Setting Boundaries Around Social Media and News to Protect Your Mental Health
The 21st-century world is constantly buzzing with information and updates. We can easily get caught up in it all. How often are we sitting and scrolling social media or news on our phones during our free time, forgetting to step away? For many of us, that weekly notification reporting our screen time can come as a shock. This absorption can be detrimental to our mental health. A lack of boundaries here can result in stress and anxiety. Constant attention to news feeds and the 24-hour news cycle can wear on us.
The Impact of Social Media and the News
Social media can be a powerful tool to help us connect to others, make friends, grow our businesses, share ideas and culture, and have a laugh. On the flip side, social media can also be an incredibly toxic place full of sketchy news reports, harsh opinions, and unfiltered judgment. This, partnered with exposure to news outlets, can quickly harm our mental health.
Engaging in healthy discussions and staying informed about current events can be a great way to grow and develop as a person. Still, too much exposure takes its toll. Overwhelm, stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and other symptoms can develop when we allow these things unfettered access to us.
Staying Informed While Setting Boundaries
While it is valuable to be aware of what is going on and how people feel about it, it’s also crucial to set boundaries for how we engage with the barrage of news and opinion. Never before have humans had access to information at this scale; we have to carve new paths in this arena. Setting boundaries and sticking to them will help us avoid damaging our mental health while still engaging with what is happening in our communities and in the world.
The screen-time boundaries you set will likely change depending on your life and situation. If you’re a congressional aide or a lobbyist, for example, you probably need to spend more time on these things than if you’re a kindergarten teacher or a contractor. The key idea here is setting aside time to turn it all off regularly and then following through.
How to Set Media Boundaries for Yourself
Limit Your Time on Social Media
It is incredibly easy to fall into the trap of scrolling on social media for hours at a time. If you’re finding that the time you’re spending on social media leads to increased stress, anger, anxiety, disengagement, or other issues, try setting boundaries for how much time you spend on it.
Maybe all you need to change is increased awareness, but it’s possible you’ll need other tools to help you out. Explore some of the options that can help you with everything from tracking the time you spend on each app to limiting your access as you outline.
Of course, you can always go with setting a timer. It helps to move directly into doing something else you enjoy at the end of your set social media time, at least at first. Building this new habit may take a while, but it’s worth it.
Plan the Time You’ll Spend Watching the News
News channels can also dominate your time and attention. Crafted carefully to keep you watching, their programming aims to ensure their non-stop coverage always has an audience. In the same way you limit your social media time, you should plan when and how much you watch the news. Important things are happening all the time, but none of us can carry the weight of them all.
Protect Your Mornings and Evenings
After a certain point in the evening, usually an hour or two before bedtime, winding down is your chief order of business. Avoid scrolling on social media or watching the news during this time. This can help you avoid increases in mental stimulation, anxiety, despair, or anger right before you try to sleep, which will help you fall asleep sooner, get better rest, and prepare to take on tomorrow.
Scrolling on social apps or watching the news right when we wake up can set the tone for the entire day. Rather than look at your phone the second you open your eyes, take the morning to refresh your mind. Get up, get ready, eat breakfast, walk outside, talk to your family. Complete your entire morning before taking one look at social media or the news, and you are more likely to have a good day.
Engage Where You Are
There are many reasons to be mindful of the time you spend on current events, and certainly some we know nothing about yet. But we can all resonate with some of the goals of these self-imposed limits:
- Protect your mental health
- Pursue a peaceful mind and heart
- Invest in the present
- Grow your relationships
- Engage with what’s around you (hello, pets, books, hikes, and gardens!)
- Enjoy life
- Stay connected with your body
- Move more
In short, limiting your time absorbed in social media and news will free you to flourish right where you are. This kind of flourishing comes from being present and engaged.
If flourishing seems like an impossibility, you can get support to change your normal. A therapist can help you work through what’s holding you back, keeping you stuck, stifling you, or draining your resources. Start your search for a therapist today and move toward a life you want to be present for.
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