Setting Boundaries around Electronic Communication and Social Media
“Setting boundaries” is a phrase that gets talked about often-but what does it actually mean to set healthy boundaries? Boundaries are limits we put in place for ourselves with other people, our time, our emotions, and other areas. In today’s society, boundaries often get blurred and easily stretched when there are so many ways people can contact you at any time of day, such as through email, texting, and social media.
Setting boundaries, including those of electronic means, can positively impact many areas of your life, including relationships, emotional and mental health, and even physical health. Below are some areas to consider whether some boundaries may need to be set for you.
If you have a job where a lot of communication takes place through emails, you probably spend a lot of time out of your day sending and responding to messages. Here are a few tips to help set some boundaries around your email use:
-If possible, don’t check your email after the end of the workday.
-If you have your work email on your phone, think about taking that account off your phone so you are less tempted to check your messages when not at work. It could also be helpful to take the email off your phone temporarily on your days off/vacation.
-Don’t feel pressure to respond immediately to emails if you are busy or it is outside of work hours, if the email is not an emergency. If you do not feel like you are in the right frame of mind to craft an effective email, take some time before responding. Emails are not meant to be immediate ways of reaching people, and it is unrealistic to expect others to be checking their email and responding immediately at all times of the day.
With texting, it is easier than ever for people to contact you at any time of the day, and there is often this feeling like we need to answer immediately, no matter what we are doing. But if it is not an emergency, it is alright to not answer immediately.
On the other side of this, if you are the one sending a text that is not being answered, allow the other person some space/time to respond. Before taking it personally that that person is not answering, think about what they may be doing that is keeping them from responding (work, sleep, self-care time, etc.) and honor that. Wait a little while before following up.
Social media comes with many benefits, but can also take a toll on our mental health depending on how we use it. Being constantly bombarded with filtered, perfectly posed images can sometimes lead to negative self-talk and unnecessary comparisons to others. Pay attention to how you feel and the things you say to yourself as you are scrolling through your social media platform of choice: Do you feel inspired, or do you feel anxious and bad about yourself? If you answered the latter, consider unfollowing the pages that don’t lift you up or leave you feeling good about yourself. Focus on following pages that feed your creativity, inspire positivity, and add meaning to your life. If it doesn't help you grow, unfollow! In addition, it can be helpful to set aside a day each week where you limit your social media use and give yourself a break from scrolling and liking.
Setting Self-Care Time
We sometimes don’t realize how big of a part electronic communication and social media play in our lives until we step away from it for awhile. If possible, set aside a day to focus more on yourself and doing things that recharge you (#selfcaresaturday anyone?) and less on social media and catching up on emails. For example, are there times during the day when you may be able to place you phone in another room so you are not tempted to check it? Would it be helpful to take the social media apps off your phone for a couple days each week?
Depending on how you use electronic communication and social media and how often you need to be connected to it (for work purposes, for example), the boundaries you set may look a little different. But the main thing to pay attention to is when you are feeling overwhelmed by it and find ways to take a break from it, even if it’s just for 10 minutes out of your day. Which of the above areas do you feel like it might be helpful to set boundaries around, and how can you start to put those boundaries in place?