A Call for Privacy

by Sarah Markley

A couple years ago our family went to Hawaii. The Big Island, for us, was galloping horses and fresh ranch barbeque, coconut palms on a golden beach, sea-turquoise water and lava fields. It was coffee plantations and water slides and hikes in a rain forest.

And we kept it all for ourselves.

I’m pretty sure I posted a few pictures after our trip and texted a few home to some close friends, but for the most part for that week I went Internet dark.

We boarded the plane to leave LAX for Kona and I sat down next to my husband.

“Can this vacation be just for us?” I asked him.

“Of course honey. I don’t understand.” He pushed the button to lean his seat back before we’d even taxied out of the gate.

“I mean, can we put our phones down, not post any photos and stay off of Twitter?”

He looked over at me, reminding me of his father as he scrunched his forehead and simply grinned.

“That sounds like a true vacation to me.”

And we did. We took pictures of the waterfalls and the volcano at the National Park but we didn’t share them.

My phone sat face down for most of the trip and I stayed off the Internet completely. Everybody I needed to communicate with sat nearby in a bathing suit with spoonfuls of shaved ice. A shift began in me that week where I began to value my own privacy in a different way.

In this culture of over sharing and posting and photo maps and hashtags, I believe in many ways we have lost the value of privacy.

Sure, we get offended when we feel as if our privacy has been violated. We won’t stand for unseen cameras in stores or dressing rooms, we don’t want the list of what we search for on the internet shared with anyone and we value our personal freedom to do what we want in the safety our own home and bedrooms without anyone knowing about it. In some ways we value privacy very much.

But we often don’t value people who are wise enough to keep some of their lives private. We label them as elitist or non-authentic. We want to know what they are hiding. In the blogging community and the online Christian world I wonder if we value what we call authenticity but we have come define it as the sharing of everything.

We want a play-by-play about that gigantic Christian leadership conference you go to every October and we want to know what you had for breakfast on the way. We want a photo of your little guy’s first day of school and we surely want to know when you need a glass of wine to make it from 6pm to bedtime. We want to know about the abortions you’ve had and the people you’ve slept with and we want to know about the dark thoughts {you know the ones}. We want to know because it is a good story and it makes us feel less alone.

But those of us who don’t want to share it all? Are we any less honest? Or are we more honest? I’m not sure.

Growing up in an evangelical home, we “gave testimonies” at church. Someone from the congregation stood up and told a story about how they used to smoke marijuana or have sex with their girlfriend and how gave their life back to the Lord. Now they come to church every Sunday and have lived better since they got their life right.

I used to hope and pray they’d never ask me to give my testimony anywhere. Tell your story, Sarah, they might say. But I have no story. Come on, Sarah. You must have something more to say. Actually I don’t. I’m a good kid, for the most part, and I don’t have anything to make me more “acceptable” in the testimony department.

There was almost a pressure to make up something in order to fill that need to give a good testimony and tell a good story. What I didn’t know at 14 but I know now is that the best stories are the ones that are told honestly about the very, very normal.

Do we put pressure on the very normal life-livers {me included} to create drama in order to have something to post on Facebook? Do we help perpetuate a social media culture that values over sharing more than it values the right of someone to live privately and the right of someone to choose to under share?

Me? I believe that we can live openly with one another and honestly, but still be wise and mature in our sharing.  Let’s be a people who value both the ones who share openly and the people who want to hold some of it back.

Since that trip to Hawaii my husband and I regularly take social media fasts. We spend weekends or days without posting or sharing our home life with the rest of the world.

And instead of feeling disconnected we end up feeling reconnected.

What about you? Do you take social media breaks? Are you a private person? Do you feel like you must keep up with the culture of over-sharing?

130 Responses to “A Call for Privacy”

  1. K B September 10, 2012 at 5:39 am #

    This post really hit home for me. I felt led to take a day off from Instagram/Facebook. A day might not seem very long, but I realized how dependent I had become on searching through pictures to stay in touch with people rather than reach out by phone call or text. It was liberating, but also sad that I found myself clicking the icons out of habit, then closing them quickly when I remembered my challenge. I ended up taking the Facebook app off my phone completely.

    My husband is not as open as I am. He reluctantly joined instagram & rarely posts to twitter. He sometimes asks me when I take a picture…”Don’t post that anywhere”.

    There is a balance. That balance is necessary in order to keep the wonder of a new accomplishment, a much needed date night , or a family vacation. I’ve lost that balance & this post really re-confirmed what the Holy Spirit has been impressing upon my heart.

    Thank you!

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 7:24 am #

      i agree. balance and moderation is key in almost everything. sometimes, i think, this is a hard one to say balanced about. i have trouble all the time. thank you so much for your comment!

  2. Steph September 10, 2012 at 5:57 am #

    This is why it took me forever to start a blog. And once I did, it took me a long time to tell anyone I’d started it. I was trying to figure out how to write while still honoring my intensely private side. It’s funny because I don’t have so much of a problem sharing my deepest thoughts and feelings. But I despise the thought of the world being able to picture everything we do.

    Therefore, I don’t mention our daughter’s name or put her picture online. People think we’re crazy. And while I reserve the right to change my mind about her online presence, she’s two and I’d rather take it slowly. I’m not judging people who give their kids an online presence it’s just that I don’t know if I want her to be a teenager and have her entire life sitting on the internet: a timeline for everyone to peruse.

    There are moments of my childhood and my daughter’s childhood I cherish in a way I think may be lost if it was shared with the world.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 7:23 am #

      i understand that Steph! Thank you for sharing your perspective. =)

    • Caris Adel September 10, 2012 at 9:45 am #

      This is part of the reason I write under a different name. I’m very private, and don’t want to feel like all my thoughts and feelings are up for dissection by everyone that knows me. Crafting a blog post feels different than sharing a link on FB that people can sit and argue over.

      • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:08 am #

        i hear you caris!!

    • Bridget September 10, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

      “I was trying to figure out how to write while still honoring my intensely private side.”
      Steph, I felt the same way when I started blogging. I guess I still wrestle with it. I think it’s funny, too, that I also enjoy sharing my deepest thoughts and feelings. Maybe I just prefer to do it selectively.

    • Suzanne September 12, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      I like what you said also. Your two year old cannot voice or even understand the privacy issue. I’m glad you don’t post her photos for that very reason. To allow a waiting period for her to grow up and have the choice on whether or not she wants her photo on a blog. I’m impressed! For those reading my reply, please don’t think I’m criticizing those who choose to place photos of their young children on blogs. It really is a personal, individual decision, and my opinion is simply that — only an opinion. :-)

  3. Alece September 10, 2012 at 7:29 am #

    so, so good, sarah.

    i’m a really private person, so my choice a few years ago to share about what was going on in my life/ministry was huge. i was more scared of doing it wrong — in a way that would bring more hurt and dishonor — than anything else, and so i went about it with great trepidation. i painted with broad strokes, leaving out the bests, worsts, and a lot in between. and i still do. not just in the ongoing journey of all that (and the many layers it entails) but also in my day to day life.

    it’s easier to step back now than it was a few years ago. i don’t analyze my sharing as much, debating on if this should or shouldn’t be shared. i often go days without being on twitter, weeks without blogging. sometimes i have to fight the feeling that i’m missing out on great connections and opportunities (because of watching people quote-unquote “get ahead” with their @replies and intentional online shoulder-rubbing) and that i’m just missing out on all the fun — like everyone else is at the cool kids table and they’re all having this amazing time i’m excluded from. sometimes i still have to fight all that and sometimes i just don’t even care anymore.

    i value honesty in whatever is shared (by myself or others) rather than the amount/depth of it. i don’t think i — or anyone else — should divulge everything, but that doesn’t mean one is being dishonest, disingenuous, or inauthentic. be truly and honestly you in whatever it is you choose to share, and THAT is all the authenticity i need.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 7:31 am #

      wow! perfectly said. YOU should have written this post, girl!

    • Elora Nicole September 10, 2012 at 9:54 am #

      intentional online shoulder rubbing. sigh. yes. this.

      • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:09 am #

        that made me laugh too!! =)

    • Amanda September 10, 2012 at 11:33 am #

      And another amen to Alece. Geez, lady. You’re bruising up my toes lately (in a good way).

    • Stephanie Spencer September 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

      This post by Sarah and this reply by Alece. Yes. Yes. and Amen.
      Both really hit home.

      I have not shared some of my stories, and don’t plan to. Some might say that’s inauthentic, but for me, it’s because of the others involved. I don’t feel I can tell them well- in a way that honors the person who I see in real life. I can’t sacrifice love in order to gain “authenticity.”

      From my perspective, you both share your stories well. Though I have never met either of you, I think of you both as loving and authentic people that I’m glad to have connected with in the cyber-world.

    • Suzanne September 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

      Alece — “the cool kids table”. Hilarious! I love it, and we are all guilty of it at times, comparing ourselves to others, or feeling like we’re missing out (I guess I should only speak for myself). Yes! This reply of Alece’s would be an excellent post! Go with it girl and brainstorm via Sarah’s post. I love it when we can positively feed off each other, creating a beautiful train of thought from so many people!

  4. Kirsten Holmberg September 10, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    THANK.YOU. for giving words to what I have long felt — way before the internet gave forum to all things personal. The pressure to produce something ‘juicy’ for friends just to prove that I’m being authentic and honest. When God could be glorified, or when I needed the support, I shared. Otherwise, I often kept it to myself.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:09 am #

      yes!! sigh. i wish it wasn’t like this. thank youso much for your comment!

  5. Diana September 10, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    This is a lesson I’ve learned (am learning?) the hard way. Several years ago, I wrote a heartfelt blogpost, without pictures or names, about someone close to me who was suffering. And it came back to bite me and others that I loved, even though I pulled it down within twelve hours of posting it. I’ve tried to me more circumspect now, especially about others’ stories as they overlap with my own. I happen to love posting pictures of vacations – but that’s me, I guess. I don’t do all of them and I generally tell a small story with them on FB. I don’t use Twitter for anything other than blog publicity, to be honest. I’m not a big fan. And I don’t do Instagram or Pinterest because, good grief – I don’t need anymore ties to this world-wide weird than I’ve already got. Thanks for calling us to carefulness, Sarah. It’s important in every area of life.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:11 am #

      thank you so much diana! i’m so sorry your post was misunderstood. i think you are right — like everything else, the Internet should be something that requires moderation. thank you for your comment!

  6. jimmie lee September 10, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    Ironically Sarah, I was feeling the call last night to take a break from FB. Something is going on that needs my attention. God needs me focused and abiding in him and I can’t do that on FB. I am unplugging from FB for who knows how long. But right now I know i need to keep my face turned toward God and his protection.
    Often I type out a status and then second guess and erase it. I don’t like to over share either :)

    • Rich September 10, 2012 at 9:59 am #

      I type all my blog posts in a word processor and keep every post there. I still have one I started six months ago that I have not shared. It’s mostly written but will likely not see the light of day. I learned to do that when participating in a forum discussion. It gave me time to not write in anger or one-up-manship. Saved me many headaches.

      • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:12 am #

        i do that too rich. it is smarter, i think. =)

      • Bridget September 10, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

        I do this, too. I also give myself a breather between writing and hitting the publish button, so I can re read with fresh eyes before posting.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:12 am #

      yes. thank you Jimmie lee!! thank you!!

    • Suzanne September 12, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

      I am currently not on Facebook either so you are not alone! I became too addicted to it. What is helpful is since my husband is still on Facebook, he’ll let me know when there is a post I’d enjoy seeing and I’ll look at it and enjoy it. Sometimes Facebook makes me feel lonely. I’d much rather pick up the phone, text, or email the person I’m missing. Or heaven forbid, even spend time with them face to face instead if that is possible! I also don’t like being tagged in a photo. I understand it’s fun, but I don’t like how it feels unpredictable to me.

      • jimmie lee September 12, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

        I agree that it can make you feel lonely…

      • Nadine September 16, 2012 at 10:02 am #

        I was just saying this to someone the other day. Having Facebook has given my real life friendships the back seat which has made me feel lonely on more occasions than I can count. Why would I want to engage with people face-to-face when I can get updated on their lives in a few minutes on Facebook? It’s so sad. I’ve done it to myself, no one to blame but me.

  7. JuliaKate September 10, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    I really appreciate this post. I’ve often wondered how folks whose lives are so public, really feel about sharing. My social media accounts are all private. I share regularly & rarely take “breaks”. I do however take breaks from sharing publicly on my blog. I suppose social media for me is a “designated share”. I just about threw a party when Facebook came up with share lists. Now I could choose even more strategically who my “audience” would be.
    All this to say, I purposefully keep accounts closed so that my sharing feels very natural & not forced. These are (for the most part) folks I genuinely care about & trust (to a certain degree). And the folks who are my intimate friends know the complete story… That’s always important to me. That there be a difference. They get the phone calls when times are tough or when I’ve got really big news. They are the 1st & sometimes only ones to know about the conversations had over that meal pic I posted on Instagram. I like it like this. I am comfortable with this. As a pastor’s kid & a “stage person” I am used to having folks watch my life. With social media, I get to choose what & who. And you know what, I’ve actually found that it makes folks less curious to do their own “searching” on what’s going on with you.
    Love you Sarah & I’m so blessed to know you & your beautiful family, in the capacity that you’ve allowed;)

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:13 am #

      thank you Julia!! thank you for being in our lives too!! =)

  8. Dionna September 10, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    Great post, Sarah. People need to remember that common-sense of knowing what to share and what to keep for themselves for their own emotional and physical health. Sometimes you just need something left for yourself. :)

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:19 am #

      yes! i agree dionna!! thank you!

  9. Amy Sorrells September 10, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    Absolutely invaluable and important post, Sarah. I’ve been struggling with making sense of this for awhile now, especially in the increasing frequency of “edgy-for-the-sake-of-edgy” posts by Christian writers either in, or seeking to be in, the publishing circles. I’ve even seen posts by people in the industry encouraging fledgling writers to pen posts that “stir things up” or get a rise out of people, in order to increase big traffic or sell more books in the future. And while I do spill aspects of my main story (for the sake of others who need hope) often into the blogosphere, there are a million tiny pieces I never, ever will. I’m even more committed to maintaining some of my privacy than ever. And I think your post is a clarion call for others to do the same.

    There really needs to be a paradigm shift, and in the publishing industry, especially. More is not always better. Even if it does sell books or increase blog traffic. Instead, I, especially, and each of us need to make sure we are not making others stumble over what we “put out there.” (Romans 14:13; 1 Cor. 10:32) It’s the difference between relating stories that heal, versus relating stories which validate wrong decisions and, in some cases, even unbelief.

    I’m so glad you had such a time in Hawaii. Can’t think of anyone who deserves that more!

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:20 am #

      ooh. i love that amy. more is not always better!! so true! thank you!

  10. Shannon @nwaMotherlode September 10, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    I definitely take social media breaks, but often stress over what I might be missing while I’m (not) doing it. I keep practicing, though, because I agree that sometimes I want my life and my family’s activities to be “just for us”.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:20 am #

      yes. that’s the way I think about it too!!

  11. spence smith September 10, 2012 at 8:45 am #

    Sarah… well said. I love this post. we deal with this a lot. in fact, we are trying more and more to just put down the phones and unplug. one for us… but also to be a better example to our kids.

    I don’t think we are obligated at all to share online EVERYTHING that is happening in our lives. I think we need some of our lives to just be for us and those who are close to us… offline. We are have our friends we love that live far from us that we share little moments with offline too, but i couldn’t agree more. We need some time for just us. A vacation from EVERYTHING. Unplug and get back to center.

    I know it’s this way for us. There is a lot we don’t share with people online just because it’s not for them. it’s for us. Nothing wrong with it. It’s my timeline… my rules:)

    thanks sarah!

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:21 am #

      i love it spence! my timeline, my rules. so so true. =)

  12. Holly September 10, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    This reminds me of some of the best marriage advice we ever got:
    “Always honest, selectively open.” Those words have worked miracles in my marriage and I can’t help but believe that we would bode well to have them direct our social media exchanges, as well.

    “There is a time for everything…a time to be silent and a time to speak…”

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:22 am #

      i love that so much Holly! and yes, a time for silence (an introvert’s prayer, right??) =)

  13. Sarah Bessey September 10, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    Good and gorgeous post, Sarah. There is so much of my life that doesn’t make it online (which might surprise some people!) and it’s not because of dishonesty, it’s because I like to keep somethings just for me, just for my family, just for my friends. This is fantastic. Will be sharing.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:24 am #

      thank you Sarah!! LOVE you! =)

  14. perfectnumber628 September 10, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    This is great. It really does affect the way you think when you decide you’re NOT going to tell the entire internet about your vacation and other happenings. First you wonder, why does it even matter what I’m doing if I’m not going to post about it? (Because life has no meaning without twitter…?) Then you learn to just enjoy the moment, rather than try to capture it in the best possible form to show to everyone else.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:24 am #

      i hope we all haven’t lost the ability to just enjoy a moment. i really do. thank you so much for your comment!

  15. bethany September 10, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    I’ve been letting myself take frequent breaks from social media and from blogging lately for this very reason. I’ve been struggling with things – work stress, grief, family issues (which, coincidentally, includes an argument with a family member over what they feel they should have access to in my online life). I think I’ve just finally come to terms with the reality of how much stress social media has placed in my life, and recognized that I am my own editor, both in what I produce and what I consume. If I don’t like what I’m reading from others (especially in an election year!) and I don’t like how people treat me online, then I have the power to control that by how I use it. It’s been refreshing to take a step away, although many have questioned me about why I’ve been so quiet.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:26 am #

      right. election years are just rough when it comes to social media. i agree too, we do have the power to control what we produce and consume. great reminder, bethany!

  16. James Prescott September 10, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    Thank you for this – actually read because Sarah shared it (how ironic is that!). Some really good points here. I have had a 48 hour break from Social Media before and didn’t tell anyone till afterwards. It was so peaceful, and gave me some space for myself. I think balance is so important – a regular break from social media is vital. I also am a strong believer that not everything needs to be shared. People should not get upset whe you don’t share something on Social Media, as they don’t have the right to know everything and there are parts of or lives that should be private. In the same way we should not feel obliged to share everything either just because we feel guilty about not sharing it or because we are worried people will be offended. We need space away from the Social Media world, from the rest of the world. We need space to travel inwards so we can really grow and deal with our issues, and we need space with our loved ones no one but us will ever know about or see. Thanks so much for this post, I have shared it and it’s been an important reminder for me.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:23 am #

      thank you james. and yes, it is ironic but i’m glad you read!! =)

  17. Hope September 10, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    I have been wrestling with sharing a thing or two on my blog. My blog is written under a pseudonym but I have shared it enough on Facebook that there isn’t true anonymity. Even so, when my story crosses over into the lives of those I love, it isn’t just MY story anymore.

    In an effort to be transparent, hoping to bless someone who is struggling in the places I have been, I push myself to share. I think what happens is that the story gets skewed in the translation and loses its true effectiveness.

    Thank you. This was the encouragement I needed this morning!

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:22 am #

      i’m so glad Hope =) thank you for being honest and for sharing yourself so freely with others =)

  18. Caris Adel September 10, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    This is something I’m starting to realize I need to think about. My kids now will have me take pictures of them so that I can put them on FB, and I don’t know that that is always healthy. I know they just want to show their aunts and friends something cute and funny, but….I think we need to focus on balance and what is too much.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:17 am #

      that is so interesting, caris. and yes, i agree. balance is key.

    • Bridget September 10, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

      Kids have a way of magnifying the things we do. They’re picking up on the fact that people sometimes do things in order to post them. Which is a little like the tail wagging the dog.

  19. Gretchen Louise September 10, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    Amen, amen, and amen. Thank you for sharing!!

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:16 am #

      thank YOU gretchen!

  20. Caroline Starr Rose September 10, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    Preach it!

    It’s funny you post this today. At my blog I’m talking about the cutbacks I made on my Internet time this summer and how beneficial it was. While on vacation (and blissfully away from “urgent” email), I read THE SHALLOWS: WHAT THE INTERNET IS DOING TO OUR BRAINS. It’s been a reminder that I want to be intentional with the way I spend time on line.

    As for privacy, I’ve spent the last three years building a platform and being public! public! public! in so many ways (I’m a children’s author). Publishing in this day and age calls for an Internet presence, but I’m finding a deep need to pull back. I need my own corner of privacy. One simple way I’m doing this right now is laying low on Facebook (after taking all of August off). Next year, I’m going to suspend my Goodreads account. Sounds weird, but I’m tired of my reading list going public. It will be lovely to read just for myself — no goals, no sense of obligation, just the private joy a good book brings.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:16 am #

      sounds interesting (the shallows book). and as for goodreads? it’s why i’m not on it. sounds fun, but i like that kind of stuff just for me.

      thank you for your comment and ideas!!

  21. jennifer upton September 10, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    Funny how we think we are alone in our desire to keep some moments private. Tony and I went on a mini excursion this weekend for much needed refreshing and connection. It hit me during an uxpected encounter that tho powerful it should not be shared. It cried out for privacy and I will gladly keep it sacred. I believe private moments are required to enable us to share us the way we do.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:14 am #

      mmm. i love that. sacredness in the things kept to oneself. so well said, jennifer. =)

  22. Elora Nicole September 10, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    This speaks, Sarah. Thank you.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:15 am #

      thank you Elora!

  23. Kelly Sauer September 10, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    Because my job is largely on the Web and I need to have a good web presence, I take weekends as if I weren’t working at home. I hardly touch a computer. Then Monday I come back and catch up on my social media stuff before I dive into my work. It stages my way back in, and it gives me time to live outside of the computer world.

    This post is on target – and not crazy like some I’ve read. I just keep remembering that some things are for me. I can just hold them, and remember them, and take them into my heart, and it’s okay because as much as I live with everyone online every day, I have a real life too.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:21 am #

      i love that kelly. i tend to lay lower on the weekends too. =)

  24. Tracee September 10, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    I appreciate your invitation and challenge in this post. We live in a culture that is in vomit mode. We all desire to be known and heard. We want to feel like life matters – our life matters. As these are great desires, we are far from knowing how to do that well. I wish more people would filter through and ask the questions of why? Why is what we are sharing important? What is the motivation for sharing the specific things we do share. I think that if we said less, we would be saying more.

    it is like listening to a song on the radio – you might love it, but wait a week and it becomes over played. I feel like the same thing can happen with how people share. we love people who know how to share well. This might mean sharing more on purpose – not being over played voice in a sense. We have become quantity and not quality. Thanks for the words!

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 10:26 am #

      vomit mode!! yes!! so true, tracee. thank you so much for commenting. =)

    • Bridget September 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

      “if we said less, we would be saying more.” Yes, so true!

  25. Rina Maduro September 10, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Definitely good post! Last weekend I went away and didn’t post anything/photos/comments about it.
    And regularly days go by without me tweeting/posting anything online. But that is also because sometimes I’m so tired of people writing every thoughts that come up, sharing photos/information/things that really don’t matter… And then I just shut everything down for a while. I just have un-followed people because of this and not hesitating to continue do this. I have only 19 friends on FB. Nope, not everybody is allowed to become my friend!
    I also like the part of “I used to hope and pray they’d never ask me to give my testimony anywhere.”. I also have a simple testimony of how Jesus saved me. Nothing dramatic, no missteps afterwards. Just radical change and forever.
    God Bless you!

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

      i love your simple testimony! thank you so much for commenting rina!

  26. Linda B. September 10, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    I have a bizillion great stories because of the great encounters I’ve had with a lot of people over the years. But as other people have mentioned here, they involve other people. I try to always protect other people’s privacy and also ask them first before posting anything that includes anyone else’s story. Plus I do believe that as believers, the heart of our story is a love story between us and our creator. Just like the deepest parts of my relationship with my husband are for us alone to share, that deepest place of intimacy with God is a sacred thing to me. We live in a world that is increasingly interconnected. That has its upside and downside. As a music teacher in my 50′s I see that the younger my students are, the harder it is for them to turn away from their technology. All the time when I’m out to eat I see couples or whole families there not talking to each other and texting someone else. As a cancer survivor, I’m more aware than ever how precious time is, and how precious people are. When I’m with my husband who is stage 4 I don’t want to be texting. When I’m with students or friends I want to be fully in the moment with them… fully engaged in our conversation. And when I’m with God alone, I want to be fully in His presence as well. When the angels told Mary she was going to have a baby, the Bible says that she basically kept that and pondered it in her heart. Some times to be fully engaged, we need to be unplugged.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

      I’m so sorry about your husband Linda. Thank you for sharing so openly.

      I love your take on the idea of being fully engaged. it is so important. and the idea of protecting others as well.

    • Suzanne September 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

      I cannot help but say this “after Mary pondered these things in her heart, she texted everyone she knew and sent an email to Joseph!” I know, it’s out there!

  27. Jen September 10, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    I love the distinction between being authentic and simply telling everything. I have found in this reality culture we now find ourselves, people are trying to make a story of their lives instead of letting their lives be the story. I like to read and see how people live and deal with the circumstances of life but I don’t like the drama. I do blog but am finding a lot of joy now in writing fiction, a place I can really be honest.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

      i would love to write fiction…someday!

  28. Charity Jill September 10, 2012 at 11:25 am #

    You hit the nail on the head at the end there – this is a maturity issue. It’s a constant battle for writers – deciphering whether we are trying to produce a true work of craft, or if we are grasping for attention. Important things to wrestle with – great post.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

      so true charity. attention or authenticity? thank you!

  29. Megan Willome September 10, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    I think you’re wise.

    As my kids have become teens, I find I can say almost nothing in public spaces. Plus, my kids have their own Facebook accounts. If we are having difficulties, you won’t find it on my blog or in my column or anywhere else. But if you’re my friend, I’ll call you up and we can commiserate. I’m not telling the whole story because, frankly, it’s not my story to tell. They can tell it when they’re ready, if they want to. Otherwise, well, there’s always fiction and poetry.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

      thank you megan. and my kids are getting older too (not facebook yet, but soon). it is true we must be careful of what we say. thank you!

  30. Amanda September 10, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    Oh, goodness. I’ll be thinking about this one for a while.

    I wonder/worry about this so often. How much connection is too much, and how much of it is true? How much is necessary and how much is gratuitous or harmful or both? To what extent does it keep me grounded and to what extent does it add to my vanity and concern me with that which doesn’t matter? So much of the connection has value, but at what cost? I know one thing – it is distracting as hell. When I hear that voice that’s saying “That’s enough now, Amanda” or “Your kids aren’t social media fodder, Amanda” or “Look them in the eye, Amanda”, I want to listen. Oh please, God in heaven, help me listen.

    [Also, a big yes to this: "The best stories are the ones that are told honestly about the very, very normal." Yes, yes.]

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

      thank you so much amanda!! =)

  31. Tsh @ Simple Mom September 10, 2012 at 11:54 am #

    I adore this post, Sarah; it’s something I’ve really been thinking about, too. Definitely thought about it some this weekend with you. :)

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

      thanks friend! i really enjoyed being with you this weekend and all of the laughter. love you girl!! =)

  32. Jenelyn September 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    Thank you so much for your words, Sarah. I could not agree more. I made a decision early on to keep the names and faces of my girls out of my blogging/writing and I’ve received an incredible amount of push-back for taking this position. Because nothing is private anymore, so who cares, right? Well, it’s still my call. And I truly believe that keeping some things private and just for me and my family is critical. I too have found myself taking breaks from social media. Whether it’s arguing about how to fix our local sports team, incessant posting about political views, or play-by-plays of tropical vacations, I’m weary of it all. Thank you for your wise words today.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

      sports, politics and vacations… =)

      thanks for being such a good friend to me, Jenelyn. your friendship is priceless! =)

  33. Chris September 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    I appreciate this post.

    Honestly, sharing everything does not always strike me as authentic. I liked the phrase of the “online shoulder rubbing” because it does get the point across – sharing for the sake of attention, not the sake of telling a story.

    It strikes me that one could be authentic and private simultaneously if the stories which are shared aren’t construed for some purpose beyond telling stories, or to meet some desire that has more to do with a spotlight and less with sharing wisdom. Sharing everything, in my mind, is not authentic if it is done for marketing purposes. We are all flawed people; certainly exposing all of our flaws is not necessary.

    I have been pretty stubborn about not getting a smart phone because I prefer to be disconnected and to share (and be shared with) on a limited basis. It’s easier to keep the two worlds, online and personal, distinct. Having some fiercely private family members assists that as well.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

      very true Chris. A great point. and good for you about not getting a smart phone! i love it!! =)

  34. katie September 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    I love this post. I’ve actually been accused of being prideful for not airing my dirty laundry on facebook. It made me sad.

    • Sarah September 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

      seriously?? wow. i’m so sorry, katie!!

  35. Esther September 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    hi, this is so intune with what has been on my mind the last few weeks. I constantly wrestle with leaving facebook and twitter, I really can’t stand the bragging of other parents, I have actually felt guilty for not talking about my own kids’ academic achievements and milestones. But the thing is, the people that want to know,that care, ring and ask and are genuinely interested. To me posting these things on Facebook is akin to walking into a supermarket and shouting out to all and sundry, ” so proud of my girl, she got all A’s ” just feels braggy and wrong. I love that I can chat to friends and family across the world and be part of their lives, but sometimes I just wish I didn’t need to see all the other stuff. My teenage daughter has given up Facebook, it was actually making her depressed, feeling she led her ‘normal’ life whilst everyone else was having these amazing adventures. Though I did point out to her that if they were, how come they had so much time to put it on the net. Anyways this post spoke to my heart and has really helped me in my very normal life. Thank you.

    • Sarah Markley September 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

      I’m so glad Esther! thank you for your honest comment! =)

    • Agnes September 11, 2012 at 4:43 am #

      I love this comment, because it’s sooo true!! The people who care will ring and ask, or you will tell them in person/phone because you KNOW they care! When you put it out to 200 people on FB, how many people actually WANT to know or hear what you’re saying? That’s a whole lot of noise and a whole lot of MIS-connect. I do status updates probably less than once a month, keeping in mind the people who are on my FB, old colleagues, old friends I don’t see anymore.. etc. I don’t know, social media *for me* can be less authentic/connecting than IRL, that’s just how I am, and so that’s why my web presence is pretty non-existent. It’s just not as rewarding for me, I know it’s different for others. Also, it would not work for me professionally to have ANY personal info accessible online. I do like joining in conversations though. Thanks for this, Sarah :)

  36. Barefoot Hippie Girl September 10, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    This is a great post. I have long struggled with this whole “transparency” thing. I feel like we have lost a whole lot of discretion in this online world. And some of the transparency has degenerated into just sharing your dirty laundry without any intent of doing better by God’s grace. Confession is good for the soul, but it is only step one. I actually wrote a post recently about this…Who’s Judgy?

    • Sarah Markley September 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

      i love what you said about confession being step one. beautifully said!

  37. Courtney September 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    I had a friend who considered bloggers inauthentic if they didn’t include every detail of their lives. My blog is my happy place for my Christmas list–and might just place me in that “inauthentic” category. And as far as Facebook goes, my irl friends know the irl me. Facebook is merely a networking tool to me, not a confessional. I feel that if I’m not prepared to tell the stranger in front of me at the grocery store intimate details of my life, then no one in my social network needs to know it either. Great post. Good perspective. Much appreciated.

    • Sarah Markley September 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

      thank you courtney! i love hearing everyone’s different stories! =)

    • Bridget September 10, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

      “I was trying to figure out how to write while still honoring my intensely private side.” Nicely put, Courtney. I like your grocery line test. :)

  38. liza lee grace September 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    Everything I write is from the heart. Even the silly stuff. That makes me authentic. Not everything in my life needs to be on the internet. That makes me private. I think they go quite well together. Although, the more I share, the more I think I’ve shared too much. Which is why I’ve pretty much quit blogging.

  39. Angela Brackeen (@angela_brackeen) September 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    Oh my, what a good post! I vote for privacy, not because I have secrets to keep, but because that is the way God made me. I am a writer myself and feel so strongly about the issue that I wrote a book! The theme of my book-to-be is our culture today–that seems to promote the belief that everyone’s business is considered … everyone else’s business–and the detrimental effect that has on a woman’s good life.

  40. Melissa September 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    LOVE, love, love this great reminder, Sarah.

    years ago when my husband and i were struggling, i was given advice that i have yet to forget. “Save the best of yourself for your husband.”

    At that time, I purposed to get his attention before I sought out the attention or validation of others and I saved my wittiest, fun-loving, most creative self or most sacred secrets with him first…something i freely and lavishing gave out to others.

    Over time, i have translated that practice into my social media “presence” (the little that i do have). I share the best stories, the wittiest comments, the profound learnings, the funniest anecdotes with those who are closest to me – beginning with my husband and daughters…then with those who stop by unannounced for dinner, call on the phone or who spend the afternoon in our backyard. It’s a very small tribe of people that fit this bill, but there is a sacred freedom that comes in living a small life.

    Even Christ says to seek out giving in secret (Giving time, attention, gifts) because it becomes an “aunthentic” offering to Him. In that way, the private moments become even more treasured.

    i choose not to have a smart phone and set the internet modem to turn off at a certain time each night to maintain a presence with those i live with. to fight for that time that is fleeting and but a vapor.

    i still share stories on facebook, moments on instagram or learnings through writing, but i find a rest (and quiet confidence) in being the “best” me with those who are near.

    • Sarah Markley September 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

      i love this melissa. thank you!

    • Bridget September 10, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

      “there is a sacred freedom that comes in living a small life” Despite all the talk of downsizing and minimalist living, I rarely hear it applied in this way. But you’re right. It’s much easier to go deeper when we’re not spread so thin. Good thoughts, Melissa. I like the way you prioritize your relationships.

    • Agnes September 11, 2012 at 4:55 am #

      Ahhhhh!!!! ‘Sacred freedom in living a small life’.. wow, I won’t forget this one in a hurry! LOVE.

  41. Dea September 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    I popped over from guess where? Facebook :) I am so thankful for this discussion. I agree and I want to encourage you and other bloggers younger than myself to consider the wisdom you wrote today especially in regards to your children. We have to be careful to not let their stories become the story of dealing with their parents story being so public. Does that even make sense?

    Kids don’t need to be in the know on everything. There will come a time, especially if God calls us to use our stories to minister to others (and we must be public about them), that our children will hear our stories and decide what it means for them.

    This telling is a delicate balance. My daughter has known for years that I shared my story with people to encourage them in hope. Recently, I shared it very publicly to a large group. She sat to my right at the keyboard on a worship team, now a mother, and not just my daughter, now my friend. I realized that was the first time she heard me tell my story where she heard it from her place as an adult woman. My story was hers eleven years ago when she was heading into her teens. It was the first time I felt she could see why I had to tell and what God had done for me—for us through his healing and grace.

    I worry about this for some of the younger bloggers I read. I wonder if the time is right…if privacy might be in order until some time has passed—for their kids sake. It is something to consider.

    • Sarah Markley September 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

      yes it is, dea. What courage for you to tell your story!! well done. =)

  42. Mary September 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    Oh, Sarah…this is SOOOO timely! I applaud for keeping your vacation private, for taking media & internet downtime. I can relate to Alece’s comments too…especially the “cool kids table” line. I CANNOT do social media to the extent many others do. I just can’t. There are too many other things that I feel are more worthy of my time. At the same time, I often feel like I will never “get there” wherever “there” is…then again, maybe I don’t WANT to get there. Oh, Sarah, I feel like I am rambling, but I agree with EVERYTHING you have said here. Thank you!

  43. Bridget September 10, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    I’m not big on social media, but I do blog, and I’ve been wrestling with this issue of privacy. I think we all long for authenticity, connection on a deeper level, pushing past facade. But as we chronicle our lives for public consumption, if we’re not careful, we’re creating another facade. We want to know that we’re not alone. But somewhere in the mix is our culture’s obsession with voyeurism and appetite for salacious details.

    Every time I write online, I feel like I have to choose where I stand with privacy. The answer will be different for different people in different seasons, but it should always be intentional. Thanks for this great post, Sarah.

  44. Jason September 11, 2012 at 7:46 am #

    Right on the mark about the need to keep some things private. I’ve been weeding out the amount of “private” things that I share in social media and it’s been very nice to watch a beautiful sunset without the need to tweet about it.

    One thing I’ve noticed over the last few years of online transparency…especially in 2011 when I blogged every day about my day…is the number of people who demand the transparency and “authenticity” but really don’t give a darn about you. It’s a voyeur-type society building online. We want to know it all, we want to see it all but we really don’t care if you’re floundering or fading. Someone’s life may be falling apart and we read it for entertainment. We don’t actually get involved beyond posting on their blogs that we will pray for them and in most cases people don’t even take the time to do that for them.

    So for me the bigger question is becoming why do I share everything online when most people don’t really give a darn about helping me when I’m at my lowest? Why do I want someone to watch me suffering for their own entertainment (even if they won’t admit that’s what is happening)?

    • Sarah Markley September 12, 2012 at 7:24 am #

      so true jason. i agree that there is a sense of voyeurism with social media. sorry that that has happened to you. =(

  45. r.elliott September 11, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    Oh …such a good word here…I have been in the blog world for a year now…and to be honest…the longer I am here the more pressure I feel to amp up my social media…the enemy speaks…you will be left in the dust…if you want to connect you have to FB and Tweet…for me…blogging is all I feel I can do and not live a disconnected life to those around me…this stretches me…and I can’t imagine adding something else. I do think my age has something to do with it…I did not like the thought of texting…it took me a while to “give” in…and now I see the value …but also the down side of young people thinking this is communication. I don’t ever want my life to be framed…in pictures or in words to fit into a blog post…but to live my life…and whatever I share on line to come out of communion with Him…not promotion of me. We do live in challenging times…a challenge to live in the moment…and not wondering if this moment would be a good post…oh God have mercy on us all:)

    • Sarah Markley September 12, 2012 at 7:24 am #

      yes, there is a lot of pressure. i feel it more and more. thank you for commenting!! =)

  46. Amanda September 11, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    This reminds me of a sermon I heard from Wayne Cordiero. He talked about how the giant redwoods would eventually grow weak and topple over from too many people walking so close to them, it actually slowly destroyed the root system. So they started putting little fences around the trees to keep people from getting too close. I think we are like that too. We need a buffer zone, private space… sure we want to be real and let people see us but we weaken our lives when we let everyone have a free for all in our private-up-close-and-personal space. I think of how Mary, upon the birth of Jesus “took these things and pondered them in her heart” instead of shouting from the rooftops the miracle she had just gotten to be apart of.
    Thanks for the reminder Sarah!
    Amanda @ http://www.the-cadence.com

    • Sarah Markley September 12, 2012 at 8:13 am #

      i love this amanda! such a great metaphor and visual. =)

  47. Kristin T. (@kt_writes) September 11, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    Oh, this is such an important, confusing issue! In many ways I think we both over-share and under-share, all at the same time. What I mean by that is that we over-share things that don’t really edify others, in ways that lack meaning, and we keep to ourselves so many of the stories of true value. In that sense, so much of what we see on Facebook and other social platforms is actually a form of false vulnerability and honesty.

    In any case, a respect for privacy is so important, because sharing all just for the sake of sharing gets us nowhere. Some experiences are simply not meant to be shared, and others require some distance before they can be shared in a meaningful way (I wasn’t able to write a thing about my divorce until at least five years after it happened).

    Thanks for sparking this good discussion!

  48. Dan September 12, 2012 at 6:47 am #

    Hi Sarah,

    I really thank you for this. I also believe that there is a time to share and a time to just hold back. There are times that are just for family which are the most precious and these are the ones we will remember for ever and hopefully will pass down from generation to generation. These are precious times. This reminds me of Jesus he loved to share and help people but he also went off to have down time to just spend time in prayer with his father. I am thankful for when you do share I really enjoy your post.

  49. Sharon O September 12, 2012 at 7:54 am #

    I am very cautious about sharing personal things on my blog or even on facebook. With a blog when I first began it was private setting only, so I shared pictures of my grand daughter and then one day I showed it to her and she said to me, “did you ask permission?” No I had not. I put her picture on my blog without asking her permission. That was wrong and I said I was sorry. My blog was going to stay private and then my husband said to me one day, “if you wrote a book, would you always know who was buying it or reading it?” I answered, no. So upon his suggestion I opened my blog to the public which was very scary. I am a very private person and did not want anyone to know my real name or where I lived. In saying all that, one has to be careful, and also one has to be real. Both can work. Boundaries are ok.
    I never purposely post pictures of my grand children or others on facebook even though my setting is private that really doesn’t mean it is. Anything written on the internet can be found if the right person wanted to find it. So we all need to be cautious.

  50. Mel @ Trailing After God September 12, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    I have been for a while now. I haven’t felt like writing. I hop on FB now and then but it’s been nice to take that break. sometimes, I just want to be quiet…

  51. Kamille@Redeeming the Table September 16, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    Sarah I appreciate this. I’m married to a more private person, while I’m not as much. That said, I do find an element of privacy essential in my life. I’ve been thinking about these ideas the past week with the advent of Instagram, Twitter, etc and seeing into others lives like I’m there. I’ve seen how these windows can breed jealousy & coveting when not kept in open hands to the Spirit. Thanks again

  52. Andrea September 16, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    Hi Sarah. I guess this is one of the first time I ever leave a comment to a blog post…

    I think you have a very accurate point here, and I guess that’s also a question of culture, not only personal choice.

    I’m European, Portuguese, and lately I’ve been reading some American blogs, including Simple Mom (which I love and from which I found this post).

    Sure, Europeans also share a lot about their lives in blogs and facebook, but waaaaay less than Americans do!

    I’ve been twice to the States – NY and Chicago. I’ve noticed people start talking in coffee shops quite easily and share personal stories even if they are just paying their coffee – they tell them to the waitress, who listens and makes a big smile!

    your general open, friendly and generous social attitude is quite different from elsewhere. nothing wrong with it, in fact that’s quite a nice quality, but you probably tend to forget about your own personal private space, as you write about here.

    Facebook and internet in general doesn’t forget. everything you post, every photo you upload, every thought you share lasts (or might last) forever.
    OK, no one’s bothering about a simple person that lives a simple life somewhere in the world and no one really cares – sure, most probably.

    but our child’s photo might be downloaded so easily that we should really think twice before sharing it with ‘the web’.
    Personally I don’t have a single photo of my kid in the internet. and very few of my own. what for?

    social media leads us to want to share a rich, bright, beautiful, peaceful, fulfilling life. maybe in some way we want to compete (in another league, though) with all the celebrity stuff we can read everywhere. what for?

    Is our life more worth living because we share it with a whole bunch of people? do we need their approval or ‘like’ to validate or to give consistency to our life, our choices, our kids?

    No one can assure us that what we share in the internet may be used just with good intentions, so I guess it’s our responsability to think twice everytime we share something. and to be the keepers of your private life!

    all the best,

  53. Amber September 17, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    I have a pretty serious problem of wanting to know ALL THE THINGS. Once a month though, I’m in a state park, larping my heart out. The phones are turned off (and often are impossible to use anyways)and I just enjoy those around me. It’s hard for me to turn off my electronics, but when I do it’s always worth it.

  54. David Helms September 17, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    There’s weird trend where people at a party would all be sitting around face in their phones, tweeting about what a rad party it was. We take pictures of everything, viewing our lives through screens, building status updates rather than memories. I’d rather live in moment. Talk to the person face to face.

  55. Shelly Miller September 19, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    This is something on my heart lately, actually a conviction I’m wrestling with. I think social media can become an idol in my life, looking there for direction, encouragement, leading, keeping up. I’m finding a balance, asking God how to use it with healthy boundaries. Enjoyed your thoughts Sarah, they inspired some deeper thinking.

  56. Megan September 23, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    It’s easy to blur the lines between online life and real life. I used to feel stressed that I “needed” to blog about this or about that, but after a while, I realized that no, I did not NEED to share any of it! It’s been so freeing and has led to actually enjoying what I do decide to share of my life online. Thank you Sarah!

  57. Janel October 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    my mom refuses to have her picture in anything on the internet. i didn’t think about that when I posted a couple family photos of us on vacation. She said that she didn’t want to share those photos cause they were special and they were ours they are no one else’s business she says. which is true. so its made me think about things…and sometimes i do share too much and i try to reign it in and think on what others are going through and realize that not all of my life needs to be out there for me to feel validated and if that is why i’m doing things i’ve got to think about my reason for posting.

  58. Mel October 25, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    These days I am more gripped by the futility of social media than its gifts. Recently I did a short trip alone and left it unrecorded online, and a few people who I told about going away just asked why I didn’t put photos on Facebook, why I didn’t update Twitter… I guess it made me think about the days when snail mail, postcards, phone calls, and face to face contact were prized over anything else. When people travelled and did fun and spectacular things without needing to type about it in a little box and plaster the internet with pictorial evidence. All that said, I also appreciate the merits of the internet and free sharing and the speed and ease with which communication can now happen.

    Not as much as I believe in privacy though, no matter what. Thanks for writing this post, it filled my day with a bit more hope! :)


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