Good boundaries are important to establish healthy relationships, but when it comes to our virtual lives, rarely do we think to create clear-cut borders. If you have a smartphone, you’re probably aware that limiting screen time can be a challenge. Establishing firm boundaries online is not only needed for our safety and protection but also for our mental health.
Here are some tips for setting boundaries online:
- Consider your purpose. Ask yourself: What purpose does social media serve for me? Are you using it to keep in touch with friends, to network professionally, or both? How much personal information will you put up and will you limit access to any of it?
- Set boundaries surrounding time. It is very easy to sit for hours on social media and be sucked into the abyss of endless entertainment and content. It’s easy to feel powerless, especially if you’re using social media sites professionally. With the Internet comes the expectation that we need to respond to people’s comments right away, and return an email within a day or even hours. Remember that you do have a choice and there is no requirement. Blocking out 15 minutes a day to catch up on comments and your community can still help you feel connected without feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
- Practice the three-strikes-you’re-out rule. Give a person 3 chances to set things right. If you’ve asked the person to refrain from making certain comments, or if they have crossed another boundary of yours, it’s time to take some action and limit their contact with you. That might mean removing them from your friend list or blocking them altogether.
- Honor your feelings and comfort level. At the end of the day, the most important thing about boundaries is how something makes you feel. Pay attention to your own emotions and comfort level—and proceed from there.
- Be thoughtful in your own responses. In online communication, our words and language hold a lot of power and can come across very bluntly and directly. When we just see the written word, it has more of an impact on us psychologically. When making a response online, take a moment to think through what you’d like to say and ask yourself, “How might this come across?”
Remember that your offline life isn’t the online one that requires boundaries. Creating margins around your comfort level is equally as important for your time online: Both make up your world just the same.
About Grace Kim:
Grace Kim is a Resident in Counseling providing services at the Woodbridge location. She is a Qualified Mental Health Professional for Children (QMHP-C) and a National Certified Counselor (NCC). Grace has extensive experience in providing outpatient counseling services to children, adolescents, and young adults. She also has sufficient experience working with adult clients with longstanding substance abuse issues. She is an individual who has had her own share of mental health challenges and, with the help of those around her, has been able to overcome obstacles and barriers in her life. To learn more about Grace, visit HERE.