.

So, if you’re feeling the burn, get these people out of your space. Lock the doors. Kick David out in his boxers with his Oreo. And your classmate with her feet propped up on your coffee table and the remote in hand. ‘Cause that’s just invasive. And weird.

[Images: Yoel Ben-Avraham, Antoine KRoberto TrombettaMichael Dornbierer, Bob Vonderau, and Tokyoform ]
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2 Comments

  1. Rhonda Arnold
    Rhonda ArnoldReply
    June 18, 2016 at 2:55 am

    Love this Cookie!
    I use FB as a communication tool and also share devotions daily online for those who need to hear Gods word.
    I will admit that if I spent the time exercising my legs instead of reading through junk that I would actually not have the weight problem that I do now.
    I do all of my devotional readings online and it is just easy to share on FB. It is a great communication tool when you can contact someone in a village in Africa and then have your second cup of coffee for the day.
    Balance is what I must learn and I appreciate you & your writings to get me thinking and moving in the right direction. God Bless

    • Cookie Cawthon
      June 20, 2016 at 9:53 am

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Rhonda! You are so right. Social media is the most effective communication tool for the ministry of Tenacious Grace, but balance…. You nailed it. Keeping social media in a fun, healthy niche in our lives is super key. Prayers for you; fight on, friend.

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