Excellent self-care can be a challenge, especially in these highly technological times. Oftentimes social media is beneficial – something that connects, informs and helps us. However social media also has the tendency to lend itself to unproductive multi-tasking, a constant inundation of negative or useless information, and increased feelings of external judgment or comparison.
Fear not: the benefits of technology can be enjoyed without drawbacks if we implement boundaries.
There are two feelings that help us identify where our boundaries need attention: discomfort and resentment. Discomfort is fairly straightforward: when you feel uncomfortable in a moment or interaction, a boundary is likely being violated. Resentment often means we feel unappreciated, dissatisfied, bitter, or discontent. If you notice a pattern of resentment or discomfort while using social media or technology, it’s time to draw a boundary.
1. Turn Off Notifications: You do not need to have real-time notifications of every like, comment, or follow you receive through social media channels. Disable all notifications from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, etc. on your phone. Turning off alerts prevents you from becoming dependent on the notification loop. New psychology has proven that the instant gratification we get from receiving notifications actually emits dopamine, the happiness hormone. Unfortunately, you have no control over this type of dopamine because it is dependent upon what others think/do/say/click. Instead of depending on their actions for your source of dopamine, create your own surplus of that hormone through dopamine inducing activities like exercise, reducing stress, and taking vitamins.
2. Delete Apps: Write down a list of the most used apps on your phone in a notebook. For one week, keep a tally of when you feel discomfort or resentment from being in one of the apps. At the end of the week, delete the apps with the most tallies. If apps leave you feeling resentful or uncomfortable it is admirable self-care to remove them from your life. I deleted Snapchat temporarily when I was experiencing discomfort from how much time I was spending in the app each day. I now have it back, and the time away helped me reset.
3. Lengthen Your Reaction Time: Nothing says you have to immediately respond to a message, inquiry, tweet, email, text, or phone call. Others contact you according to their schedule – they are not thinking of you, your state of mind, or your priorities. Be considerate and respectful, of course, but respond on your time. As someone who sends many emails, texts, and messages – I would rather have a thoughtful response, than a hasty one. No one sends you something with the intent to interrupt your concentration, focus, or personal time. Do not allow an interaction to become an interruption. This goes for those weekend emails, too. Phones have the ability to toggle on a “do not disturb” button that can keep you from receiving work emails or calls during certain hours. They are called smartphones for a reason. Take advantage of it.
4. Remove Yourself From The Comparison Trap: Social media introduced a new kind of comparison. Instead of looking at the lives of celebrities in magazines as a point of unrealistic comparison, we now look at the girl who grew up next door to us or that guy from our college course. It’s like a class reunion every single day. What are they up to? How far have they come? How far have I come? It’s a cycle – and not necessarily a healthy one. Again, if you feel that pattern of discomfort and resentment when you partake in your virtual-class-reunion each day on Facebook and LinkedIn, draw a boundary. Take a break entirely from that social media channel or vow to check it once every other day with a focus only on keeping up with the people you know and love – instead of keeping up with the Joneses. We are all vastly different people and as such, our timeline, choices, and lifestyles will be vastly different. Comparison is unproductive and useless. Your life is not about what other people are doing; your life is about what you are doing.
5. Find Joy In Technology And Social Media: Breaking unhealthy social media habits is easily done by replacing them with something new. There are many wonderful reasons to use technology and social media and I encourage you to seek out what makes you feel good. While you mark down the times technology makes you feel uncomfortable or resentful, also take note of what you enjoy about technology. Maybe you love the way it helps you share your ideas or express your aesthetic taste through photos. Maybe it’s the advice you receive or recommendations your friends near and far give you. Perhaps it’s the infinite amount of information you can consume through a TEDTalk or a podcast.
To set a boundary is to acknowledge your feelings. Listen to yourself. You know what’s best for you.