Setting Up Boundaries: Social Media
I have a love-hate relationship with social media. As a creative and marketing director I find immense inspiration and value in it however I have also found that when used poorly, it can contribute to a slew of negative side effects: anxiety, lethargy, isolation, and discontentment to name a few. The fact that social media is always changing, that someone somewhere is always posting - it becomes challenging to separate ourselves from it. The high that we get when we gain new followers or receive dozens of likes, is hard not to give in to. In this day and age with the use of social media so interwoven into our lives, it is vital to set up some boundaries in order to maintain a level of wellness.
We've all heard the saying, "in a world that is far more connected and accessible than every before, the people in it are feeling more alone and isolated than ever before." At some point in our lives, we've all felt this. Perhaps even now you can relate. I know that I can. Just this past week I was having a conversation with my husband where I was tearfully explaining how hard it is to be on social media at times because "I see these women my age and all of the things that they are doing...the places they are going, the success of their blog or business, their growing families... It's not that I'm not happy for them - I choose to follow them because I admire who they are. It's just hard." Its a struggle not to compare. Not to look at their feeds and the articles written about them and leave feeling like I'm not doing enough. While my husband isn't on social media for his job like I regularly am, he too could relate. He shared how its a struggle for him to look and see his friends or guys his age and the cars that they are driving, the houses that they are buying for their families, and the trips that they are taking. No matter how grounded we all are its hard not to compare at some level. Though there is a growing movement for "authenticity" (aka the "it" word of 2016) a lot of us still strive to put our best foot forward on social media. It is a chance to let people know who we are and to give them a snapshot of our lives. It is something that I certainly enjoy using and find inspiration in, but in doses. I've found that on the days that I am online or on social media more than other days, that there is a greater chance of me feeling a sense of anxiety and discontentment. It's when I get lost scrolling on my phone that I can loose site of who I am and the beautiful life that I lead. By putting boundaries into place, I am able to help avoid this.
The boundaries that we create between us and social media are going to look different for everyone. Even for myself and my husband they are quite different. I'm still working on it but the system that I have set into place for myself is that I am only allowed on my phone for email and social media purposes, between the hours of 8 AM - 8 PM. These hours are what I consider my average work day more or less, a time where I'll spend working with clients, creating content for my blog, or working on creative projects. It is a time that allows for flexibility in what I do but that also instills strict guidelines about when it starts and ends. I have to admit that I am much better at keeping the 8 AM boundary than I am the 8 PM one. Setting these into place though has been incredibly helpful in helping me to focus. I feel that when I honor these boundaries that I am honoring myself. I am saying that my real life is more important to me than my online one; and that I have worked hard today and now deserve to rest.
Along with creating boundaries for my social media use, I have also set into place a few others for electronic use in general. As some of you know, our family does not have a T.V. It is a decision that my husband and I made together about a year ago, as a way to take the focus off of the electronics in the home instead putting it on the things that we value. Yes we still have computers, phones, and tablets and we do watch Netflix and Youtube videos on them; however we strive to do it mindfully. Along with signaling the time that I am to shut my social media off for the night, 8 PM is also the time when I am to get off all electronics (i.e. phone, tablet, computer, etc.) and to begin to unwind for bed. I'll generally read a book, catch up with my husband, or do some light yoga and stretching. Again, I have a much harder time with this than I do with waiting until 8 AM to turn everything back on; however I have seen the benefits of setting this boundary in my life.
My hope is that the heart and intention behind these rules that I have set into place will carry over with us throughout the years, as our family grows and develops. Though we do not yet have kids of our own, my hope is that I am able to communicate with my children someday how valuable social media and electronics are in our personal and professional lives but how they will never be more valuable than the people in them. Our real-life relationships matter. They are what a real community looks like; where we are seen and heard. They are what will help us not to feel alone and isolated but loved and connected.
My challenge today is for you to take a look at your electronic use and to determine how you too can set up boundaries. It doesn't have to be 8 to 8 like me. Like I said, boundaries are going to look different for everyone and are going to change over time. After setting your boundaries, I encourage you to tell your friends or loved ones about these boundaries and encourage them to set their own. Start a conversation! Setting boundaries when it comes to electronics and social media, is something that everyone struggles with.
Photography by Zoe Grant.
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