are you feeling social media-obliged?

Posted on June 20th, 2012

A few weeks ago a bunch of “followers” on Twitter arked up about the fact I don’t follow all the people who follow me. One tweet (twit?) said I was arrogant for not doing so. For keeping my “follows” so low.

image via beachbungalow8

Funnily, the brohaha was sparked by my tweet that shared how I seek more nourishing conversation from humanity…and engagement that gets down to the real heart of our vulnerability…the “ugly private stuff”. Mum and I had been talking about this during my visit back to Canberra. She got up to make some tea and so I tweeted where we’d got to.

By “ugly private stuff”, I mean the stuff about us that isn’t easy to gloss over. You know when you go home late, after a party, and catch yourself in the mirror and you look in your own eyes and you see yourself fully. No guises, no persona, no show. No empty conversations, no platitudes, no filling gaps. That’s what I want to see in others, to know about in others…

It takes a fair bit for me to get fired up about anything gossipy and nasty-ish online. Mostly I just treat it as a ball flying towards me…and that just passes me buy… and fizzles to a flaccid, uneventful plop somewhere in the distance behind me. It comes from years of working in media and learning that the best way to deal with nasty little bugs is to starve them of oxygen. Balls like this generally get thrown from some pain and angst, besides.

But that night I got annoyed.


I thought about it. It’s because I hate feeling social media-obliged. Social media should be free and easy, not bogged down in rules. The twits were e-arguing that social media should be about reciprocity. I guess I feel that there shouldn’t be any “shoulds” when it comes to social media. For me this is not the spirit of the medium, and I resent it when I feel pressure otherwise.

I’m on Twitter, Facebook (three pages), Instagram, Pinterest, I have a Youtube channel, and I also have my blog (with a comments section that I engage with daily, or thereabouts). Then there’s email. I love all forums and I use them in different ways. I also use them to earn an income. So I’m not complaining. It’s my choice to be so engaged.

I put myself out there on a limb. I have to expect to be blown about a bit and pecked by the wildlife!

But I guess the disconnect lies between my principles in relation to engagement and the way others use social media.

What are my principles?

I’m nutting this out with you as I write. Although, if I’m honest, I come back to them almost every day when I ask myself why I blog for free, why I share so much, why I don’t go and get a real job with a steady income…

* I am compelled to communicate. As a kid I knew this is what I had to do. I told my Mum and Dad this when I was very young. Like 8 or 9. One has to follow what they feel compelled at their core to do.

* I am privileged to have so much access to experts and information. I’m also privileged to have had training and career experience in communication and writing skills. I feel very much that it’s my duty to share what I’m lucky to be exposed to. (A sense of duty is different, BTW, to feeling obliged).

* I think it’s important to give out. I’ve talked about this before in my interview with Seth Godin. An artist gives. It’s a duty. It’s a gift. It’s a life purpose. Why else are we here? I mean. Really!?

* I know to give out, you have to pull back. To keep giving, you have to replenish. To share, you have to retreat to get the stuff that you can then share again later on.

Sprint. Rest. Share. Withdraw. Give. Pull back. Dip in. Step back.

I said this to the twits. That I only have so much energy and I have to do what I need to do to ensure I can keep doing what I do. Walls have to go up.

Which brings me to boundaries.

This is something I say a lot, and anyone who feels overwhelmed by life and obligations and e-communication might find it a useful adage:

There are no boundaries anymore. Information and obligations will flood. It won’t stop.  There will be no lovely fine day when the influx eases. We won’t get on top of it…And so we have to create our own boundaries.

This is the new barometer of success: how well can you create your own boundaries.

In the past, the work environment provided our boundaries – the 9-5 work day and weekends and lunch breaks. We could whinge if it got too much and someone – a boss – would fix the issue.

In the past, success was gauged by how well you could hunt down information, collate data, find a great reference.

Now, our boss can’t set boundaries. They can’t tell us to switch off Twitter after 8pm. We have to do it ourselves.

Now, success is gauged by how much information and data you can shut out. We have to learn this ourselves.

The most successful people I know have created firm boundaries for themselves. They check their email twice a day only (Tim Ferris). They’ve shut down the comments on their blogs (Gala Darling and many others). They delineate between “open door” forums, where they give for free and openly, and forums where only those who pay get access (Seth Godin).

A while back Steve Pavlina wrote a great rant on how he was declaring social bankruptcy, effectively shutting down Facebook, shutting down the forums, disabling his online contact form, etc.

He equated social media-obligation as being like getting gifts:

Imagine if people starting coming to your house and bringing you gifts because they want to express their appreciation.

At first, you may receive their gifts with gratitude. How nice of them. How lucky you are to receive such abundance.

Now imagine that the gifts keep coming, year after year and with increasing frequency….What was once a delightful surprise now becomes routine and predictable….You may still appreciate the sentiment, but the gifts themselves no longer hold much value to you.

You start running out of space to store the gifts. They pile up. You shove them in closets and fill your garage with them. And they just keep coming.

All the while, people follow up to ask you about the gifts you received…

Due to the asymmetrical nature of these interactions, those individual gift givers can’t see any problem with it. They always feel they’re doing a good deed. And so if you aren’t appreciative each time, they quickly jump to the conclusion that there must be something wrong with you.

So what do you do?

You could ask people to stop bringing gifts, but whom do you tell if it’s different people each time?

You could hire someone to process the gifts for you, but why pay someone to process what you don’t even want? This would also do a disservice to the gift givers since you’d never personally receive and appreciate their gifts. They probably wouldn’t have brought the gifts if they expected their gifts would merely be processed by an assistant. They intended the gifts to be personal.

Social connections are like gifts. In small quantities they’re precious, and it’s easy to appreciate them. In vast quantities, however, they can become a curse.

An interesting take.

Me, what are my boundaries?

Well they’re a little less “stamped” in the sand. I gauge it as I need to and my approach shifts over time.

Right now:

* I choose to use Twitter as a news feed. So I only follow news makers and folk who share amazing news links. This is how I read the newspapers each day. I don’t use it to socialise. I don’t follow friends or anyone who doesn’t help me get to the news.

I do tweet personal stuff – wellness tips, ingredients I’m using, road trip ideas etc. I’ve learned readers like this kind of thing (and those who don’t, I presume, just stop following me). So it might seem hypocritical to say I use it for news. But what I give out is different to what I choose to absorb. This is the trick of boundary-making. It has to reflect what suits you.

* I’m into instagram right now. I like the way it’s less selfish and sychophantic than Twitter (at least for the moment) and is mostly about genuine sharing. People “like” an image and, really, it’s done as a honest, giving gesture with little expected in return. Less demands (it’s really quite difficult to see who’s “liked” your image once there’s more than 10).  And so it’s more of a space to give out information than to farm for followers (which is what I see – and feel – too often on Twitter).

* I have a personal Facebook page…which I hardly ever use. But I did remove a lot of people who I didn’t really know off this page a while back. The boundary maker: would I catch up for a coffee with them? If no, then they got deleted. It felt harsh. Boundary-making often does. But this is modern survival, folk!

* I rarely take calls from friends during the day. I also avoid taking calls at 8:30 and 5:30 each day when friends driving home from office jobs decide to call…I just can’t deal with being on speaker phone and being screeched at when I’m still trying to finish my day at work. I prefer to text them later… to line up a time to meet in person. Friends are for face-to-face interaction. I like to keep them separate to, and more special than, my virtual world.

* I don’t respond to emails that are only asking for something from me. I used to reply politely that, no, I’m not interested in testing XYZ’s new chemical-riddled face cream. Or, no, I can’t answer questions for a uni assignment (sweetly pointing out that they’ve spelled my name incorrectly). Now I just press delete. People can get lazy with emails, firing off a question that can easily be Googled or nutted out with a little time and care. Twitter is shocking for this. I get so many tweets that elicit the response from me, “what am I, Google?!”.

I had to stop getting angry. And just enforce my boundaries.

* I respond to conversations that are fruitful and generous on my blog comments forum. I often ask a question of you at the end of a post if I’m genuinely wanting to hear your thoughts. And I’ll always read through the responses at the end of the day. I also try to engage on my Facebook pages, with Jo, my assistant, answering any requests or fixing problems.

* As a general rule, I have two speeds. One is to give out information to strangers on social media, sharing ideas, products, links etc all day…to be hyper-available and open. The other is to disengage altogether, for friends and socialising (which I do face to face and not on Twitter, email, text or on the phone).  It’s a clear public v private, virtual v real split.

* Finally, I do what I can. I allow this. Some days I have energy to spare. Some days my autoimmune disease renders me unable to even answer a phone call. Or even think about the idea of answering a phone call. This is my reality. Period.

I also touched on all of this in the webinar I did with Problogger recently. You can watch it here.

Just writing this has made things clear. I don’t need to feel social media-obliged. I have my boundaries for a reason and I know my principles are in place. There’s no obligation, because I don’t impose any kind of obligation on others. People can stop following me at any point if I don’t cut it for them. I won’t notice. I don’t keep tabs on my followers.

This is what I love about social media. It’s honest and raw. And obligation-free. You can “smell” when someone isn’t being authentic or doesn’t believe what they’re writing. Or when they’re farming for followers. And you can drop away in a click. I often “smell” when someone on Twitter has gone off the rails or is a bit too angry. I unfollow immediately.

Those with genuine gifts to give remain. Give and they will follow. Build and they will come.

OK. Enough said…over to you? What do you reckon? What boundaries do you put up?

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  • Great article and thanks for sharing such honest thoughts about social media and boundaries. It was very timely reading this blog post, I struggle a lot with my boundaries and sometimes feel such an overwhelming anxiety that I’m not blogging, tweeting, facebooking enough and not reading enough blogs, tweets and facebook pages of other people. Usually its because I am too busy living my real world life away from the computer, but its amazing how I can still feel guilty and concerned that I’m somehow “missing out” on the action online. Thanks for your honesty on this topic and leading by example on how to put boundaries in place 🙂


  • CP

    It’s not arrogant at all. Twitter is about building a personalised network. It’s a tailor-made community that gives you access to people you find interesting, and compelling. It’s not about having a conversation with every single person on social media. There should be no obligation. Above all, it’s an aggregator of content that is going to be useful to you when you sign in and check your feed.


  • I try to turn off my phone on Sundays…It’s hard but I find it’s the only way I truly disconnect.


  • Hi Sarah, what a terrific analysis. You cover so many facets of information flow management here! I would have to print this out to do a detailed response, it is very good.

    I do like the very sensible boundary of restricting the speakerphoners!! can’t think of anything worse than having peers who do that.
    And as always, I appreciate your honesty. You’ve made some very clear statements, not everyone is brave enough to do that. I know that going onto Tumblr myself annoyed a couple of my followers who didn’t like the commenting facility there (at first I didn’t have any comments at all). So, quite a bit of food for thought there – when I did that, I didn’t even realise anyone would mind. But at the time I needed the space, I found I wasn’t thinking straight in the online domain and needed to write in a journal, slow down, do quite a lot of things I find you discussing often here.
    The gift story is brilliant. Will bookmark that post. Thanks 😀


  • I’m astounded that you would cop flak from your twitter followers Sarah. They can opt in or out, why can’t you? Anyone who follows you would know how busy your life is, putting lots of energy into many different arenas- how self centred to wonder why you can’t follow all of them. I think they need to get some real live people in their actual world and take twitter relationships a tad less seriously. I’m flabbergasted on your behalf.


  • linda

    Sarah – I agree with you – I initially set up a twitter account (I mostly use facebook) but it just seemed like another time waster. So I shut it down. I realise it’s necessary for your work (different situation) – but you are right to set boundaries. All the best and I hope you are enjoying your trip overseas…


  • Hi Sarah,
    I love what you are saying. Great article. I am very very new to all this and just starting the blogger journey so it was good to read with my coffee this morning. I saw you on 60 minutes, I loved that too, especially the surfing. I must hit the water soon again myself.
    Hope you are enjoying your trip.


  • Love this piece Sarah, I am currently seeking to disconnect to reconnect to myself and working out what my own social media boundaries are. Thanks for the food for thought.


  • Mia Bluegirl

    I always find it amusing when people who are in the public eye are expected by said public to behave a certain way. Like they “owe” their fanbase/ followers. And how do you misspell your name?? That would take some doing. It’s the easiest name ever.

    I had to laugh when I read about your coffee test for your Facebook friends. I have a similar thing, but with Woolies/ the pub. If I see them in Woolies/pub and they don’t see me first, do I go over to say hello? Or do I avoid their eye contact? That tends to steer me in the right direction.

    The older I get the more introverted I get. I love it. I find the internet is the perfect medium, as I can engage genuinely without the social anxiety I get in some face-to-face situations with large groups, then walk away when I feel overwhelmed. I have Facebook and Instagram, and try to be happy and upbeat on both, as that’s the most genuine vibe I feel I should project into the world. Life is, at it’s core, beautiful. Like your urge to communicate, I feel in my bones that the purpose of my life is to explore and share this beauty. If social media isn’t helping me with those core beliefs one day, I’ll quit.

    Although to be fair, my status update that surprised me the most in terms of replies was my most negative. I’d said something like, “With my mother nagging me to visit my grandparents, and my grandparents nagging me to visit my mother, I just realised that nobody remembered my birthday. #myfamilyisfucked.” Not the sort of thing I would usually write, as I hate spreading negativity, but the vulnerability appealed to a lot of people with similar family feuds. Many took a cue from me and opened up about their own woes. It made a lot of people feel better, me included.


  • Megan

    Brilliant article, Sarah. I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries in life and how creating them, and protecting them is crucial to proper self-care. Thanks for writing this!


  • Kaitlyn

    Great blog! This really reminds me to keep my cool and not feel so obliged to be connected! Thanks Sarah 🙂


  • Naz

    When I first got onto social media I went a bit crazy. First there was Facebook and adding/accepting friend requests from people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in YEARS like high school people who I didn’t even talk to or hang out with back then but suddenly they were all on my friend list! Then came twitter and I thought oh I have to follow this celebrity or that celebrity because everyone else is following them so they must have something interesting to say. Uhhh no…. so I did a MAJOR cull of my facebook, now I only have family (to keep them updated about my life in the U.S) and friends, people that I would hang out with in real life! As for twitter I reassess my followers every now and then and get rid of people I’m really just not feeling anymore, these days I’m more about following other like minded bloggers, news mainly Australian related to keep up with what’s going on back home and of course American news to keep up with what goes on here and a few friends I’ve made via blogging. Yes I do still follow the occasional celebrity for some fun.

    I definitely don’t believe twitter is there for you to respond to every single tweet or to have others respond to all your tweets. I only ever try to respond to tweets I find appealing to me or if I have a genuine question and same goes for RT’s only ever if it is something I read and think WOW!

    I don’t feel like I need to follow everyone that follows me, I will look at your page and tweets and If I’m feeling your vibe and interested in what you have to say then yes I will follow you, after all isn’t that the point of twitter?

    And finally Instagram, I’m a bit iffy about it I do like to put up pics every now and then. There’s so many different types of people on there using it for different reasons (to get the most likes, to get the most followers, to get on the popular page, to advertise their blog) and there are those that post pictures just because. I feel like there’s also an ‘instagram etiquette’ that is not really said but I’ve definitely seen it where if someone likes your photo you should like one of theirs and if you don’t they will unfollow you (have had this happen to me numerous times). I’m not interested in followers on instagram, I often share my photos on there on facebook as well so again it’s something more for me to share with family and friends and if other people like it then that’s great.


  • Thanks Sarah. Your concept of “This is the new barometer of success: how well can you create your own boundaries.” is so true, not just in social media, but in life. I also link it to expectations that you have set up yourself ie. you will always return an email from certain people immediately, or you always answer the phone even if you were in the middle of something or simply having a rest. Setting boundaries, not setting up unhelpful expectations of yourself, is so important in this world of busy-ness and demands on our time from all areas, including now social media. A great post to help guide our own boundary making decisions.


  • Kim Cook

    Very honestly and succinctly put, Sarah. I’m fairly new to your blog after being referred by a friend and your honesty is one of the things I love about it. You stand your ground when you need to put yourself first and many of us don’t do that. I hope you’re thoroughly enjoying your time overseas. I bet there are lots of envious women back here!


  • This is a great blog, love what you’ve written. I was truly scared of social media for exactly the reasons you’ve posted. I thought it would be an invasion of my private life and I would – by posting tweets, blogs, posts, comments – open myself up to all kinds of nutters an loons. I was really scared of it! (see one of my blogs

    But no it’s not like that at all. Yes it’s a two way communication channel, and yes it can be very public, but what you say, respond to and post is totally up to you. If you don’t want to evoke reaction, don’t say it in the first place. If you don’t want to respond to a tweet, don’t respond. As to ‘why aren’t you following me when I follow you’ – it’s because I don’t want to. Simple. To all of you out there that are using social media just to collect followers, I would suggest you find some friends who’s names don’t start with @.

    The clue about social media is on the title, it’s social. And yes fair enough, I do use it to post complaints on Twitter. But most of the time, I’m polite and use it to gather information, build relationships, find new suppliers or customers, promote myself and my services and even just have a chat. I don’t put stuff into the ether I don’t want people to read about, you do have to have a line. I use it as a communication total, a business tool and a social tool. But at the end of the day, just like my mobile phone, I turn it all off and go to bed.

    Just a thought to end on – Perhaps a “barometer of success” is when you actually stop using Social Media, and have a team of people to use it for you. That will be the day! 🙂


  • Kate

    Sarah, thank you so much for once again giving so much of yourself to us in your online community. It’s funny isn’t it… On the one hand, people follow you with the outward guise of being on a path to health and wellness. Obviously you cover a lot about nutrition and food, but there is a real spirituality to your work, self love, love for the planet and understanding and love towards others. Yet these same people who lap up the information you give, are so quick to criticise and judge! Less spiritual and less “well” if you ask me… 
    I think the industry that we are in (I’m in a similar-ish field) puts us in a position where people have unrealistic expectations of boundaries. While you genuinely do care for the health and well-being of others, you choose to exert this care by providing clear, succinct and accessible information. You didn’t sign up to days of individual, somewhat superficial (as in only touching the surface, not regarding motives) conversations… That is what your health coaching is for, and that is what people pay you to receive! Yet the fact that you nurture people with your words makes them feel connected to you, and obviously rejected by you when you don’t take the same interest in their lives. That is not your problem, nor is it your doing. 
    Your boundaries Sarah, are still so generous and your intentions always pure. And it seems to me that the people who would make such a comment probably feel disappointed that they can’t claim to their friends that they are friends with Sarah Wilson on Facebook or Twitter or whatever else it is that governs their world… And now I want to use the word superficial in the other sense 😉
    Take care and chin up xo


  • michael

    Hi Stephen
    There’s a bit of irony here because your odious rant is exactly the reason that so many public figures who blog have disabled their comments section.
    In this case this would mean that YOU would no longer be able to vomit the considerable amount of bile that you have ‘shared’ with all of us.

    A few months ago I wrote to Sarah, asking if she would like to speak to some undergrads re: the impact and assistance of social media to her career. Her assistant got back to me politely and promptly, declining on Sarah’s behalf, for various totally plausible reasons.
    All Good !

    In terms of Social Media and where it and we are going her post today was incredibly informative and dare I say .. helpful.

    Last time I checked I was also a “Real Human Being.”

    I also saw the 60 Minutes thing, which I found to be interesting in terms of sparking debate … but also superficial and problematic.
    But Hey ! I tuned out from that kind of media a long time ago.

    Sarah on the surfboard … Do I have a problem with that ?
    Hmmm .. No !

    You Wanking On ?

    Hmmm .. Yes !

    So please feel free to go and F#@K Yourself at your earliest convenience.


    Jo Foster Reply:

    Hi Michael, I’ve deleted “Stephens” comment. Thanks for your reply. jo


  • Emily



  • Lauren

    Hi Sarah and everyone….

    Can we please just go back to phones and calling each other and talking about things and analysing our feelings and laughing ( sometimes for hours ) ore meeting up with people. I would never join twitter and even though Im strangely addicted to facebook, I think its all so souless and a bit weird and it gives you too much information. God I remember the days when you actually had to go over to someones house to see their photos and youd have a glass a wine and ask questions about each one and actually engage. And youd feel privaleged if they invited you in to see their old childhood snaps, or holiday memories. Now they are there for just everyone to see.
    I feel more isolated with all these new so called methods of being connected. People dont meet up so much or call for a chat…its quite sad. All this typing……Id much rather talk or just hadn out with someone ( and not the whole world…just special people, who mean something to you ).
    Must say though I do like Skype though ( guess thats just like a phone call LOL and I never have the camera thing on…..way to invasive.)
    Does anyone value a bit of privacy these days.
    Back to Sarahs comments about being honest and sharing you real feeling and opinions, hear hear. A lot of people are so superficial and dotn really say whats up anymore. Once again , especially on Facebook, in fact I think it should be renamed Fakebook.

    Am I the only one who feels like this ??????!!!



    toni Reply:

    Fakebook!?! Love it Lauren, that’s priceless!


    Lopsy Reply:

    Cheers Toni!!! and Im being genuine when I say that 🙂



  • annemarie

    There is not a shred of humanity in your comment, Real Human Being.

    Social media is a screen for the running monologue in our heads to throw shapes on. It gives people the ability to speak to people they would not normally have access to, but because of the lack of face-to-face, we’re all really only talking to ourselves.

    I’ve left comments on people’s blogs that I regret– nothing like poor Stephen’s (thank christ!), but reactive and cranky nonetheless. I’ve also made friends, too. But the thing must be approached with caution.


    Jo Foster Reply:

    Hi Annemarie, I’ve deleted “Stephens” comment. But thanks for your reply. Jo


    Trevor Otto Reply:

    Hi Annemarie, ‘running monologue in our heads to throw shapes on’…well phrased !


  • Great post Sarah. I am always struggling to keep up with the demands on social media and sometimes want to shut everything off together. I love that you’ve clearly defined what works for you and what doesn’t – I’m definitely going to ponder on this for a while. Thank you!


  • I hear you; loud and clear. I feel I could almost have written this article; social media is becoming less social for me and more wearisome.

    So…I decided last week to clean house. I was able to fetch a list of followers on Twitter who I follow but that don’t follow me. Almost 1000 of them actually. Who were these people? Except for big brands many of them were unknown to me and people I’ve never had a conversation with. Unfollowed. I have no doubt I was an unknowing participant in what is apparently standard practice for many. Follow someone, expect a follow back and then unfollow them to get a good follower ratio. Yikes…who has time to watch that stuff every moment!

    Then I started looking through my tweetstream and cleaned up some more and a LOT of them were those folks who have a gazillion followers but who seldom follow back and heaven forbid they should ever actually respond to a tweet!

    In that exercise I realize that others keep pretty close watch on those numbers and I was promptly unfollowed back. Fine with me, I’m not after your number and you don’t have to be a part of mine!

    I do have a large number of followers versus the number I follow and I think it’s for one reason. Food. I blog about food. I make food, I photograph food and I write a post with that food as the star. People like those recipes and photos and I’m happy to provide them; but it doesn’t mean we are going to converse on a regular basis; they start following me for the food and I don’t follow a good number back.

    I have to say that Instagram annoys me; but then it’s really unfair to blame the app. It’s the food bloggers that can’t take a photo without tweeting it and/or assigning a million hashtags to it. Fills up my tweetstream and makes me nuts. A woman last week had a lead in that made me look. The photo was the last pill she was taking for an infection. She had to share that AND hashtag it. I know these people; I know I’ll be vilified for unfollowing them but the charm that Twitter used to have for me is quickly dissipating into a daylong exercise of weeding out those that have decided that marketing themselves in EACH and every tweet or photo is somehow advantageous.

    I work online, I have a web development business and I’m pretty connected all day long. Which is why I give my cell phone number to no one but friends and family. I don’t text and I seldom tweet on my phone; when I get away from work I need the respite. In the immortal words of Greta Garbo, ‘I vant to be alone!’


  • I don’t have time for most social media. I follow a few blogs, most of which I don’t commit to for more than a year due to shifting interests (mine and theirs’). I keep a little blog of my own and I log onto Twitter from time to time. Facebook and the rest are not in my life. My garden, my family and my friends are. Finding a balance between the 3D and 2D worlds can be tricky. PS Happily following your blog, thanks for sharing!


  • Anthony

    It is realy important that we have our rules of engagement otherwise we get washed up and washed away!


  • I struggle with those boundaries often… but you are so right everyone needs to set their own limits and do so within what is comfortable for them, not anyone else.

    I often feel like an old fuddy duddy, but while I adore social media and all the connectivity of our times… I don’t like that often people expect me to be contactable anywhere, any time… I need a little more space in my life and I am ok if people don’t like that.


    Taryn Reply:

    Sarah & Kate,

    For someone new to the fray, it is great to hear your thoughts on how boundary setting should extend to our virtual lives (and even be more stringent there)! Thanks for sharing as it has been a great start for my own thoughts in the area!

    It is most likely a very fluid thing for anyone entering the virtual fray… But something we all definitely need to have in the forefront of our minds on a daily basis! Boundaries are important from the time we are babies & I feel that the rude/ horrid comments received by those setting boundaries for themselves are a consequence of a general lack/ diminishing of discipline and boundary setting in child rearing in recent decades. Unfortunately if we don’t get taught the skill from a young age, we tend to find it much more difficult to learn and accept in our later years.

    Good on you both for setting good boundaries for yourselves and for sharing your thinking in order to encourage the rest of us to do likewise. 🙂



  • Mel

    I feel lucky that I don’t have to do any social media in my work or life outside of work. Sans Facebook, twitter etc. I follow your blog and a couple of others that inspire me. All I can say is that if I ever was lucky enough to bump into you I would love to have a chat because I think your real energy would be something to learn from. And for something purely superficial ….. Your legs are frigging fabulous, so healthy and natural. Keep well and be kind to yourself.


  • Lisa Ingram

    Sarah, you don’t have to respond to things that are clearly b/s. What utter tosh that if someone “follows” you you have to “follow” them. I have never heard so much rubbish in my whole life. I have a million boundaries and no-one is ever going to tell me what I SHOULD be doing. Get Nicked! I am quite comfortable with my own standards of integrity, my values and my ‘rules’ about me. I set my rules for me. No-one else sets them, and they don’t follow my ones either! God, social media. It is vile. You are one of less than 3 people I follow! Lisa (PS no need to follow me, there is no online me!)


    Peta Reply:

    Too right. Get nicked is so appropriate.


  • Grateful

    What is interesting is that in all of this we don’t make our lives easier or less busy. Ironically, I think anyway, we make it more unfulfilled!

    On my “stay at home mum” days I sometimes feel overwhelmed – because I study, run a little home business and work outside the home too – when I feel this inability to focus, like I’m doing a million things but getting nowhere, I will stop and ask myself, “what would a 1950’s ‘housewife’ do right now?” I know it sounds odd and regressive but I actually turn off the phone, turn off the TV, turn off the air con and take my 2 year old girl outside for a stroll around the block. We name the trees, smell the flowers, observe in awe the spiders, check the letterbox, chat to the neighbours, pick some herbs and, if it’s been wet, jump in puddles! The point of this exercise takes my focus off ‘media’ and puts me in the moment with the most important little person in my world.

    You are so generous, Sarah, with your blog it would feel wrong, even exploitive, to ask more of you as those ‘twits’ did.


    Taryn Reply:

    Lovely sentiment! Something I am definitely working on – being more in the moment with my Cheeky Monkey! It’s too great a blessing to be pushed aside!

    One blog I’ve found I recent months that I love as it helps me to remember to focus on what is important in life – (I don’t think it is an au, but search and see). Her photography of her two gorgeous kids is priceless! She captures the most amazing moments of their childhood! 🙂


  • Some really valid points Sarah. Totally agree that it’s all about setting healthy boundaries for yourself. As you say, the downside to all this amazing technology is that we literally have to turn the things off to get any privacy at all. We’re now contactable 24/7…which can be overwhelming…. Only you know what is right for you…and keep listening to that – and not the twits!


  • Sarah this post was so timely for me to read, thank-you! I love your open, truthful, to the point honesty and this is something I am learning to take on and practice more and more each day so thanks for the very timely reminder. I am new to social media only joined in Aug last year and I find it very overwhelming and energy zapping quite often. It also distracts me from my work and family when I feel obliged to respond to all and follow everyone’s wishes. I really resonated with all of your points and loved the one about “can’t deal with being on speaker phone” totally hearing you (o” When someone inclines or brazenly mentions that I should go to their site and follow or like them as they’ve liked or followed me it totally turns me off straight away and I don’t even go to see what their message to share is. I can’t stand the obligatory way of one up manship and if you do I’ll do, it’s a game and I won’t play. It’s not genuine and it’s not honest and is not me. We are all unique and we should be able to openly show interest in the things that talk to us personally and open our hearts. The “twits”, love it! You share so much that I learn from every week, but I love the humor you throw in there too, thank-you (o:


  • I love this Sarah, it’s like a breath of fresh air. Thanks for your openness and honesty. One of the boundaries that works best for me is – it boots you out of sites that you spend too much time in (you select how much time is too much and you are in control of the settings). I’ve gotten so much more done since I started using it. I need to have set times on things I enjoy but waste time on such as pinterest etc. And I don’t need to check checking my ‘likes’ on facebook anymore, I realised it’s just an ego trip a lot of the time and it’s more important to spend that time pumping out more, hopefully useful content.


  • Just GREAT. Well said. KISS – Keep it Simple Sweetheart


  • Wow Sarah thanks for talking about all the social media hoo-haa. I am just about ready to shut down my facebook account and I’m kind of excited about it. I don’t like the way it’s made me lazy with keeping in touch with friends and family. I want to go back to the days of hour long phone calls and popping round for a coffee and maybe even some snail mail. This is going to be my challenge as it’s going to take a real effort on my part to stay in touch; I tend to get caught up in my own little bubble a lot! I don’t do twitter, I never really got it and I have enough to read with the blogs I follow. I do have my own blog which is a bit sad and neglected but I have new good intentions of posting regularly, even if it’s just for myself these days. I hope it’s ok if I link to your blog? I’d love to help more people find you.
    I found your blog when looking for sugar free recipes – so great to find an aussie site with helpful info. I’ve been off sugar since March this year and lost 5kg’s. It’s been a strange and exciting journey so far. My next goal will be exercise – for mind and body. I currently don’t do anything which is terribly naughty. Anyway I just wanted to say thank you for blogging and sharing with us all. oh and I think this weekend I’ll buy your cookbook, it’s quite hard to find good sugar free recipes.


  • Hi Sarah

    It’s comforting to hear I’m not the only one who feels this pressure. The truth is, it’s hard work for all of us and like anything there are pros and cons to trying to make a living using social media tools. I think that the majority of people recognise how much you share with us for no other reason that to share and for that we thank you!!!

    Being new to the blogging world and wanting to eventually write an ebook, I feel like there is so much to learn and now keep up with. It’s really exciting on the one hand to start living my passion and quite time-consuming and overwhelming on the other.

    I’ve decided I also need to set boundaries (thanks to your post and a Zen Habits one I read last night) which will include:

    – Sunday will be our family day (no TV/social commitments/no computer/social media/blog/email/facebook etc etc)
    – Working my butt off when my 12 month old is asleep and focussing on being present when he is awake and enjoying my time playing with him
    – trying to relax my grip on life and let it flow. Not trying so hard to keep up with the Joneses!
    – selecting a few fantastic blogs to keep up with and letting the rest be
    – checking Facebook once a day after my son has gone to sleep

    I’m sure I’ll create others as I go along too.

    Leah 🙂


  • Great post Sarah

    Love the barometer for success and it’s not going away and how we will never feel on top of it all.

    Trust your traveling is recharging those batteries.

    x Eilish


  • hi Sarah, thank you for your honest heartfelt post. It couldn’t be anymore timely as I’ve recently suffered the loss of my younger brother to polycystic kidney disease. He was a musician and unbeknownst to my family and I – a popular well-loved person in the music community. Because he’d been in a coma for almost 3 months, and the outpouring of love and financial support for his medical funds were overwhelming, I decided that my family would have a Facebook page and Twitter acct to keep his friends and well-wishers updated with this condition. The emotional and physical stress the situation caused, as you can expect, did cause huge friction between myself and my parents. I felt non-obliged to listen to people’s comments and lashed out to those who treated us like we weren’t doing our best for my brother. My dad disagreed with me and said I was causing a lot of damage. I stepped back.

    This made me reflect on why I had stopped blogging in the recent 4-5yrs after having done so since 2000. So many frustrations and pains have broken my spirit to share the. Gift of writing and communicating my heart and thoughts. It is with your entry here that I realize, I need these boundaries to help keep me sane.

    Thank you again.


  • I love the boundaries part of this Sarah! … I have been feeling guilty for not answering people who are just sending ridiculous messages and then there are the stupid ones through facebook where someone I can’t remember sends one word … “hi” and that’s it!

    But … i’ll stop using my energy now and just press the delete button from now on 🙂


  • Jo

    Hello Sarah, I love this post from you! I am an infrequent blogger; I do not use facebook; my mobile phone is always switched off at work, whilst driving, and whilst at home; it is mostly switched off even when I’m out and about; I would never use Twitter; I’ve never heard of instagram. I have a wonderful circle of friends and we have real relationships with each other. I have a home phone – how archaic! (I refuse to call it a landline). Email is mainly used for contact with geographically distant friends, although we occasionally have long phone conversations – no email can replace this direct contact. I feel that a lot of social media is voyeuristic, narcissistic, and self-indulgent. People seem to go on about how busy they are, and often this is true, however there is an addiction to technology that adds an additional layer of complexity – the mobile rings and people feel compelled to answer it; they hear that a text has arrived and can’t resist the urge to see who it was even if they are engaged in conversation at the time; people have new email alerts set up and will drop what they are doing to check to see who has sent an email. Most of this is unnecessary. I can’t believe the number of people who drive with a mobile to their ear, and it is even more unbelievable that people phone others on their mobile when they know they would be driving to and from work, or whilst at work. The boundaries you suggest are crucial. I applaud and honour you for wanting a greater depth to your relationships with others, and to streamline your technology use to this end.
    Kindest regards,


  • Suellen

    Having recently taken a long break overseas, I pretty much disconnected from social media and and reassessing it’s value in my life. I think I’ll be cutting back. I’ve not missed it and I feel more engaged with my immediate surroundings and activities.
    Once again a great post. Enjoy your trip.


  • Good on you for setting boundaries Sarah. I struggle with the idea of social media. I blog – but I don’t have it in me to also use other types of social media. I recently accepted there’s only so many conversations I can have at once. I’m probably the opposite of your “compelled to communicate”. I have a message I want to share (inspire people to consume less) but can only cope with so much communication. I’m the sort of person who would quiet hapily spend a day in a forest or a garden and not talk to anybody – and forcing myself to ‘communicate’ more often wasn’t working. So I recently decided to stick to just the blog and ignore other forms of social media. It’s the only way I can find space in my head to be me. I know it means I’ll have less readers – but I’m prepared to live with that.

    I hope your enjoying your travels.


  • Just a quick comment, since there are so many. But just want to say a huge THANK YOU for putting this out there. I certainly feel overwhelmed at times with the ‘commitment’ to social media. Love the examples regarding Tim, Seth + Steve. And by simply reading this today, it has got me back on the right track of having boundaries – and at the perfect time when I have set up boundaries in other areas of my life also! Nice work Sarah!


  • Debbie

    I have deleted Facebook, and it feels great. I talk to those i wish to, and if i want to find out about something or have an interest, like this website i subscribe. Its great, I have read so many more books of late. <y life seems less cluttered and i love it.


  • Gosh, e-life does resemble real life. I wish I could choose to delete or unfollow some narly people that have come into my life. This was a ‘perfect timing’blog for me about real life boundaries that I needed to hear. Be careful of the people you invite into your life, it is a gift to be a part of it and should be treated as such. That isn’t arrogant, just good judgement!



  • My boundaries are really simple. I answer people when I feel like it, I don’t when I don’t. 🙂 I always marvel at friends who talk about their email inboxes or social media as if they’re “demanding so much” from them. It’s like, you know what? Just as you couldn’t force me to talk to you in real life, you can’t force me to deal with you online. No one can take anything from me I don’t willingly give.

    I think that’s the big problem. People see online lives as DIFFERENT than real life, and it’s not. Not anymore. If more people interacted with people online the way they did in real life, there’d be a lot less trouble. You wouldn’t interrupt someone’s conversation, or demand they talk to you at a party would you? Then don’t do it on Twitter. And if there are people who WOULD do that at a party, then social media is the least of their problems. 🙂


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  • Thank you for this post. So much. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by social media lately, specifically the idea that we HAVE to be online all the time and that we HAVE to post both incredibly private and mundane things about ourselves or else we are arrogant/withholding/untrustworthy.

    I’m an introvert, and I’m also multi-passionate. I need lots of time to myself to make things, write things, imagine things. I can’t do that if I’m tweeting about my hangnail! So I’m definitely exploring my boundaries, and it’s reassuring that people like you have some established ones.

    My boundaries so far are no photos of me on my website/blog. I also don’t use my real name when I can help it, or my exact location. And no, no, no tweeting about my boring everyday habits. I also don’t follow anyone I have nothing in common with. I’m trying to give myself a couple days off every week to stay away from social media too, especially since this is a stressful time for me.

    I think it’s a sign of strength and self-respect to have boundaries. It’s a sign of sanity!


  • Line Mortensen

    I haven’t been on facebook for a year now and I’m so happy I went off that thing. I got so many “nonsense” and “never mind” informations every day about people I actually didn’t care about. I thought to myself “People that wants to contact me knows how to”. And that was true.

    I can’t believe how calm my head went after I turned facebook off. And suddenly I could have a actual conversation that didn’t entail “Oh yeah, I read that on facebook”. How I love being clueless now! It also means nobody remembers my birthday anymore, but I guess that just shows who my real friends are.

    I have an email for newsletters, offers and that sort. And I have one for private stuff. Makes my day much easier.

    People often get all wide eyes and their heads spin when I say I’m not on facebook. But it really saved my sanity!

    I might go on again some day, but I’m gonna kill off half of my friendslist and I’ll probably limit any feed I get.

    But right now, I’m good 😉


  • I totally agree with Lina mortensen

    Thanks for sharing such good article with us


  • Sabrina

    I don’t go on any social media sites over the weekend, unless I’m working on those days. I do allow myself to upload pictures to Instagram on the weekend, but I don’t sit on my phone and go through the feeds, I check back in on Monday. I have also started turning my phone off or leaving it at home altogether on Sundays as these are usually the days my partner and I get to spend together. Unplugging for a day or two during the week does wonders for the sanity and the soul.


  • Peta

    How dare someone be so high and mighty to say who you should or should not follow on twitter. Self important little man.


  • D.

    I use Twitter like you do – just for news. I don’t even tweet. As for Facebook, I like going off of it every once in a while because number of notifications can sometimes be overwhelming. Also, I try not to put too much personal stuff on it, and if I do, I take care of the Friends list by deleting people I don’t really care about.


  • This is something I’ve been struggling with myself as I go further into minimalism, blogging, and similar areas. Oddly I find the more restrictions and rules I put in place, the freer I end up feeling.


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  • Terrific job with this important content. I really plan to check back to be able to check out a lot more of your
    articles and other content..


  • Kaz

    I notice it is usually only women who voice these complaints about social media relationships. In a similar way to many women in the public eye expressing upset that someone criticised them. Can you just learn to filter out most of it? Trying to be everything to everybody is only going to keep you down.


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  • Sarah, I love this post.
    I so often feel overwhelmed that there is *so much that I need to read*. There is always a new blog post, magazine, article, book, page, site, feed that I feel that I *have* to read. And it is simply not true – I was fine without it yesterday, I’ll be fine again tomorrow without it, and yet… it is easy to feel a pestering and compulsive anxiety to continue to consume.
    For me, now, over-consuming is not about eating too much or buying too much, it is about consuming too much information. There are days when I get in the car and realise it is the first time I’ve been relaxed all day (in peak hour traffic, mind you!) because it’s the first time I’ve given myself away from the screen all day, in complete silence, with no one else there.
    I need to work on my information boundaries.
    Thanks so much for the honesty of your post!


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  • Terry

    I’m not on Twitter & cannot understand why people feel you have to reciprocate & follow them in return. Sounds pretty immature & pre-schoolish to me.
    Sounds like an ego problem on their part to me ( a need to feel valued or acknowledged???)

    Don’t worry about them…..

    btw, admire yr fortitude with yr autu immune problem – hope one day things will get better for you in this respect


  • Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look
    forward to new updates.


  • Probieren sie es einfach mal aus, klicken sie ein Sexchat Luder an und sie
    werden erstaunt sein was sich dahinter alles verbirgt.
    Wenn du die Telefonsex Ladys richtig anfeuerst und mit versautem Dirty Talk dazu bringst sich den erregten Kitzler zu wixen, hast
    du schon gewonnen. Und die Welt ist ausschließlich einigen Mausklicks entfernt.


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  • Kym Stanley

    Great words Sarah, every now and then I get ‘in trouble’ for not ‘liking’ something on FB from others, how ridiculous, I conclude that the issue lies with them not what I choose to engage with online & should not be taken personally either way. Love your work, Kym


  • Linda

    I really like what you have to say here Sarah – there are only so many hours to a day and you have to respect yourself. Boundaries indicate self-respect and so bravo to you for having developed it in your own life. You’re an example to others. My thought is this when it comes to needy, demanding, criticizing or plain rude people – it’s really about them, their dysfunction, lack of boundaries, lack of self-respect. And really it’s not my problem – it’s theirs. It’s a perspective that frees me from taking on a lot of other people’s crap – online & in the ‘real’ world.


  • I’m really glad you shared this again! I bet it is even more pertinent three years on. I think you’ve previously mentioned the difference between the social media platforms too – Facebook can tend to have a nastier undertone than Instagram – I’m not sure why this. It makes me sad. But on the plus side, I think you and your IQS team have beautifully fostered a genuinely supportive social media community on Instagram.


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