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How & Why to Slow Down, Disconnect & Set Boundaries with Social Media

How & Why to Slow Down, Disconnect & Set Boundaries with Social Media - wildelore

Here at Wildelore, we're all about slowing down.

Slowing down to make sure we get outside, breathe deeply, move and nourish our bodies, and (something we're really passionate about) taking regular breaks from our devices and social media.

If we don't slow down, these things either never happen, or don't happen as often as we need them to in order to feel good in our bodies, our minds, and in our day to day lives.

If we don't purposely slow down, the to-do list will always win because:

  1. it never ends (as soon as one task is complete we add another)
  2. it (usually) always feels more important

But what happens when we don't schedule in the slow-down or create space for it in our lives?

Chances are you’ve probably been there. You’re just chugging along until Bam! All of the sudden you NEED to slow down because you're burnt out or feeling a bit hollow inside.

Trust me, I've been there, I've done it, and I've felt it.

I've spent long hours on Instagram trying to get the algorithm to like me / scrolling and "catching up" on everyone's lives and here's what I learned...

I felt awful. There's not even one ounce of exaggeration here. Horrible. Terrible. Like poop.

I was so determined to grow our business there (100% there are many valid points and reasons for this and it's admittedly complex) that I ignored some of my core beliefs in the process.

I had managed to let Instagram dig its way into the nooks and crannies of my brain, and I found myself thinking about the app (posting or sharing) when out doing pretty much anything such as on a walk with my daughter, or even in the middle of the night when I would briefly wake, my mind was turning to strategies and ideas.

Perhaps that's a bit more extreme than the average person - I mean, after all, I am viewing the app from the perspective of growing a brand new business, but perhaps not.

I'm sure at one point or another, you've felt that nudge or tug in your mind to be posting or sharing all the things, all the time. And if you're growing a business or a side hobby or anything like that, chances are there's an even greater pressure. 

Over the past few years I've been experimenting with and thinking about what life would be like without social media - specifically, Instagram. Since I got pregnant in 2019 I've taken consecutive months away, and created sanctuaries of time where I remove the app from my phone, and let me tell you…

Every time I do this (ie. take time away from socials) it feels expansive, nourishing & beautifully slow.

But here's the thing:

I don't think we all need to delete our social accounts and swear them off for the rest of our lives. Frankly, I don't think it's realistic, and it ignores the potential for positive relationships and outcomes as a result of using the platform. And there certainly can be positives!

What I've Learned from Taking Sabbaticals from Socials

In taking long breaks away, I've discovered four thing things. 

  1. Consistent time away from the app (or apps) helps me to feel mentally/emotionally/spiritually healthy and connected to myself

  2. Time away leaves me feeling more present in the moment, since I’m not thinking about whether or not something would be a good post or story

  3. I am on my phone way less and feel that my relationship with my phone is a more positive one

  4. There's something about the app that always calls me back (so far anyway!) 

If you’re like me, being present in your day to day life is an important core value, and you enjoy feeling grounded and empowered in how you spend your time and energy.

You might even be curious about the potential negative repercussions of our constantly-on-our-phones culture. 

While we can’t yet fully know the long term effects of existing in a highly “shareable” day and age, we can pay close attention to how these platforms make us feel on a daily basis now, and on an individual level.  

Only You Can Know 

Of course, what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. The most important thing is that we are able to determine what feels best for each of us on an individual basis, so that we can cultivate a relationship with social media that feels good and not disempowering, heavy, suffocating or energy-sucking. 

It’s also important to know that what this looks like may change over time depending on the season of your life. For example, if you’re a menstruating woman, your monthly cycle plays a role in how extraverted or energetic you might feel compared to other days/weeks. Or, maybe you’re a new mama bear and are so sleep deprived you can’t even begin to think about posting. Maybe socials are feeling incredibly uplifting and positive to you right now!

Wherever you're at, having the tools to reflect on and (re)evaluate your relationship with social media is going to support you in every season of life. 

How to Know When It's Time to (Re)Evaluate 

Some signs that it’s time to check-in with yourself and your relationship with social media are: 

  • Feeling like the need/pressure to take videos and post photos has found its way into nearly every moment of your life (and you’re not loving that feeling)

  • At the end of the week you are feeling kinda icky and maybe sad about your phone use. Maybe you're wishing you did other things instead like learn that language you've always wanted to learn, or read a book

  • You feel a bit empty or low when you realize how long you’ve been scrolling and have a bit of a "snap-out-of-robot-mode" moment

  • You are constantly thinking about Instagram (or other social media platform) and/or your phone

  • You find it hard to take breaks or have days off

  • When you think about the platform, you feel short of breath or weighed down instead of inspired and excited

  •  The technical and strategy side of things are frustrating you more than making you feel empowered

  • You feel tired after logging on 

Reflection Questions For Your Relationship With Social Media

Whether you have experienced these exact signs or not, take some time to ask yourself all or some of the following questions. Grab a piece of paper or a journal, and set aside 10 minutes to really feel into these. Remember to get real honest with yourself here or it won't benefit you.

  1. Are you happy with your current relationship with and use of social media?

  2. What does a healthy relationship with social media look and feel like to you?
     
  3. Do you think this is achievable?

  4. Write down five words or phrases to describe how you feel currently when you think about your choice social platform(s) and your usage.

  5. How do you generally feel immediately after you use (insert platform here_______)?

  6. Do you feel that the time and energy (or other things like peace and mental health) that it "costs" you to use social media is paying you back fairly in return, or is there an imbalance in input vs return?

  7. Write down five words or phrases to describe how you WANT to feel when you think about your choice social platform(s) and your usage.

  8. What would an empowered, expansive and healthy relationship with social media look like to you? Ex. Am I on it every day or do I take a day or two off each week? Do I shut my phone down at a certain time each day? Do I have a time limit per day or week that I would like to stay within?

  9. Are you willing to make any changes to feel better about your social media relationship?

  10. If yes, list some of your ideas here.

Ideas for Boundary Setting with Social Media

If you are feeling like you need to shift your relationship a little bit, here are some ideas and ways to do so:

  • Have 1-2 days each week where you take a break. Delete the app off of your phone or remove it from your home screen and return to it 1-2 days later

  • Have a cut-off time each day where you no longer open the app. This is especially important the closer to bedtime we are. Consider stopping all social media usage around 8 or 9pm. Our bodies haven’t evolved with blue light (we evolved with red light aka fire), and blue light can harm our production of melatonin which affects our body’s ability to regulate sleep. Being on any screen close to bedtime also keeps us stimulated and therefore takes longer to wind down and get into a deep sleep state. Our quality of sleep may be affected.

  • Have a time container for every time you open the app. Before you open the app, decide something like “I am going to spend 15 minutes on here and no more”. Set a timer, open the app and stay focused. When the timer goes off, exit the app right away, or finish what you’re doing and then exit. Pay attention to whether or not you get lost scrolling or get distracted and how you feel when you exit the application.

  • Unfollow people/accounts that make you feel like any less of the amazing human being that you are

  • Whatever parameters you decide to set, try to stick with them for at least a few weeks before going back to your old ways. If you need to reward yourself with something tangible, do it! These apps are designed to be addictive, so a little incentive might be just what you need.

 A Quick Daily Check-In Question

One of the easiest reflection questions to consider ongoing is to ask yourself; 

  1. Do I feel better or worse after I use Instagram (or other social media platform)? 

It's a simple question, but not necessarily a simple answer - except when its glaringly obvious.

How we feel after using socials can be a bit more complicated than a yes or no (also because how we feel can fluctuate) but sometimes it's a very clear "heck yes, I feel great", or..."I feel like a deflated balloon."

If you notice that sometimes you feel great and other times you feel awful, is there a correlation between the times where you feel good vs bad? 

For example; you might feel good about your social session if it only lasted 30 minutes vs 1 hr. 

 Or, when you return to the platform after a mini break vs at the end of a few days where you’ve spent a lot of time on the app.

Pay attention to these details ongoing. Write them down if you need to, so the next time you catch yourself thinking “this feels great! I love _____” or “I feel gross and sad”, you can capture the specifics about the behavior or action which lead to you feel a certain way.

Then you can nip it in the bud!

 The Importance of Taking Stock of the Time We Spend on Social Media

Unless you make a bold decision like leaving social media completely (and people have and do this for these very reasons), being able to have ongoing honest conversations with yourself about your usage and consumption of social media, is going to be the tool and practice to keep yourself living a life you feel good about and are busy truly living.  

Why bother doing this?

So that in ten years, we won't feel regretful about how much time we spent on our phones and devices. 

So that our children don’t grow up directly associating us with a phone/device or drawing pictures of us complete with a phone in hand. 

So that we can stay connected to and in the moment with the people and the environments around us. 

Because having sacred, only-for-me (and for my family) aspects, experiences and moments of life is so incredibly important. 

I remember how things felt when I was a kid. We didn’t have the internet (and it was dial up!) until I was around the age of 12, and I didn’t acquire a cell phone until my final year of high school. It was an old flip phone and I mostly used to communicate with my parents about pick up and drop off times related to extracurriculars. 

As a child, I used to hand write letters with my best friend who lived down the street. Sometimes we would spend the whole day exchanging notes, walking or riding our bikes from one end to the other of our long country road to deliver notes all day long (yes, rather than hang out we did this!). To this day, I love a handwritten letter as it reminds me of a kind of slowness that is so rare these days. Rare, unless you purposely cultivate it that is.

Instead of being concerned about sharing, or feeling like I needed to be entertained every moment of every day, we got lost in time making mud pies and exploring the “forest”, which later as an adult I learned was literally 6-7 small tree-like bushes. 

Looking back, I feel a sense of freedom. Of course because I was a child, but also because my mom and dad weren’t hyper-focused on a palm-sized screen that they brought with them everywhere we went. 

Ultimately, it comes down to:

How do we want our children to see and experience us as parents? How do we want our friends to see and experience us? At the end of our lives, what will we be proud of? Will we wish for more screen time, or less?

Slowing Down, Setting Boundaries and Disconnecting is powerful stuff, but it doesn’t happen magically. In a time when life moves at warp speed and everything and everyone is vying for our attention, it is up to us and only us to determine how we spend our valuable and limited time and energy. 

We can talk about these things all we like, but until we are willing to actually be honest with ourselves AND do the ongoing work required to make changes and reevaluate, we will be giving our power and time away to computer screens.

In my opinion, life is too precious for this.

A Quick Note on How Wildelore Chooses to Engage

As a business owner, I know full well the wonderful possibility of using social platforms like Instagram to grow brand awareness. I’ve read several books on the subject and felt the “we can do this too!” energy that propels me into obsession with posting, analytics, and learning how to create content that is likely to grow one’s following. 

But, at the foundation of our business and family are core values that get out of whack with too much time spent on the platform, or by feeling “forced” to create certain types of content because it is more likely to get more views/follows. Focusing too much attention on numbers of any kind can quickly suck the fun out of it for me. 

After trying it the “other way” (aka spending way more time on the platform than felt good or was in line with my values) and feeling my mental and spiritual health decline greatly, my husband and I had a chat about what we were willing and not willing to sacrifice or exchange for exposure or brand growth on Instagram. 

And though it means slower growth, we agreed that we would choose the path that felt healthier and more aligned with our personal, familial, and core business values. 

And so it is. 

Instead of creating content because we feel that we “have to” we create what feels good, true and authentic. We have a minimal (and flexible) posting schedule which helps me to feel in control and empowered by the application instead of the other way around. This helps me (the main creator on IG) view it as a tool and maintain a mostly positive relationship with it. Again, this is definitely the slower way and it isn’t the most ideal choice for many people with different core values and circumstances. 

I’m not going to lie, even having minimal and more realistic expectations is hard for me. Creating content because it feels good means that it is close to my heart, and this can feel like a very personal rejection when people don’t respond or engage like I might hope. And because the algorithm doesn’t show our content to our community because I’m not “following the rules” of posting enough, it can feel a bit crummy.  

There are days when it feels like we can’t possibly succeed this way, but we maintain the belief that by staying true to our values, our message and content will resonate with those who need to hear it and for the right reasons. 

And that feels pretty darn good to us. 

Conclusion

Like most everything in our lives, one’s relationship with social media is complex and nuanced. It’s scientific and it’s spiritual. It’s freeing and restrictive. It’s analytical and creative. 

Some people are using social platforms to grow businesses, followings, or generate side incomes with the hope of going full-time. Some are there simply to document their days and share journal-like entries. Some can’t get enough of the likes and notifications. Some make life-long friends. Some just love it and don't feel icky about it at all! Power to each of you, truly.

There are a million different reasons for why you might show up on social media. 

The important thing is that you:

  • determine how you want to feel while using social media
  • decide the level of power and control you want to give it in your life
  • determine what you are comfortable and uncomfortable with in terms of time and energy exchanged in return for feeling a certain way/other feedback (financial, exposure, dopamine hits etc)
  • create boundaries to stay within your comfort level
  • take action, follow through with your boundaries and practices
  • check in regularly to stay on track and make adjustments as needed

Know that at any moment you are free to change your mind. Free to explore different ways of being in relationship with it. Free to decide whether or not it’s worth it or working for you. Just because everyone else seems to be doing something one way, doesn’t mean it’s the same for you. Let your mental, emotional and spiritual health be your guide.

Comment Below

I’d love to hear from you in the comments! Do you struggle at all with social media or phone use? Have you ever implemented boundaries or reflected on your relationship with social media? What are some boundaries you've created to help your relationship improve?

Let me know in the comments and let’s keep this important conversation going!

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2 comments

  • Life moves much too quickly, it touches my heart to hear your sensible/sensitive choice on balancing yours.

    I too, have turned off notifications and volume and yes, many times my responses aren’t prompt. Oh well!?

    Cheers to you and your Wildelore adventure <3

    Diane
  • You have successfully turned me into a blog reader. In the attention economy that we live in today, it is increasingly important to have thoughtful conversations about use, engagement, boundaries, and well-being. As someone with a degree in communications and culture (specifically, how media affects users), I seek out these conversations and feel passionate about motivating public discourse around these issues. As you said, media is expertly designed to catch and hold the attention of its audience, and the methods for doing that are constantly evolving. This means that our approach as consumers must also be constantly evolving.

    The reflection questions that you propose are so vital. I believe every device user would benefit from working through this guided questionnaire on a quarterly basis (maybe even more often) to reevaluate and realign the human-media relationship. I resonate with your struggle with social media a lot. I too took lots of time away from Instagram for a period of time (about 3 years). Today my relationship with social media is healthy-ish. The step I took that really transformed how I engage with the platform was turning off notifications. Does this mean I will miss things sometimes, or fail to respond immediately to a comment or DM? Absolutely. But this approach allows me to log on mindfully, unprompted by pings. I also take the weekend off of social media, and wow, that boundary has gifted me so much time with loved ones.

    Before I stray into novel territory here, I will end with this: I have so much respect for you as an individual and as a business. Your transparency in these blog posts gives me so much hope for positive, supportive, and empowering B2C relationships. I appreciate the care and honesty that you put into your ‘branding’. I cannot wait for more from Wildelore, be it reminders to slow down that pop up on my IG feed (which I heed), blog posts like this that invite me to think and converse in a meaningful way, or your clothing (which I am excitedly awaiting!!). What you are creating here is beautiful and meaningful. Keep following your values. It’s working.

    Monica

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