Creating Boundaries around Social Media
Boundaries Blog Series, Part 1:
I have been transitioning into a new chapter in my life, going full-time into entrepreneurship and into my coaching practice. And the topic of boundaries has come up quite a bit, so this will be part 1 of a blog series around creating boundaries, sharing my own experiences and challenges with setting boundaries, and practical tips for boundary-setting that you can use in your everyday life. Let’s dive in!
For some reason, I felt compelled to share this because as I transition out of the traditional nurse role and step more into my coaching practice, there are lots of boundaries I’ve been having to create - with my time, energy, etc. And this was important to me to share because:
- This is something that I have been constantly navigating throughout my whole life, especially now as I embrace entrepreneurship.
- This is a topic that I work with a lot of clients on, which is setting boundaries. Many of the people that I work with are people-pleasers, givers, and empaths…and this is a difficult area for a lot of people.
What Are Personal Boundaries?
“The limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships.” → And this can be relationships with people, environments, material things, etc.
Boundaries are essential if you are trying to cultivate a sense of inner peace in your life. You can have poor boundaries that are either too rigid or completely lacking. Or you can have healthy boundaries. And in many cases, this may vary depending on what area of your life you are looking at. For example, you can have really great boundaries for personal relationships, but have very poor boundaries when it comes to work. As a nurse who worked 12-hour night shifts and extra overtime in the hospital, I had incredibly poor boundaries when it came to my work. So everyone’s boundaries look different, depending on the person, the setting, and the culture even.
I actually delved deeper into why someone may have poor boundaries in a previous podcast episode that I did on How to Not Be a People Pleaser. And there are many reasons why someone may have poor boundaries, but that’s the main reason that I have had to do this kind of work here.
Over the course of this blog series, I’m going to be talking about the 3 main things that I set boundaries for.
- Social Media
And the first boundary I wanted to talk about was creating boundaries around social media.
Why It’s Important to Have Boundaries Around Social Media
As someone who does most of my work as a coach on the internet, and someone who has also just grown up in the world of social media from a young age - I’m talking like back in the days of MySpace and writing on people’s walls, and having a top 8 friends list (who remembers that, right?), getting Facebook right at the beginning of high school, and then just being on social media throughout all of my young adult life - Social media has just been such a huge part of my upbringing. And I was fortunate enough in my young childhood to be part of a society that wasn’t heavily involved or reliant on social media, so I can recall aspects of both periods of time that are both great and not so great.
This concept of creating boundaries for social media has become increasingly important for me because there are so many aspects of this piece of our culture that are toxic. And while there are lots of things that are amazing about social media - it is a constant advancement in technology that allows us to connect with people from all over the world and become more informed and engaged with each other, it can be entertaining and bring joy, etc. - there are also a lot of ways that it can be super toxic.
It has become so easy and normalized for us to get sucked into that social media vortex of constant scrolling, getting pulled into all of the debates and arguments in comment sections, and comparing ourselves to other people’s highlights that they post. I found myself a lot of times dwelling on the negativity and the hate, or even utilizing social media for avoidance or to numb my feelings about things that are happening around me. And so, again, while there are many wonderful things about the world of social media, it can be easy to fall into that toxic trap.
The Toxicity of Social Media
I want to dive a little bit into the reasons and some of the hard facts behind why social media is toxic and negatively affects our mental health before we get into the boundaries piece because these are the reasons why we NEED boundaries for social media.
1. Social media is addictive.
It’s designed to be that way, the algorithms are crafted in such a way that it encourages reinforcement of certain behaviors or thoughts. When we get on social media and scroll through people’s posts or videos, It activates our brain’s reward center by releasing dopamine, which is a “feel-good” chemical associated with activities that bring us pleasure just like food or sex.
So how many of you have ever scrolled through social media, found some funny video or inspiring post, or a useful tip that you wanted to come back to, but then accidentally refreshed your feed, or you closed out the app without saving the post or video? And then you spent a significant amount of time trying to find that post again?
Or how many of you have posted a picture or video or made a post, and kept refreshing your feed to see if anyone new liked, commented, or interacted with your post?
Social media has a very “slot-machine”-like feel to it. You never know what new information you will stumble upon, you never know if your post will reach a thousand people and resonate with a large audience, so you keep going back in.
There was a study that showed that 69% of adults and 81% of teenagers in the United States use social media. ¾ of the American population owns a smartphone. That study was done back in 2017, so those numbers are all likely higher now. But that just gives you an idea of how many people are engaged in the online world and the increased risk that it poses to our population’s overall mental and emotional well-being.
2. The FOMO is real.
There can be this sense of comparison and FOMO that comes with being a social media consumer. You can now see what everyone is up to and know how great everyone’s life is going. However most of the time people only share what they want people to see. So we are spending all of this time-consuming content from other people’s “highlight reels”, and comparing our own lives to that, and forgetting that we are not seeing the entire picture.
3. Social media is now this mind-numbing way to engage in avoidant behavior.
I have definitely found this to be something that I’ve had to navigate through - but remember how earlier I talked about the “slot-machine”-like vibe with social media? And because social media is this constant feed of stimulation, it’s the perfect way to avoid feeling certain things, much like the same way people drink alcohol or binge-watch Netflix.
I have, several times, found myself scrolling through social media because I don’t want to do work. Or I don’t want to make a certain phone call. Or I don’t want to slow down enough to feel my anxiety or stress or grief about something. Or even scrolling social media while I am eating so that I’m entertained while I eat and don’t have to think about my food. I find that this has been a block for myself
There are many other reasons why we need boundaries with social media, this is just a few of them that I have noticed in my own life.
What You Can Do to Create Social Media Boundaries
Here are some practical things that you can do to create boundaries around social media - some of these are things that I have either tried myself or know people who have implemented these boundaries and have been very successful with them.
- Turn off your notifications.
- Temporarily delete the apps from your phone.
- When you do decide to re-integrate the apps back onto your phone, schedule in blocks of time to scroll for enjoyment and engagement. Having time limits and setting timers for yourself can be really helpful here.
- Clean up your friends' list. I do this at least twice a year. (Talk here about guilt with blocking, unfriending or unfollowing)
A few years ago, I felt like everything I was seeing on my feed was so negative. There was so much hate online. So much criticism, and so much judgment from other people. Especially over these last couple of years, with just the heaviness of everything going on in the world.
Since that was all my brain could see, I let that hold me back from being my authentic self on my own social pages. I wouldn’t share the things that I wanted to or post the things I wanted to. It was exhausting.
I had to give myself permission to be intentional about what I allowed on my social media feeds. I had to get really comfortable with things like unfollowing and blocking. I had to intentionally call in and seek out pages and people that inspired me.
And as a chronic people-pleaser perfectionist who cared SO much about what everyone else thought of her... that was super difficult for me at first. So if that's something you struggle with - I get it.
Why I Still Love Social Media
On the flip side of the toxicity, I do want to plug some of the things that I love about social media, just because I think it’s important to look at the positive side of things and to be aware of the fact that ultimately - you decide what your thoughts around social media. It can be a beautiful thing that you have boundaries around, or it can be purely a negative or toxic thing. And I personally like to choose the former thought, that it serves me as this wonderful tool for connection and entertainment, but that I can also have some limits for myself on how much of it and what aspects of it I consume.
- Social media for me is a creative outlet. I love sharing my life and being silly and goofy - if you follow me on IG or TikTok, you know I post so many videos and reels just being goofy.
- I love how I can connect with people all over the world and form amazing friendships with people. Most of my circle is not in my local area, and I think it’s beautiful to be able to connect with people in this way.
- I can use my voice to amplify the messages of causes I believe in.
- I’ve created and cultivated a strong and uplifting community online.
- I use it as an avenue to become inspired and to inspire others.
Social media can actually be a beautiful thing if we choose to see it as beautiful. My feed today looks SO different than it did a couple of years ago because I have been able to set really good boundaries around it. I’m able to take what I need from it, call in what serves me, and let go of the rest.
We can still love people, be supportive, and be in their life without being constantly exposed to any misaligned energy online.
So I'd love to challenge you -
If you have found yourself in this spiral of negativity online or on social media..... What boundary can you set? Who can you lovingly let go of? Just something to chew on as we open this conversation up regarding boundaries and protecting your energy.