The Pressure of Living Publicly

On Monday I wrote a post about privacy and authenticity. Click here if you haven’t read it yet.

Those of you who commented were nearly unanimous in your agreement. Our friend Seth wrote an additional post yesterday about authenticity and Christianity. It seems as if we all agree on a few things.

1 – We agree that people frequently share too much in the online space,

2 – We often feel pressured to share more than we are comfortable with, and

3 – We all want to be authentic and honest but we don’t necessarily think that means sharing everything.

I don’t talk on the phone anymore. Even getting me on Skype is feat not for the faint of heart. I buck against it for some reason. I’d rather send an email, tap out a quick text or something similar.

But I haven’t always been that way. I might be a product of social media exhaustion.

I want to live honestly and authentically and I feel as if I regularly put it out there on this blog and in other online spaces. But I’m just going to be honest: I’m exhausted.

Instead of pondering everything, I feel the need to process everything quickly and then regurgitate it immediately for the public sphere. If I wait too long I’m a carton of eggs past her due date and no one wants to read.

There is also an increasing pressure in the online world to produce and to accomplish. I was chatting with a friend over the weekend and I speculated out loud if it’s even possible any more to have a viable blog without having an e-book for sale in the side bar.

“I know, right?” She answered.

I’m not alone.

I wonder if public “authentic” living has first of all, exhausted us, secondly, made us “save” our deeper thoughts and questions for online conversation and caused us to shy away from personal contact, and third, created a culture of “authentic production” that is nearly impossible for the normal human to keep up with.

We were never created to live “publicly.” Maybe that is why most celebrities can’t seem to hold it together for longer than a few years. “Yay!” We say. “Their marriage lasted seven whole years!” {Which in celebrity-land is like a 50th anniversary.}

In a certain way, all of us are like mini-celebrities, letting our twitter followers, instagram likers and Facebook friends “snap photos” of us like paparazzi.

Let us as intentional and caring people, who I believe, were made to live some of life openly but a lot of life with a choice few, be careful how we live online and be careful how we pressure others to live as well.

If you have to vent? Vent to your best friend or spouse. Don’t do it on Facebook.

If you feel like you have to push a political party or candidate? Get a group around you dinner table and have a hearty discussion.

If you feel like in order to live “authentically” you must tell all about a friend that has wounded you? Instead, call her up and have a grace-filled conversation.

What about you? Do you feel the pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” online? Do you have social media exhaustion? Do you feel like too much of life is public?

Comments

  1. says

    The bits you leave about venting, political candidates, and public wound sharing ring so true. And I think I agree with you. Amber and I talk a lot about the need to throw out ideas quickly to “claim” them. That seems absolutely counter-productive to the time of idea sharing that is supposed to help lead us to living water.

    It’s the slow, steady, quiet processing that takes to a deeper authentic place, I think. This is hard in the online world.

    I’m really glad you wrote this one. Really.

  2. says

    This. THIS.

    I’ve just been paring down and paring down lately because I feel exhausted by all the noise. And at the same time I feel guilty for doing so. Like I’m betraying some unknown code. The thing is, I don’t have time for my real life relationships if I don’t. And even my real life relationships take a hit in some area with my inability to stay focused.

    “I speculated out loud if it’s even possible any more to have a viable blog without having an e-book for sale in the side bar.” YES! I eventually decided this summer that my timetable can’t be others’ timetable. They cry book and I cry myself to sleep at night because I’m so exhausted. Better to save my soul, I’m learning.

    Thanks for writing this. (And thanks for passing it on, Seth.)

  3. says

    Oh Sarah … I’m sitting here nodding and holding back the tears. I find myself weary not mothering, homemaking, and marriage as all the blog posts seem to be implying I should be … no, I”m weary of being told how weary I need to be in order to be normal.

    I read Seth’s post this morning and then yours a few minutes ago and I find myself wanting to stand and applaud. Why can’t our lives be rich and fulfilling and why can’t we celebrate that. Why do the simple posts about joy and lives lived well written by countless bloggers with less than 100 pageviews per day get lost in the fray of shouting matches about Chick-Fil-A and which life choices most honor God? I’m 40 … and my life is pretty small. We don’t own our own home, we live just beyond paycheck to paycheck, I don’t get the calls to attend conferences on someone else’s dime, and my child attends public schools in our very poor community while I stay home and tap out words on screens and fold laundry and my husband serves on staff at a local church.

    But maybe in all the ways that count, my life is pretty big … I teach a group of ladies on Wednesday nights who are desperate to dig deep into God’s Word and figure out how to apply what’s there to the very real, mostly mundane lives we all live day in and day out. Maybe I’m giving something huge to the world by simply loving my husband and asking him every morning what I can do to help him that day. Perhaps the time I spent pounding out words on the keyboard is far less significant than the moments I spend each day driving my daughter to and from school and dance and voice.

    I don’t know … but it just seems like there’s far less noise in my life when I shut the computer and open the front door to my house.

        • liza lee grace says

          Teri,

          Ever since I quit work to be a stay at home mom, I’ve felt that my kids are my mission field. I read all these great things others are doing and I feel so small, like what you described. But I’ve learned that the more I tried to reach out through writing, the more I felt I was losing my grip at home. As I’ve pulled back and focused more on serving my family through laundry and being near the front of the pickup line at school (my boys LOVE for me to be one of the first), I’ve felt the shift back to me being where I need to be. No, I’m not off doing huge things, but maybe my kids will because I was there to help them on their way.

          Your words have encouraged me on many occasions…the great thing about the Internet is how you can help people from your living room, while waiting for the washing machine to stop.

    • Sarah Markley says

      i think we all need to open our front doors!! i’m in agreement with you that you do BIG things when you love your husband and kids well and that we do BIG things when we take care of the stewardship in front of us.

    • says

      Terri Lynne – thank you. Yes! Those things do count – and that real life living is a beautiful thing. You’re writing your letter of recommendation right on to the hearts of those girls, your family, your community. I’m standing up to cheer for you, sister!

  4. says

    I’ve been blogging a ridiculously long time…since 2003 when it was just coming out and becoming popular. At the time, it was the ONLY way I could maintain contact with family an ocean away. That blog was taken down with all of its memories this year. And I’ve blogged relatively little since taking the editing job I had for 6 months in 2006. I’d just rather write a letter, and scrawl with my pen. I still share every now and then, but I don’t feel the pressure to be at it all the time. There is too much living in front of me. I’ve taken blogging breaks for over 6 months during which I took time to heal, get to know my future husband, to comfort family members who had cancer. I don’t regret it. Although writing is a way for me to process, I’ve been better off processing with paper and pen…and being present for the people I loved. I guess I could be more ‘present’ in the blogging world if I didn’t, but I’d rather write for magazine publications than put it all out there everyday online. Writing is a hobby for me, it isn’t my life. (But then again, I don’t have the ‘products’ most people have to make themselves popular….I don’t have Twitter, Pinterest…or any of those things.) I just couldn’t keep up with that anyway, and I don’t want to TRY to keep up. So there is my two cents. I don’t have any problem with people who can keep up with the blogging world and writing their own books. It just isn’t ME.

    • Suzanne says

      I received a snail mail letter from a friend this summer and almost had a heart attack! It was so incredible and precious to me. I see what you are saying Lisa. I also find, sometimes, it’s more relaxing to write with pen and paper vs keyboard. It just depends.

  5. says

    The sad thing is, I feel like I have no one outside of the socia media world (except my husband, of course)… maybe it’s the internet that started to rip outside life away from me – after getting married and moving, it’s been so difficult to find true community. We left behind a great group of friends, a Christ-seeking church, and my family (I was very close to my mom). They’re all only an hour away… but when you work 40 hours a week and the weekend is the only time to catch up on house stuff/rest, it’s difficult to want to drive out there and back for only a couple of hours. Therefore, I retreat to the internet, to see what our old community is doing, to stay “connected to them.” I retreat to the blog world in hopes of building new friendships that one day may become in-person friendships. The more I retreat, the less outreach I feel I need to do “out there.” (and I’ve tried when we first moved, but after many heartaches, I’ve recently decided to let go and not force relationships that don’t want to be). Oh, how I wish I could just step away from the social media… I would drop my facebook – I want to drop it. All it’s mainly filled with is pictures of people I can compare myself with, discussions between friends I wish I had but don’t, the occasional Scripture or encouraging post… but, really – it’s a false sense of community. Literally, I just sat here silently pondering the pros and cons of removing it. Why is it so difficult? Social media is almost like an addiction, it seems… something to pray about. deeply pray about.

    • Sarah Markley says

      thank you so much for sharing, anna! i totally understand the whole lack of community thing. it can be very difficult to find real people in real life. but yes, i also echo your frustration about comparison, etc. i appreciate your comment =)

    • liza lee grace says

      I could have written this. Switch “moved 1 hour away” with 5 hours and you have my story of the past few years. I have no words to offer, except that you are not the only one with these thoughts.

    • Nadine says

      Anna, I feel as though you and I are so similar. I too use social media, namely Facebook, to stay in touch with my family that live 4.5 hrs away. But I’m feeling more and more that the only thing said family members talk about are the three things Sarah mentions. Which is not why I want to be connected with family. Its incredibly lonely with social media being the way to stay connected and I have lost the desire to connect with people in real life.

  6. says

    Great discussion here, Sarah. I think maybe this is why I’ve found it so dang hard to write this summer. Since March, my life – my real, offline, in-person life – has been full of a lot of STUFF. Stuff that is good, stuff that is bad, and stuff that is really hard. And it’s stuff that I can’t, won’t share with the public. But then I’m left with confusion about what to share INSTEAD. Because nothing seems quite as important…because it’s not. And THEN I feel like I’m not authentic, not genuine – not to mention, falling behind in my desire to produce, to publish, to DO. *sigh* This is hard. I don’t have a single answer. But I am thankful for this space to think it through.

    • says

      Mary, I feel the same way you do … “stuff I can’t, won’t share with the public. But then I’m left with confusion about what to share INSTEAD.”

      My blog has crickets more than comments for the past few months . I keep asking myself the question, “When did DOing become more important to me than BEing?”

    • Sarah Markley says

      summer is always hard for me for some reason. i feel you girl.
      by the way, you were SORELY missed last weekend. i hope you know that. love you!

    • says

      “nothing seems quite as important…because it’s not.”
      So true, Mary. This is just real life reasserting itself and giving us the right perspective.

  7. Jenelyn says

    While having a rare civilized discussion about politics last week on Twitter (I know!) one of the people I was communicating with said, “Social Media is killing real conversation.” Amen. I, too, am exhausted. Great follow-up post today. May we all re-examine how we live our lives out publicly and privately.

    • Sarah Markley says

      oh that’s interesting. i agree with whomever said that. thanks for chiming in, girl. i always value your opinion and your thoughts. =)

  8. says

    Sarah, this whole ‘thing’ is a huge thing to me. I really do feel sorry for some people who have such popular blogs where there must be pressure for them to constantly be forming amazing blogs, constantly challenging their readers etc. I love finding new blogs where the writer is just writing purely out of their love for writing and yearning to share whatever the Lord is teaching them. I also wonder if social media is today’s equivalent to the pharisees praying on the street corner….look at me, look at what I did/ said/ made/. When the focus on is on ‘me’, that puts me off and stirs in me the longing for more real relationships.

    • Sarah Markley says

      i’m right there with you fiona.

      and your pharisee idea is very very thought provoking. wow. thank you so much for coming and commenting today!

  9. says

    You just described me to a T. I am exhausted and have been all summer. And when I get this tired, I tend to get cranky and say dumb things. I HATE talking on the phone. I talk to my mom and bff and that’s pretty much it. My friends know I don’t like to talk on the phone and it bugs them. God’s been working on me a lot the past few months. Thank you for what you have written today!

  10. says

    Sarah, I love these words you’ve written here, and- oh the beautiful, honest comments left, too. I am people person – I need to have people in my living room, around the coffee table. I love to write, am grateful for friendships forged through twitter and blogging, but I wrestle with wanting to slow the whole thing down, quiet the my online space entirely and go back to paper and pen. I’m not sure how to keep the elusive balance. Perhaps it comes back to the difference between intimacy and vulnerability. I want to write vulnerably, whole-heartedly (thank you, Brene Brown) but not intimately everywhere. Does that make sense?

  11. says

    Great post Sarah! The pressures and temptations can be so loud and I have succumbed to them. It takes a strong constitution to withstand…or burnout, which is what happened to me. Even now, the sirens call but since I stepped away to let it all die, it’s a bit easier to stand my ground. Reminders like yours are a huge help too! Thank you! :)

  12. says

    I had to take a serious break from social media for a few months, and although I am back now, I came back with clear guidelines and a mission statement of sorts about how I will and will not use social media. Thank you for a great reminder to keep me in check!

  13. ro elliott@http://tuningmyhearttopraise.blogspot.com/ says

    I love how you continually challenge yourself…and others…you are not satisfied with status quo for yourself…you obviously are not made to get caught in the rushing tides of our times and be swept away…oh yes…we need to say connected to those around us…willing to answer the phone when a friend needs us…take the time for real conversation instead quick text that don’t really require much of us…our heart and our time… I love your heart…thanks for sharing~

  14. says

    Yes! Yes to all of this.

    “Instead of pondering everything, I feel the need to process everything quickly and then regurgitate it immediately for the public sphere. If I wait too long I’m a carton of eggs past her due date and no one wants to read.”

    This is it exactly. Sometimes I wonder if, in the midst of the rushing to regurgitate, we really miss the point entirely. Because we aren’t living life. When life is constantly viewed through the lens of the next blog post, do we really see clearly? Over the past several months, I have observed such a weariness in the blogging community, and I believe it is due largely to the social media exhaustion you describe.

    It’s not often I read a post about pressure and exhaustion and walk away feeling refreshed. But I am right now, because there is life in the truth you have spoken. :)

    • says

      “When life is constantly viewed through the lens of the next blog post, do we really see clearly?”
      Erin, I’ve wondered about this, too. It’s almost like we’re watching ourselves live, rather than really living.

  15. says

    Such great thoughts, Sarah. This line stood out to me especially: “In a certain way, all of us are like mini-celebrities, letting our twitter followers, instagram likers and Facebook friends “snap photos” of us like paparazzi.”

    Tomorrow I’m announcing a blog break. I don’t really know what to think of it, only that writing two or three times a week has taken me away from other writing commitments and even a project that I’m excited about. It’s become an excuse. Even if the content is good, I’m allowing it to become more of a priority than it should be. To what end? Over the summer, I started paring down my Reader and really looking at who I follow on Twitter and even the tone of FB friends. There’s fear in taking a step back (what if my readers leave?) But then, so what? I have to do what’s right for me and what will help me focus on the important tasks at hand. The rest will fall into place.

  16. says

    I often wonder…”Why are people always going through so much?” Isn’t it sort of time we grow up and start living outside of our own heads? Isn’t it time for service and self less love? And then I write a blog post about it…
    I don’t know the answer but I like the question.

  17. kl says

    Thanks for the thoughts, Sarah… this reminds me of two important things:
    1. To look at Jesus’ example to start the day “offline” with the Father, before living in the fishbowl of life, and
    2. To have a few close friends to really process life with along the way, and intentionally carve out time to do so, just like Jesus did with His disciples.

    Also, a good reminder from several other posted comments as I prepare to move half way across the country… don’t substitute an on-line life for doing the hard work of finding new friends, church, community and having a real life in my new town.

  18. says

    This was a great post. I personally had to decide quite early in my blogging life to stay “small.” It was hard, who wouldn’t want a following in the thousands? But your post seems to say that having a big online presence is hard. Thanks for sharing.

  19. says

    Thank you so much , Sarah, for sharing how you do . .how He asks you to. I was late on the fb and twitter scene . ..and pretty quickly just couldn’t keep up, just couldn’t do it like everyone else was. Thank you for helping me see that that isn’t a bad thing. :) God bless you immensely!

  20. says

    Sarah, Thanks for starting this conversation.
    Blogging is like a creation wanting to take on a life of its own. I started blogging because I have ideas and want to express them through writing. I haven’t been blogging very long, but the more I learn about how blogging “works,” the more I feel like I’m being sucked in — tempted to be less of a writer and more of a “Blogger.”

    Unfortunately it seems at some point the paths diverge. I’m still trying to find a way to walk both roads.

    After all, the whole point of expressing yourself is to be heard. (Or is it?) And you won’t be heard unless you have a following. I think this is what gets some of us started on the crazy cycle.

  21. says

    This week I wrote 2 blog posts. I published just one. The unpublished one sits in a word document on my computer, and there it will stay. The world doesn’t need to know everything in the post. It is real, and authentic (even by Seth’s definition) but that doesn’t mean it needs to be public. You are so right Sarah, thank you for sharing.
    (We’ve had discussions around the dinner table about talking on the phone. Whatever happened to that form of communication?!)

  22. Suzanne says

    I love talking on the phone with my good friends and even pleasant acquaintances. Will someone please explain to me why this is not pleasant for some of us to do? The phone thing? I would appreciate any feedback because I do have a few relatives who hate to talk on the phone too, and I want to understand and not take it personally. Please reply! Thank you.

    • says

      Suzanne,
      I do enjoy talking on the phone, but I don’t do it very often because it’s inconvenient. We’re all so busy, it’s hard to find a time when both parties are available.. Texting and email allows each person to “talk” and “listen” when it’s convenient for them.

      If I’m honest, long conversations seem like a luxury I often can’t afford. So if I need to give someone information, it’s more efficient to text or email. This way we don’t have to “waste” time we don’t have.

      Maybe the bottom line is we need to move past the busyness and make connecting in real life more a priority. Your question caused me to really think about this. Thanks.

      • Suzanne says

        Thank you for your thoughts Bridget. It makes sense and gives me a better understanding of why I don’t need to take the phone thing personal. I appreciate your comments on this.

  23. says

    Sarah,

    What a great post. I have never been able to keep up in the blogging arena. Another reason I shy away from community and rarely comment. I feel like I am an “unknown” and nobody wants to hear what I have to say. Although, recently, I came to realize that commenting and sharing on other popular bloggers posts – by people who have touched my heart, moved me to action, or called me out – is only being a part of community. Mistakes allowed. But I am weary with other social media, such as, Facebook and Twitter, because so much of a persons life is opened up – as you pointed out. I have blushed at things I have read, not because they contain bad language or unseemly photos, but because they have just threw their life on the chopping block of public opinion. It shames me for reading it – a guilt never meant to, or should be carried.

    For this, I pray.

    I love your posts and this community, even if I sit quietly in the room observing most of the time.

    Blessings to you all~Debra

  24. says

    Sarah,
    I like Teri Lynne was nodding my head and resounding with everything you wrote! I leave my phone in the house in the afternoons while my kids play outside and I feel guilty. I don’t check fb for a day or two and miss something major (like a good friends’ baby being born!) and I feel more guilt heaped. All of which exhausts. I have been better this year about only posting when I have something to say, instead of posting just to say something. It isn’t consistent, or planned, which is super taboo, but I believe it is the right thing for me and my family (and only fair to those that read!).
    Thank you for your honesty and words. I can’t wait to meet face to face next month at Allume!

  25. Petra says

    Hi Sarah

    I don’t have facebook or Twitter, and I have chosen not to, although I nearly gave and signed up on facebook, but then a friend said to me that she had closed her account because she found lots of people she once knew contacted her and asked to be friends, and then she realised why these people were no longer part of her life! I find that it does keep my life a lot simpler, I know if I had facebook I would be stressing about not looking every day, I think that if family and friends really want to contact me they’ll email or phone. That said I do have my phone and do feel lost without it! I do feel this technology is both a blessing and a curse. So I suppose my conclusion is that it’s important to remember the technology is the servant and we are the master and not the other way around.

    Petra x

  26. says

    I’ve read both of your posts and so grateful for your voice here. It’s something I’m grappling as I walk through the door in my second year as a blogger. I feel thankful for the way social media has linked me with so many wonderful writers and opportunities, but am feeling the weight of all of it as well. Asking God for some healthy boundaries and this sheds some light there. Thank you.

  27. says

    I love your point about how we weren’t made to live publicly. I think we need to remind ourselves of this fact when we find ourselves overwhelmed by social media and take a step back.

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