Setting Healthy Boundaries With Social Media

It’s far too easy to get addicted to social media.

That’s why I haven’t posted anything on the blog for the past couple of weeks. I realised that social media was sucking up far too much of my time and energy and held an emergency intervention of forest walks and ignoring my phone.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself checking my social media accounts multiple times a day. It’s not because I’m expecting any news or looking to chat with my loved ones. It’s because whenever I find myself in a quiet moment, my subconscious mind is desperate for some stimulation. 

Don’t worry. It’s not our fault. 

We get a little dopamine hit every time we get a notification on social media. (Trevor Haynes, Harvard University) It’s kind of like sniffing a teeny tiny line of cocaine, but far cheaper and more easily accessible! All we have to do is reload our Facebook or Instagram and ping; there goes another dopamine hit. 

It’s no wonder that social media is addictive. A great deal of time, money, and research has gone into making you spend as much time scrolling through social media as possible. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the likes are known as ‘infinity pools’ because no matter how long you sit there scrolling, you are never ‘done’. 

We’ve been enjoying the snow these last weeks, but we are glad that the sun has finally made an appearance again. The gas actually froze in the pipes!

With an online article, we get to the end, and it’s finished. With social media, we can easily end up in a scrolling loop that never ends. And the more time we spend scrolling, the more money can be made through ad revenue. 

And this is where it gets messy. We log onto social media. We see how pretty our neighbour looks in that velvet dress, and we see how popular our colleague at work seems, and we see what a lovely house that celebrity from the telly has. 

Whether consciously or subconsciously, we start feeling like a bit of a failure. But we can’t look away. We keep on scrolling and scrolling, and at the same time, all these targeted advertisements are popping up on our screens. 

Maybe we should buy that velvet dress. Perhaps we could be more popular if we had nicer clothes. Don’t we deserve to treat ourselves to a new dining room table? Our kitchen is really looking terrible. We should definitely redecorate as a matter of urgency… 

That dopamine that picked us up has worn off now, and we just feel a bit sad and wonder if we might be a bit of a failure. We have a little dip. Maybe we just ordered some stuff on Amazon we didn’t need. (Because Bezos totally needed that extra cash.)  Then, before we know it, we are reloading our social media in search of another hit of dopamine. 

One of our favourite walks in a pocket of woodland in Normandy.

Of course, some people will resonate more strongly with this than others, but I think it’s a feeling that the vast majority of people have been through at some point in their lives. 

A lot of us are feeling isolated and lost with COVID measures transforming our lives. It’s perfectly understandable that we spend more time on social media than normal, hoping to connect with our loved ones. But I have also noticed that social media has become more toxic than ever. 

At least for me, it’s become a place that is just seething with anger and judgment. I’ve noticed so many hateful comments on Facebook posts. From horse care groups to off-grid living pages, people are tearing each other to shreds at every turn. Of course, a lot of people are angry and frustrated and sad. They have a lot of time on their hands, and they aren’t sure how to handle these strong emotions. I know it’s not an easy time. 

But when it’s easier than ever to spend more time on social media, it has also become more important to use it with caution. Personally, I’ve set a 15 minute limit on my phone. After that, it shuts me out of social media. Phew, what a relief! (Until I realize I’ve just logged on with my laptop without even intending to – creepy.)

If you are feeling overwhelmed in life right now, here are a few quick tips to help you set healthy boundaries with the internet:

  1. Don’t bring your phone into the bedroom with you.

    This way, you won’t be tempted to check it in the night, when the blue light from your phone and little cocaine hit will keep you buzzing when you should be resting. Did I say cocaine? I meant dopamine. It also means that you can’t wake up in the morning and check your phone first thing. Let’s start as we mean to go on!
  1. Don’t check your phone until AFTER breakfast.

    I know it’s just delightful to watch videos about that dog that got saved in Romania when you are sipping your coffee, but just back up and wait.

    You can check your phone soon. Let’s just take a moment to enjoy our breakfast quietly. No noise and distractions. Sit down on a real chair and enjoy the taste of each bite of food. It has traveled a huge distance to be on your plate. Appreciate it!
One of the best things about Normandy is all the horses. It feels like there’s more horses than people sometimes!
  1. You don’t have to reply today.

    Just because you got an email or a Facebook message doesn’t mean you owe anyone a response right now. I get hundreds of messages online from people I’ve never met, and I reply if and when I can. But I don’t make it a life priority.

    After all, 3.96 billion people have social media accounts. If we rush to answer anyone and everyone who sends us a message, we are creating a to-do list that nearly 4 billion have the right to add to, even if we have never met them. That’s crazy!

    Be kind whenever you can in life, it always pays back. But don’t let your inbox rule your life. 
  1. Stop reading horrific newstories.

    Violent new stories are often the ones that go viral. We humans just can’t help ourselves – it’s called doomscrolling.

    As tempting as it is to keep reading about horrific and traumatic events, ask yourself whether you really need to read this clickbait. Studies have consistently shown that poor mental health is linked to how many news stories people read.

    I have stopped reading the news every day. I check it about once a week to see if there’s anything I need to know and you know what? The answer is almost always no. If something really important happens, someone will mention it to you on the phone anyway.

    So if you need a break, give it to yourself. 
  1. Have a holiday from social media.

    You might not think social media really affects your well-being. If this is true, I’m really happy for you. But I would recommend that you try taking a 2-week cold-turkey break.

    Let your friends know first so they don’t worry about you, and just deactivate your account for a couple of weeks. I cannot tell you how good it feels! But it’s surprising how soon you might creep back into old habits.

    I deleted social media for a whole year when I set off to live in a tent with a stranger, and my mental health was better than ever. I have it again now for work and I cannot stop myself from scrolling sometimes.

    (My husband Flo is charged with the job of screaming ‘NO NO NO’ when he catches me on Facebook until I turn it off. It’s very effective.)

    If you can’t manage a detox because of work or social responsibilities, you can definitely give yourself a mini break. Next time you go for a walk or a run try leaving your phone at home. You’d be amazed how it transforms the experience when you aren’t trying to take photos of it or checking Whatsapp.

I hope you found some of those ideas helpful and I’d love to hear what you think. Would you say that social media is becoming a more toxic place these days? Or has my tolerance for meanness just gone down since I’ve become a hermit? Take care of yourselves, and I hope you’re as happy and healthy as you can possibly be. 

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You also might like to read the Highly Sensitive Nomad Book. 

You can subscribe to the blog below, or follow me on Instagram. Thank you for your time and I wish you all the health and happiness that you deserve xox

Published by rph_writer

Freelance writer and author of Highly Sensitive Nomad.

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