I have a love-hate relationship with social media so creating social media boundaries can be tough. I love keeping up with friends from all over the world and from all different times in my life. I love how it gives a platform to those who likely wouldn’t have had one even just 20 years ago. And my favorite part of social media is being able to learn from the lives of people who I’d otherwise have never had the opportunity to interact with.
However, social media isn’t always a positive force in the world. It can be all-consuming; causing us to fall into the trap of comparison or isolationism. You can become addicted to it without even realizing and it can have a big impact on your mental health.
I personally noticed social media becoming more of a problem when it literally became my livelihood. My job is largely to learn about, strategize for, and schedule out social media posts. A large percentage of my day is spent if not on social media then at least thinking about social media. So, when I noticed myself idly grabbing my phone and mindlessly navigating to Instagram as a coping mechanism to deal with boredom, awkwardness, anxiety, or just silence, I knew I had to come up with some boundaries.
Don’t hear me saying that I’ve figured out the perfect balance between real life and online life because I haven’t, but I have found a few tips that have helped me not only separate my work from my personal life but also helped me to use my time online in a more healthy and productive way. There’s no one size fits all approach to this, but maybe some of the things that have benefited me will benefit you as well.
Do a Social Audit
Every few months I take some time to take an audit of my social media accounts, particularly who I’m following. This is a great step in creating social media boundaries.
Remember a few years ago when Marie Kondo and her organization methods were the big thing? One of her major tenants was to touch everything you own and ask yourself if it sparks joy. That’s basically what I do to my follower list. I go through every name and look at their profile and ask myself a few questions:
- Is following this person, business, or group beneficial to me?
- Am I learning or being challenged by them?
- Do I feel encouraged by their content?
- Does it make me happy to be a tiny part of their lives (if it’s a person)?
- Do I feel frustrated, angry, or inadequate when I see them online?
The goal is to help you figure out if it’s worth following a specific account anymore. If that account’s content makes me feel frustrated, angry, inadequate, etc., 9 times out of 10 I unfollow them or at the very least mute them for a period of time. At the end of the day, I have the power over who I follow and if following them is doing harm to me (even if there is good sprinkled in) then it’s not worth following that person.
This is sometimes easier said than done, especially when the people who might be causing you the most issues are people you have a personal relationship with, but I promise you it’s a good decision. If that person’s social media causes you to harbor harsh feelings towards them then it’s better just not to follow them, because remember, oftentimes our online life isn’t the full story.
Avoid Performative Posting
It is incredibly easy for us to curate the perfect social media feed to the point that posting isn’t even fun anymore. I’m not advocating for mindless posting but what I am encouraging you to do is to post the things you enjoy and not worry about performing for an audience.
Social media has given anyone with access to the internet the ability to have a platform. So often we put this unnecessary pressure on ourselves to only post the most perfectly edited pictures with the exact right balance of aloofness and humor in the caption.
On the other side of things we try to only post things that are hot takes or super intellectual or that we think will make people go “mmhmm that’s good!” I struggle more with the second option if I’m being honest. Each of us has to decide what the purpose of our social media presence is and then post accordingly creating social media boundaries.
For example, Instagram is my favorite social media platform and unfortunately one that I think we all struggle the most with. For a long time, I envied the girls I saw with the huge following that made the perfect posts with quotes from their most recent lifestyle blog that just felt oh so relatable to the masses. I hated that they seemed to have so little of substance to say and yet had this huge platform. I wanted a platform too, so I tried to be like them.
I hate to break it to younger me but that just wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t have thousands of followers from college and I didn’t have famous parents to help boost me onto the scene. I didn’t have some revolutionary invention or a cute Etsy shop to promote myself. I just had me and my little blog and the things I enjoyed doing. It took a long time, but eventually, I realized that just me was enough.
For me Instagram is where I capture memories, document my bullet journal, share book reviews, and interact with people I’m encouraged by. I can post about whatever makes me happy and share the things that have encouraged me or that I’ve been learning lately and if people wanted to come alongside me and enjoy those things with me then that was awesome, but if not that’s okay too.
Take a Break
My last little piece of advice is one that you’ve probably heard a million times and are probably bad at just like me. Take a break from all the social noise. This can be as simple or as drastic as you personally need it to be, but whatever you do, take a break.
It’s important to all of us to take a break here and there for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it helps us to be more present in the world around us and with the people around us. It also helps us to destress and can lessen feelings of anxiety. Plus, it encourages us to be more mindful and physically active by reducing mindless scrolling.
Taking a social media break looks different for everyone. It can be a couple of hour break or a whole month. You can completely delete your apps or you can just set your phone aside. Here are a few ways that taking a break might look for you:
- Create social media time limits on your phone and actually stop when it says stop
- Turn off your notifications for social media apps so you’re not as tempted to check it
- Put your phone in another room for a set amount of time to give yourself some physical space
- Pick a day out of the week where you challenge yourself to stay off of social media
- Delete all your social apps for a period of time
Create Social Media Boundaries
My husband can tell you that I am 100% preaching to myself on this one because I’m not really good at this either, but I’m learning that if I’m not intentional in taking social media breaks then it just won’t happen. With my job, I haven’t decided which of the above options would work best for me on a regular basis but I’m working on being consistent and intentional even if the methods change each time.
For example, as I’m writing this in my living room my phone is in my bedroom. My plan for the night is to write a few blogs, do some journaling, and read a book. If I don’t have to touch social for the rest of the night, that would be good with me! Sometimes distance can be the best way to create social media boundaries.
Tips from the Team
We recently asked our team what kind of tech boundaries they set for themselves and thought we’d share their insight with you:
Set Time Limits on Your Phone
Emily and Slayton both talked about having time limits for the apps they’re prone to overuse. Apple makes this easy to do with their screen time app limits. You can go into your settings and set a time limit for different categories of apps on your phone. iPhone will automatically remind you when you’ve reached your limit and ask you to input a password to continue using those apps. Emily has taken this one step further and had her husband set the password so even if she wanted to by pass the time limit she couldn’t do it herself.
Limit or Delete the Apps that Zap Your Time
Sara Kate and Beth both suggested limiting the amount of apps or notifications that try to pull you in. Sara Kate doesn’t have many personal social media accounts in the first place, but she also deletes the apps that she finds are wasting more of her time than she’d like. Beth suggests limiting your notifications that come through on your phone or apple watch so that you’re not so tempted to jump online everytime a notifications comes through.
Use Sleep and Focus Mode
All of us agreed that sleep mode is a life saver! On iPhone, you can set times for when you want to start winding down for bed. iPhone will turn off notifications and make it ever so slightly more difficult to get on your phone to scroll. At the very least you have to make a more active decision to defy your phone’s bedtime. You can also use this at other times during the week with a separate focus schedule. Brian likes to use his on Sunday mornings while he’s at church to minimize distractions.
It’s become kind of popular in today’s culture to bash social media despite the fact that most of us are using social media in order to bash social media. Ironic, right? That’s really not my goal here. I love social media. I have learned so much and been encouraged by people I otherwise would never have the chance to talk to far less be a part of their lives. However, too much of a good thing can turn bad quickly especially if it’s done thoughtlessly.
Social media is great when we use it intentionally and with purpose. Hopefully, by putting some of these boundaries into practice it’ll not only help you to have a healthier relationship with social media but also help you to enjoy your time both on and off social media even more!
This content was originally published on March 21, 2022 and was updated with newer information.