Social media is an ever-increasing part of our lives. Politicians find themselves in the middle of a storm triggered by liking pictures of a sexual nature on Twitter. Friends lock their account and change profile picture and privacy settings on their night out posts when looking for jobs after university. Influencers mix life and business. Bridal magazines write about the benefits of unplugged weddings vs couples who have their own online hashtags to share the big day in real time. Every parent is posting pictures and videos of their children, and some are writing on women’s magazines about how they grow up to be unhappy with the whole thing. Catholic college girls are encouraged to give up social media for 90 days as part of an extreme ascetic challenge, while others go unplugged for a day or for Lent as their penance. We share when we’re on our way to Mass or adoration asking if people need prayers, or we refrain from asking for fear of being holier than thou (I genuinely debated whether to post my on-brand way to die for that reason). We find friends based on what we have in common, and mistakes are made incredibly public, with full on witch hunts resulting in people getting off a plane having lost their job in a Twitter storm following something they tweeted on the way to the airport. There is very little private: you may not post about something, but you may still end up on the Internet thanks to friends or strangers that post something about you, anonymously or otherwise. We’ve all done it.
Some of us are more guilty than others: travel bloggers are being called out over their invasions of private property to get a picture in popular locations. Sometimes it’s not the privacy of others we invade in our quest for sustained engagement in our little corner of the blogosphere, which is vital if your bills getting paid depends on how much you can command on brand collaborations.
Bloggers are avid readers of other bloggers, and many of us know first hand how much better it is to read something personal compared to just another post about your favourite ever hand moisturizer, because you’ve got 3 gifted in a row. I have about 4 different brands at present and I don’t think I can vote an absolute preference so no judgement, I know you can genuinely think every week’s one is an improvement on the one you tried before, but buzzwords can be tiresome.
My blog has gone through different phases, growing alongside me, and I’ve been anything from someone chronicling life to a political opinion-sharer, to some sort of inadequate religious teacher, like Bridget Jones if her job was for the Catholic Truth Society.
I have also talked about relationships, or the lack of thereof, a lot. While I was single, it came easier. Only my very close friends would have an idea of my dating life, and any references to someone would be anonymous. Sharing anything personal was just me, and I was in control of my own boundaries. I shared a bit more about friendship, but it never felt as much as risk of violation as relationships do.
I applaud the bloggers who successfully navigate sharing their family life without crossing a boundary: I love reading your work, and you’ve helped me greatly. At present, I haven’t felt comfortable doing much of the same. The topics for this year’s challenge have been agonised over, every sentence picked apart to work out how much of it can stay if I’m trying to protect the integrity of my private world from gossip and judgement. At the same time, I carefully sift through everything to chuck out anything sterile and not worth publishing. Some of these boundaries are difficult because they’re of my own making. For obvious things I ask permission to share, but that’s not the only way I put boundaries for what I allow myself to make public. It’s a difficult process because I’m not good at setting or keeping boundaries, whether they are about privacy or other things.
One of my resolutions for 2019 was to have a no phone zone after 9pm. It happens most days, but I often find the one friend who knows I’m doing it being the one who realises I’m online past the curfew, and he’s not even in the same timezone as me.
Living in a studio flat makes physical boundaries harder, too. I have the same table to work and eat, although the limited kitchen-counter space means I need to get rid of the laptop if I want to cook in the first place, so I’m getting better at not eating at the desk. Less so at not eating in bed, with many days spent working with my laptop on the breakfast tray because I really only take a full sick day when I’m really unable to even sit up on my pillows and work that way. My sofa looks, more often than not, like an open wardrobe, making a serious demarcation between living spaces and a bed just to sleep near impossible. The lack of physical boundaries between spaces, in the form of walls, requires strong discipline that I really don’t have. Yet, I am somewhat grateful for the opportunity, in the spirit of St Paul’s words in the letter to the Hebrews (12:11 – For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. RSVCE).
I am slowly learning to build discipline with small steps, like a (mostly kept) night routine of washing my face with an electric brush and putting on a night cream, writing the Bible verse of the day in a diary and getting the Pray More Novena’s reminders in my inbox alongside the Blessed is She daily devotionals every morning. Instead of forcing change that is unattainable and frustrate myself out of doing anything at all (through confected hard borders based on what people think is best), I now use discipline and boundaries to work at improving myself in a way that comes natural instead. As someone with tendencies to perfectionism, setting boundaries can turn from a helpful tool for efficiency and balance to something that sucks energy stressing about never getting it wrong, ever. I’m also slowly learning to cut myself some slack over things that aren’t that important, and not judging myself by how disciplined I am: I choose very carefully which boundaries are helpful to set, and I use them more as a map helping me to figure out the right direction, than a set path that I have to meet. I can always take detours as long as I know what my ultimate destination is. Sometimes, the destination is even the only thing I need to set in advance.
This is a view that has also, over the years, coloured my view of vocations. I grew up thinking that vocations are something clear-cut, and once you know which vows you are called to then everything will fall into place once you discern the right person or the right community or figure out we need none of that, but while vocations are, in a way, clear-cut, it’s not about the job we do day to day. Our vocation is the same, and it’s to love God in all we do, and be the love of God to others in all we do. In a way, our vocation is the race of 1 Corinthians. This is the boundary by which I judge every decision I take, whether at work or in my personal life. Even the decisions to set other, secondary boundaries. One of my favourite things I own remains the tote bag with Micah 6:8 from an old Threads event, because it really sums up the only boundary that I truly need.
This post is part of the LoveBlog Challenge on the subject of Boundaries.
Meet your hosts
Brita of Belle Brita
Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. On her blog and social media, you’ll discover more than authentic storytelling–she’s brutally honest about pursuing a fulfilling and joyful life even with Crohn’s Disease and depression.
Sara of Mrs Imperfect
Sara blogs at Mrs. Imperfect about letting go of perfect and embracing your quirks and messes. She writes about marriage, self love, mothering, and mental health and runs an Etsy shop offering printables on the same subjects. She is a writer, book lover, crafter, and mom to a six month old daughter.