Social media seems to be a consistent theme I keep coming back to here. It was one of the first things I wrote about when I started blogging, and I recently wrote about an accidental social media detox I did when we moved. The accidental detox showed me that I need more space between my real life and my digital life (and I fully appreciate the irony of writing that on a blog, on the internet). However, given that I run this blog (and all the channels that go along with it), it would be unrealistic to think I could cold turkey quit social media for good. And, honestly, I wouldn’t want to. I think it does add tremendous value to my life, I just need to be more mindful of my online interactions.
I suspect that’s the case for most people. If you’re reading this, you’re probably on at least one platform. Maybe you’re on all of them! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
It’s been just over a month since my accidental detox post and I said I would report back on anything I tried, to create some healthy social media boundaries. And, I’m a woman who keeps her promises!
How do you create healthy social media boundaries in the unguarded age? Well, here’s what I tried this month.
1) Take a Break.
To show solidarity with women who have had their voices silenced on Twitter, I took part in the #WomenBoycottTwitter two weeks ago. While I wholeheartedly believe in the power of absence in making a difference, I had a positive (and selfish) reaction from staying off Twitter for the day. Unsurprisingly, the boycott had a positive impact on my mental health. All of the social media networks impact me in a different way.
I feel instantly overwhelmed when I open Instagram (I check Stories and then get out of there). No one I know uses Facebook enough to make it worth the effort. And, Twitter, is so fast-paced and active that I put enormous pressure on myself to ‘be on’. I would compulsively check it, at least multiple times an hour. Even when I’m not on it, I find myself formulating my next tweet in my head. My internal dialogue is “Is this funny enough?” “What will get more likes?”, etc.
For that 24 hours when I felt no obligation to log in, my level of anxiety dropped by a shocking amount. I didn’t fully appreciate the extent that social media was having an effect on me until it wasn’t there.
Moving forward, I’m going to try and have at least one total social media blackout day once a month. If that works, I’ll up it to once a week. The world won’t end if I’m not online (or, at least that’s what I’m telling myself).
2) Block, everything. Sometimes.
Sometimes, it’s not possible or realistic to block everything social and internet related. Sometimes, you just need a mini break from something specific. On a recommendation during a call-in to Tiny Bites, I decided to try Freedom.to. Freedom.to is an app that creates a VPN network around your device and blocks you from being able to access certain apps, and websites.
I’m the kind of person who needs very clear boundaries when forming a new pattern or habit. I can logic my way out of pretty much anything. I was hoping that Freedom.to would be able to create these kinds of strong boundaries for me.
Unfortunately, I had a less than optimal experience. For starters, you have to have the app open on your phone at all times in order for it to work. This drove me nuts. Throughout the day, I go through my phone and close all of my open apps (think of it like a digital decluttering). This caused me to disable Freedom.to, so it didn’t work properly.
Another problem I had is that it never blocked any non-social apps. Freedom.to has preset options for things like eBay, Amazon, and Netflix. However, it straight up did not work.
I don’t like to criticize anyone’s work, so I’m not bashing them for no reason. I think that Freedom.to is a great idea, I just think it needs to be executed a little better.
What this app experiment taught me is that I reach for certain social apps in specific situations. My number one boredom go-to is Twitter. I only check Facebook as a last resort. YouTube is the biggest procrastination tool for me (I could watch GMM reruns for HOURS). This newfound knowledge led me to my next method of creating healthy social media boundaries.
3) Define Your Social Purpose.
There are about a million different reasons to be on social media. If you don’t have a clear action plan for your interactions, then you’ll (like me), spend your time trying to be everywhere online with no clear purpose. So, be really clear and honest with yourself about why you are on a certain channel. What are you trying to achieve through your social presence? This applies equally if you are an individual, or a blogger, or a business. Are you on Twitter because you enjoy connecting with like-minded people? (That’s a yes, for me). Do you prefer Instagram because you have a brand identity you are trying to cultivate? Or, is Snapchat your jam because you love the filters?
There’s no wrong answer here. I wish I could say defining my social media purpose has led me to a revelation about which channels I should be on and which ones I should ditch. But, I like the main ones (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) all for different reasons.
However, I have refined my goal/purpose for each online space.
- Twitter: to connect directly with fellow bloggers in a way that isn’t possible on other platforms
- Instagram: to get a glimpse into people’s ‘real’ lives (as real as you can get on social media, anyway)
- Facebook: to share content I’m loving (no other channel is really great at this)
- Snapchat: to follow YouTubers I like (pretty much the only reason I have it)
Based on the above list, my reasons for being on each platform are unique. So, I shouldn’t be interacting with every channel like it’s the same. Because I’m not looking to get the same thing out of it.
4) Curate Your Feeds.
No, I don’t mean spend hours obsessing over what to post and when to post it. Been there, done that. I mean, only follow people whose content you actually like. I know this one is hard. You want to follow everyone, you don’t want anyone to feel left out. I suffer from this (especially on Twitter and Instagram).
But, I have a rule. If I don’t like what they’ve tweeted recently, I won’t follow them back. And, I refuse to follow Instagram accounts that make me feel like my life is garbage. You know exactly the kinds of accounts I’m talking about. This might seem terribly rude and selfish of me. But, I’ve reached a point where I have no more mental bandwidth to engage in things online that I don’t genuinely have an interest in. It’s your feed. It should show you things that add value to your life (whatever way you define value).
I know this wasn’t a quick ‘fix your social media addiction in ten easy steps’ kind of post. But, given the sheer amount of time we spend on social media these days, quick fixes might not be the answer. I think it’s worth exploring your interactions on social so you have a clear reason for why you’re there (if you have one at all), so you can start interacting on that platform in a more meaningful way.
What does that look like for me?
- Twitter: limiting my posts to only when I genuinely have something to share (and didn’t spend time ‘crafting’ it)
- Instagram: posting in stories, checking other people’s stories, and occasionally sharing a lovely nature photo from my weekend adventures (aka no scrolling)
- Facebook: interacting more directly with my readers to support them in their minimalist journeys
How do you feel about your social media boundaries? Do you wish you could interact in a more meaningful way on social? What’s your top tip for giving yourself some space when you need it?
If you missed last week’s episode of Tiny Bites, where I changed things up a bit and paid tribute to Gord Downie, you can listen to it here. Stay tuned for a new episode on Thursday (or Wednesday night if you’re on Anchor). You can catch up on all past episodes of Tiny Bites here.
Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions