Being online is an interesting, potentially tricky lifestyle. If you hold any sort of online presence (yes, even Facebook), you’ve probably entertained some questions before. Do you blog daily? Do you post to Instagram in real time? How do you manage internet life with real life? How do you know what to share and when?
A few things. First, the internet is real life. As much as people want to poo-poo that, you know it’s true. Maybe you’ve developed solid relationships with people you’ve met online. Or maybe you’ve maintained old relationships in a more consistent manner, thanks to the internet. Regardless of how you feel about it, the internet is real. It’s tangible and fruit comes from it and when you do it right, it’s just as important as your “real life.” That’s why we feel the Influence Network is so important. Your time spent online had better be worth it. It needs to count, right? But I digress. The point is, this area of my life needs tending just like everything else. So when people ask how I manage the balance, I try to answer that clearly. I simply make time for the internet, and I’m intentional about it.
Something else that has been huge for me over the last couple of years is the realization that my online life is my space. I created it, I manage it, and I can control what goes on there. After over a decade of blogging, I’ve encountered my share of negative feedback online. And although I’m very sensitive about it, I’m okay with it. Criticism is not an attack on who I am. I’ve actually learned a lot from criticism I’ve received online. I am seriously a better writer because of some it.
But I don’t think it’s defensive to say people don’t actually know me when they see my online life. People see what I put out there. And I also don’t think that’s fake or deceitful. It’s my space. It’s my choice. Although they say the internet is just a highlight reel for people, I’m not afraid for mine to show a few clips of me falling on my face. However, those clips will be on my terms. I choose not to write about the big boys’ mom, or mommy war topics like vaccinations and circumcision. I don’t have to post a photo of the hole in my ceiling from the recent plumbing work. I don’t keep an editorial calendar for this blog, and I only put out content when I have something to say. I don’t live tweet the arguments I have with my family. Sometimes I hang onto photos or ideas or stories for weeks and post them later on down the road. Because at the moment I experience something, it’s mine. The moment is mine. It’s something I get to hold and experience and cherish, and then choose later on whether or not to share.
When it comes to what I share, I use a pretty basic filter. I rattle my way through a bunch of questions before I head in a direction, be it a tweet or an Instagram photo or a blog post. Will I look back on this later and be okay with it? Is this an area where I experienced growth, or where I was forced to look at something differently? Did this change me? Did I enjoy this moment? Was I humbled by it? Will someone else be encouraged or humored as a result? Does this protect people from shame or embarrassment? Is it good content? Would I want to read this or look at it? Does it promote conversation?
I guess it’s a modern twist on Philippians 4:8. But you’ve seen 90’s fashion come back. There truly is nothing new under the sun, right? After I asked myself those filter questions time after time, it just became second nature. Show the kids the photo and ask for permission before I post it. Run an idea by a couple of women I trust before publishing it online. Smile at a memory in secret for a few weeks before developing it into a story to share. Just like every other area of my life, the internet isn’t mine for keeps. I’m just trying to do life with open hands. I’m just trying to listen out for what the Lord wants me to do with what He gives me.