Social media boundaries are absolutely crucial for protecting your mental health, your social life, your relationships…all of that. They have been so huge for me lately because not only do boundaries protect my mental health and sanity, they allow me to be more effective in juggling all the things like motherhood, running a creative business and having relationships.
This post isn’t about bashing social media. Instagram specifically helped me create my business and gain traction with attracting clients to build my stationery business and then later allowed me to pivot into licensing and education. But I think it’s super important to be aware of the potential downsides to social media so that we can be intentional about how we use it.
So let’s call out those downsides:
- It can be addictive. For some people, social media use reaches a level where it has many of the characteristics of addiction to the point that users are mentally preoccupied with it—they forego other life experiences to use it, they hide or downplay their use, and they use it to produce a mood alteration that they crave. I mean, have you seen people at a coffee shop not paying attention to their friend because they need to get the perfect shot of their latte? Or maybe someone who reaches for his/her phone at every commercial break?
- It decreases truly social behavior. While a person may have a large number of “friends” on social media, the hours required to maintain those online relationships will often cut into the amount of time spent with people in real-life settings.
- You can get caught in the comparison trap. Frequently or continually comparing yourself to others is unhealthy. Getting updates on all the fun things that your social media connections are doing—cool business opportunities or amazing vacations—tends to encourage that kind of comparative mindset which leads the inevitable envy and jealousy.
- It can increase sadness and depression. There is growing evidence that social media use, which we believe will make us happy, can actually increase sadness, anxiety and depression.
I’m not one to just talk about the problem without offering any ideas for solutions. I say this from experience—it’s so valuable to create habits and disciplines now so that you social media doesn’t take over, sucking you into envy and the comparison trap and leading you away from real life experiences.
Here are the 6 steps I’ve taken in my own life to create and maintain healthy social media boundaries.
1. Screen Free Sunday
I’m talking all screens, not just your phone, not just your computers, TV is included. If you can’t do Screen Free Sunday, try Social Media Free Sunday. Or if you work Sunday, make it Thursday or Saturday—whatever day works for you! We are taking in so much information and content all the time and I honestly believe we aren’t actually living and experiencing and being part of the present moment as much as we could be.
Why else do I do this? There are a few added benefits to this habit. Screens can cause a lot of eye strain and I’ve noticed a huge difference in my headaches by having less screen time. Also, it can improve sleep! Blue light on your screen can trick your brain into thinking it’s daylight and can throw off your sleep cycle.
2. Screen Free or Social Media Free evenings
If you can’t do a completely screen free day for whatever reason, try just the evening. Instead of picking up your phone or turning on Netflix, trying picking up a book or anything that is decreasing the amount of light you’re taking in with your eyes.
3. Turn your phone upside down and on silent mode when you’re with a friend/child/partner
By not seeing the alerts and hearing the dings, you can proactively eliminate any distractions that keep you from being in the present moment. You can even take this a step further and turn it on airplane mode!
4. Delete the email app off of your phone
This might be aggressive for some of you. I recently did it and it’s been a GAME-CHANGER. If you’re a business owner and thinking, I could never do that!, I thought the same thing. It was definitely very difficult for the first couple of days. But I’m telling you. I feel SO FREE. Nothing is urgent.
You obviously want to get back to your clients and customers in a timely manner but you can absolutely set boundaries and expectations of when they can expect to get a response. You could post a statement on your website or in an autoresponder telling them the hours/days you respond to emails and that you typically respond within x business day(s).
5. Set “App Limits” and “Down Time”
These instructions are for the iPhone specifically but I’m sure Android phones have something similar. These features allow you to limit the time you spend on specified apps (social media, email, etc) and you’re notified when your limit is up.
Go to: Settings > Screen Time > “Down Time” and “App Limits”
My social media apps set to 2 hours. I do use it daily for business and engaging with my community but this little trick saves me from the mindless scrolling.
My down time is scheduled from 7pm to 7am. You can still technically use your phone but at least you get a reminder notification that it’s down time to help keep you accountable with those boundaries.
6. Go through the people you follow and do a purge
Have you ever followed an account to later realize it wasn’t serving you in a positive way mentally? Maybe it starts as inspiration, but it crosses the line and starts to inflate your insecurities and decrease your confidence or even leads to jealousy.
Unfollow accounts that don’t provide anything positive, encouraging or inspirational. Social media is a place for community, not a place to make you feel bad about yourself or business.
And if you can’t unfollow (maybe it’s someone you know personally and it would be uncomfortable), then you can also just mute the account so you’re simply not seeing his/her posts.
There you have it! I hope you’re inspired and encouraged to check in with yourself and set up the boundaries you need to protect your sleep, your physical health, and your mental health.
What have you done to set boundaries with social media and email? What hacks or tips have been game-changers for you? Comment below—I’d love to hear about it!