Social Media Boundaries:: How I’m Living My Best Online Life

Social Media Boundaries:: How I'm Living My Best Online Life

I have no shame in admitting that I love social media. I have never taken a social media break and have no plans to. Sure, sometimes I feel guilty for the amount of time I spend scrolling Facebook or posting silly Instagram stories and cute pictures of my kids, but the connections I’ve made, the products I’ve discovered, and the knowledge I’ve gained online are a huge positive in my life. And overall, I think I do a decent job of balancing the time I spend online with my other activities and responsibilities.

HOT TAKE:: There is No Right or Wrong Way to “Do” Social Media

Some people have all their accounts locked down with the strictest privacy settings and don’t share any pictures of their children online. Others use their platforms for advocacy about issues that impact their very real daily lives. Some share only their highlight reels, while others air all their dirty laundry on a digital clothesline.

My opinion:: you do you. And while I have no right to judge or police anyone’s choices about how they use social media, I have the responsibility to examine my own choices and live with the consequences, intended or unintended, of what and how much I share. Personally, I try and balance the fun and lighthearted with the serious and vulnerable. I try and present an authentic version of myself in my posts, although of course this “authentic version” is actually just as edited and strategic as the person sharing only the good stuff. There’s always a cost being vulnerable, especially when posting controversial opinions or admitting to struggles. 

In the past few years, some aspects of my online life admittedly turned toxic. It was painful to learn that my honesty and vulnerability about my struggles with motherhood were being perceived much differently than I intended, and I became the subject of gossip and criticism. And as the political climate in our country became more intense and partisan, so did many of my social media interactions. A few in-real-life  relationships were destroyed because of online arguments about political differences and lifestyle choices. I often became actively angry when I opened my Twitter app and saw threads by people I disagreed with politically. And several accounts on Instagram were making me feel envious and less-than rather than inspired. It was time for a change. 

But, as with any lasting change, this first required a lot of self-reflection. I asked myself, why do I use social media in the first place? The simple, yet profound answers to this question gave me a framework to clean up my feeds and start living my best online life. 

Why Do I Use Social Media?

For me, the answer to this question comes down to three reasons::

For Connection

The need to be seen and known is a universal human trait. And I want to be seen and known. There, I said it. I want to leave my mark, whether that me digital or otherwise. And I want to see other people and know them too. Motherhood is often lonely, and an Instagram DM or Facebook Like are little hits of sunshine that make me feel like I matter. Personally, I want to share my joys and my struggles in hopes that others will share theirs with me.

For Information

These days, when I want to know about the day’s headlines, what book I should read next, or which is the best drugstore concealer to hide my under eye circles, I first turn to social media for recommendations. One of the best {and worst} parts of the internet is access to anyone’s and everyone’s opinions on everything. Of course, it takes discernment to figure out who to listen to online, but when you find the right sources, they are a gold mine of information.

For Inspiration

I love to be challenged, and social media offers endless opportunity for intellectual and emotional growth. Because of social media’s influence, I read more books last year than ever before in my life, discovered products and rituals of self care that work for me in my stage of life, and learned to see social issues from a variety of perspectives, not just from my own place of privilege. 

So with the answer to this question answered, I went about cleaning up my social media feeds, eliminating all people and accounts that didn’t offer some sort of positive connection, useful information, or inspired challenges. 

I Ditched My Hate Follows

Like most people, I followed some accounts simply for the purpose of rolling my eyes or getting myself worked up over their ridiculous rants on…whatever. Sure, sometimes it was fun to feel righteous anger or annoyance, but overall, it was adding nothing to my life, online or otherwise. UNFOLLOW.

I Liberally Unfollowed 

 

There are only so many hours in the day, and social media is enough of a time-suck with all the accounts adding positives to my life. So that random dude that I think I know from junior high who doesn’t make me angry but with whom I have no real connection…UNFOLLOW. My mom’s friend who posts fake news like it’s her job…UNFOLLOW. And the Instagram fitness account that was just making me feel terrible about my mom-bod…UNFOLLOW. 

I Hit the Block Button

I’ve always had the policy of blocking creepy dudes with 23 Facebook friends who message me to “chat”, but last year, for the first time ever, I blocked several people who I have an in-real-life relationship with. This was something I agonized over, but for the sake of my own mental health and the hope that any part of our relationship could be salvaged, I had to do it. The advice from a friend that gave me the final nudge to hit Block was this::

Social media is the bonus of my world. If you bully me…BLOCK.

It’s such a simple concept, but one that I had to internalize- I do not owe anyone access to me via social media, even friends and family members.

Since blocking the people whose online interactions were causing so much grief and stress, my online life AND my life in general have improved. I’m less anxious, I’m having more fun both on social media and off, and I’m focusing more on my positive friendships and relationships. Many people have commented on how much “lighter” and happier I am. 

Carefully examining my online life and who I choose to follow was a powerful and beneficial exercise. I continue to see social media as a positive, but going forward, I will certainly be more intentional about who I follow and allow to have digital influence on my life. I reject the idea that there is a “wrong” way to use social media; however, I do reserve the right to unfollow or block anyone whose accounts don’t create positive content or connections for me.

What are your reasons for using social media and what boundaries do you have in place? 


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