Your post was shared 30 minutes ago but you only have 4 likes… you just wanted to “check” your feed, but then an hour flies by… you’re settling down for the night, and your screen is getting more attention than your spouse… I could go on! Lockdown life has catapulted us into a virtual reality, where we are relying on our screens to work from home, socialise and just to generally stay connected, and even once restrictions are completely lifted worldwide, we will still need to find a healthy balance between our physical and online presence.
Social media is a way of life for most. We catch up with loved ones through it, are entertained by it, meet people we may not have met otherwise because of it, find work opportunities and maybe even make a living from it, and share encouragement on it. But on the flip side, we also know (a little too much) about people’s lives from it, end up comparing ourselves to others on it, judge people’s actions by it, and strike up intimate conversations with someone other than our spouse through it…
Within your marriage, it is essential that you instil boundaries to prevent your screen-time taking the place of actual quality-time between you and your partner.
It’s not okay to be made to feel like a screen gets more attention from your spouse than you do, and its not okay to be the one who is making your spouse feel this way. If this is your reality, then this is an issue in your marriage that needs to be addressed, and a lack of boundaries can often add fuel to the fire of frustrating situations like these. In some cases, there may be other underlying issues that are causing one or both of you to seek solace in your social media space; such as a need for gratification from others external to your marriage, unresolved issues within your marriage, or just a long-term habit of endless scrolling to fill your mind rather than end up alone with your thoughts.
I know how easy it is to make social media the start and end of your day, and to feel like you need to keep scrolling on your Instagram feed until you are notified that “you’ve caught up” on the latest posts. Truth is, I left myself spinning in this cycle up until recently when I decided I needed to put personal boundaries in place for my own peace of mind. If you are currently experiencing one or more of the following feelings, then it’s probably a good time for you to also consider personal boundaries for social media, or boundaries that you and your spouse can agree on mutually in your marriage:
-Feeling anxious whenever you post on social media/ fear of a lack of engagement
-Feeling triggered when you see certain posts and finding your attitude is impacted significantly
-Feeling a sense of excitement when you receive direct messages from someone of the opposite sex
-Feeling mentally/emotionally exhausted after time spent on social media
-Feeling the need to always compare yourself to others, and feeling jealous or discouraged as a result
-Feeling the need to criticise or judge others, and thinking negative thoughts whenever you see certain people pop up on your feed
-Feeling distant from your spouse, and getting defensive whenever this topic is raised
Often we experience these feelings, and instead of looking at them as a symptom of something greater that needs our attention, we instead just ride the feeling and hope that the moment will pass. In reality though, those moments will keep returning until we do something to address the issue, so rather than refusing to deal with them we instead need to explore the symptom to then find healthy ways to treat the issue. Nobody ever said your marriage wouldn’t take work! Or maybe the problem was they never said that it would… Even now, you have the opportunity to not just better your marriage, but to better yourself.
Here are some practical examples of social media boundaries for your marriage, and how they can help with the above issues:
Limiting time spent on social media
I would waste so much time watching stories and catching up on my feed – time that could have been better spent elsewhere. Many of us complain that we don’t have enough time, but often we actually do, we just don’t manage it well…
Turning off notifications
This has been a boundary that I have kept in place for years, and I wouldn’t change it. For me, a notification on my phone is an instant distraction, but bring social media into the mix and it is the perfect storm for me to be constantly locked in. My mind doesn’t need it!
Unfollowing certain profiles
I saw a great benefit in doing this, and my feed has become a space where I can glance at encouraging or inspirational posts that are relevant to where I am on my life journey, while helping me to keep growing in ways I need to.
Starting and ending your day without social media
Again, a brilliant boundary to put in place. My headspace is so much clearer when I can get started with my morning devotion and a podcast, and end with a similar sense of calm and a greater sense of availability in my marriage.
Avoiding speaking to members of the opposite sex after a certain time
I can say this one applies to both of us, and it is a good mutual boundary to have in any marriage. Speaking to someone of the opposite sex other than your spouse in the middle of the night will never lead to an innocent, platonic relationship. You would be foolish to think otherwise!
What if you have tried to have these kind of conversations in your marriage but the other person always seems to react defensively? Your approach can help when raising this, as it can be especially sensitive for your spouse based on any other issues they may be trying to use social media as a means to escape from dealing with. Rather than attacking them with the typical “you” statements such as, “you are always on your phone” or “you never make the effort to spend time with me”, try instead to focus on the way it makes you feel and address the issue from the “I feel…” perspective. Talking about the way you feel removes the defensive trigger, as you are making it clear about the way your spouse’s actions are currently impacting you. Such as, “I feel lonely at times when you spend so much time on social media, as I would love for us to have some quality-time together too.”
Personally, the need for these conversations on this topic have most definitely taken place within my marriage. Whether it involves one or both of us, this area has been an issue that we are continuing to work on. For me personally, I have found it necessary to put clear boundaries in place as I use Instagram in particular on a regular basis as an extension of this blog. Even when you have the best intentions, you can still find yourself facing the above feelings in your social media space, so for me boundaries in this area have been foundational for my mental wellbeing.
Screen-time issues are more common than you think, and in an age where we just flick our phones out and connect to hundreds if not thousands of people on social media at the simple touch of a button, is it really that surprising that we have issues reining ourselves in when we get married?
Because this is such a habitual way of life for the majority, issues like this often sneak under the radar and gradually grow in size until we find ourselves with a serious problem in communication that requires professional help.
When you are single, you can afford to spend so much more of your time doing whatever you please! If most of your down-time involves a screen, then you most likely won’t be affecting anyone else other than you. Then you decide to get married. Then you become obligated to invest time into the marriage – time that you may have previously not had to even consider sharing. This adjustment can be a shock, especially to those who take comfort in their freedom for me-time. Then if/when baby comes, well… you’ll be reminiscing about those “once upon a time” memories when you actually had more time!
Time in and of itself is fleeting, and it definitely isn’t guaranteed. If you feel like you have been investing in your social media presence far more than your marriage, then now is the time to step back and put those necessary boundaries in place to nurture your marriage. Just like a plant needs water to survive, your marriage needs time and effort to thrive. You can’t expect to just coast your way through life and have a happy, healthy marriage to show for it. The less you scroll, the more time you will free up to talk with your spouse and build where it matters most. You could have all the followers in the world and still be miserable, but a healthy marriage will be your happy place with or without social media.
Social media shouldn’t manage you. The goal is to get to a headspace where you are in full control of your social media usage, and this can take time, especially if this habit has been years in the making. You owe it to your marriage to address an issue that is treading on the toes of your quality time, or causing division between you and your spouse. It can be an uncomfortable conversation to have, but those are often the conversations that lead to the best kind of change. You wouldn’t leave weeds to grow in a bed of flowers that you have spent time caring for, so you need to also be willing to pull up those “weeds” in your marriage that are threatening your relationship. Here are some conversation-starters that will hopefully help you both:
-When you spend a lot of time on social media I feel…
-If less time was spent on social media, I feel we could…
-The last time you spent quality-time with me, I felt…
-For us to get to a point where we are spending more quality time together, I feel we need to…
-I hope that we can work on addressing this issue between us, so that we can both feel…