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How I Keep My Sanity by Setting Social Media Boundaries

By Stacey Ross

As a work-at-home mom of school-going kids, there is only so much satisfaction I can derive from interacting with my dog and two lizards during the day, so I indulge in a daily ration of what I call my “digital diet,”  a small dopamine fix of social media conversation and Internet updates, which  nourishes me enough until I unite with my real-life friends and family!

I can easily get off track (especially when reading my favorite online papers, blogs or engaging on Pinterest), and  become drawn into what I call a “virtual time suck,” leading me to counter-productivity, so I have to remind myself to stay focused and give myself a time limit!

Setting digital boundaries

The practice of “setting boundaries,” a popular psychological term encouraging the conscious practice of avoiding that which is not healthful, also applies to creating “digital boundaries,” as the platforms that can bring such fortitude are the precise areas that can tempt us online social media enthusiasts to become distracted.

For me, setting digital boundaries entails taking a step back and evaluating my professional efforts in the areas of communication, time management, and self-preservation (aka “online safety”).

Communicating more effectively

I came to understand that it is not imperative to respond to everyone’s comments (the “like” button is good for this), but I do engage with and respond to those who regularly reach out.

Likewise, I found how it is crucial to clear up misunderstandings and ambiguities (they do creep up in e-mails, especially), because they tend to resurface if you don’t!

I love a good debate, but respectful debating is a hard thing to come by online! If someone starts name calling or bashing someone else’s beliefs, I simply exit the conversation. If they are my friends and are mucking up my platform, I simply un-friend them.  Others (comedians, controversial personalities, etc.) have a different shtick, so by no means do I think that my style applies to everyone.

The most important thing for me is to align my communication with my intentions. I share what I charge, then aim to over-deliver, but I need to know beforehand what my role entails and be clear as to what I am asking of others. This is why I am crazy about the policy of establishing written agreements and researching the people I work with.

A budget in time is worth two in the bush…or something like that

I used to personalize every email response but it became too time-consuming, so I now pull from pre-made responses when replying to generic PR requests and inquiries from potential clients. In responding to them, I'm encouraging a smooth relationship, which is good for business.

Having  assistants is a time-saving blessing. Also, interns and guest bloggers can be cost-effective and great for reciprocity! Cross promoting, engaging in strategic partnerships and collaborating on campaigns are fabulous strategies when effectively implemented.

Following a set schedule (Google calendar rocks!) and physically posting office hours for all to see (even if I work from home) is a good thing!

Self preservation (aka “online safety”)

It is OK to err on the side of being conservative when posting. When in doubt, I just don’t. I remind myself that future (and current) employees are watching and that over-sharing can come back to bite me.

Even though I could share my brutal opinions in my private streams, it’s hard to differentiate those streams from the brands I associate myself with. It’s just not worth the risk, so I bite my tongue, even when I have the most hilarious politically incorrect 140 character comeback at the tip of my fingertips!

I err on the side of caution, and refrain from exhibiting photos of my kids online or ID-ing anyone else’s children. Likewise, I have made peace accepting that I do not have to share my most intimate world to drive traffic or post sexy air-kissing photos to get 100 likes. At the same time, expunging everything that might be considered offensive or inappropriate to others is not my bag, but when it is brand-related, you bet!

Drawing one’s own lines

Each person has to draw his or her own lines (or perhaps not!) when it comes to exercising online discretion. Those who establish online personas as unencumbered personalities have the luxury of maintaining a sassy, tongue-in-cheek approach.

I might try it for fun when I am 90 years old or independently wealthy, but always with the mindset of "What is shared online can jump into the real world at any time!"

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

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