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How to create social media boundaries to stay connected without getting sucked in.
Social media is great—it’s an awesome way to get referrals to services we need, find communities for support, and watch the best cat videos. But it can also be a huge source of stress. Without appropriate filters, we can waste a lot of our day mindlessly scrolling, comparing ourselves to the bright and shiny lives of others, and learning terrifying news before we’ve even had a cup of coffee in the morning.
Studies have shown a correlation between social media use and mental health problems like anxiety and depression. There also seems to be a link with loneliness—because social media can make us feel connected without actually giving us true intimacy, we can end up spending a lot of energy there instead of growing our real-life relationships.
Here are a few strategies to help set healthy social-media boundaries:
1. Apply Mindfulness
For a week, keep using social media as you always do, but pay attention to how often, when and where, and how you feel during those experiences. A big question to ask yourself is why you’re using it.
There are three main reasons I tend to want to log in: to connect, to catch up on the news, or to entertain myself when I’m bored and/or tired. Empowered with that knowledge, I can ask myself what I need from social media and make different choices. If I’m lonely, I can text or call a friend. If I want to feel informed, I can check out a reputable news site. If I’m bored, I can play a mildly engaging game like Solitaire or Shizen instead. Knowing the main reasons for logging in will help to guide you in creating the digital boundaries that work for you.
2. Adjust the How
Studies have shown that while engaged social media use can be beneficial, purposeless scrolling can trigger our anxiety and depression. When I log in, I like to have specific intentions for my time on social media, and when I’ve completed those intentions, I log out.
Scrolling has its purpose, too! As you scroll, notice which profiles make you laugh or make you feel good or give you information you want. Unfollow everyone else. Yes, you can unfollow! Your social media is supposed to be fun for you, right?
3. Establish Time Limits
When do you spend the most time on social media? Consider timed boundaries, such as no social media before breakfast or after dinner. If you are scrolling, you could set a timer for ten minutes and stop when the time is up. Think about when it’s going to be most useful for you and when you are in the best headspace to engage mindfully.
4. Implement No-Phone Zones
Do you check social media on your phone or your home computer? In bed? At work? At the dinner table? On the bus? Sitting on the toilet? A lot of us check while on the toilet, which is pretty gross, but it also means we’re giving up the few moments in the day when we can close the door, relax, and truly be alone. What if we took this as an opportunity to enjoy our privacy instead? Remember privacy?
A major rule for me is that I try to keep my phone out of the way when I’m with other human beings—but it’s remarkably hard. I’ve noticed that if I’m sitting at a dinner table and someone takes out their phone, I feel an almost uncontrollable urge to pull mine out, too. You may want to talk to your friends and family about agreeing to uphold certain boundaries and keep each other accountable.
The key to good social media boundaries is to figure out what works for you. You get to choose how you use social media. Don’t let it use you.