Ashley Oman — August 22, 2021

It’s Okay to Disconnect: Setting Boundaries with Social Media

Ashley Oman

We live in an age where anyone from middle schoolers to grandparents are active on social media.  Today, most people have smartphones, a tv, or access to the internet.  Media is all around us.  With such a broad spectrum, there is media content around nearly every topic, issue, or situation one could think of. While this can be a great thing, it can also be dangerous, particularly for survivors of sexual violence.

So what are the negative effects of media?

The main goal for directors of movies and tv shows is to develop content that people will want to watch.  This leads to cliffhangers, dramatic scenes, and unrealistic storylines.  While entertaining, this can lead to comparison and unachievable expectations.   

Social media is addictive in both its positive reinforcement and unpredictability.  As humans, we crave attention which can lead us to constantly check and recheck our platforms.  This behavior distracts from real-life experiences and can pull from our relationships. The desire to show us “living our best life” leads to editing and altering photos and shows a skewed sense of a person’s life.  Yet, when we see a photo we can’t help but compare ourselves.  This can lead to intense jealousy and other negative feelings like sadness, anger, and confusion.  

While media can be harmful to anyone, it can be especially triggering for survivors.

When a survivor recounts a traumatic event, they may experience similar feelings to being back in that situation.  Their fight or flight response may be triggered and they can experience increased heart rate, panic, nausea, and other symptoms.  With the broad range of content across media, survivors can regularly be triggered by media and have to deal with this response. Additionally, the media tends to hyperfocus on the trauma rather than the healing; this can lead to main characters recovering from traumatic events in unrealistic ways or not at all.

Here are a few reminders and tips for navigating a media-saturated world.

  1. Allow yourself to express your feelings whether it is talking to family/friends, journaling, getting professional help, or something entirely different.  The way you choose to do this is up to you
  2. Allow yourself some self-compassion. Be mindful of your body’s reaction but don’t judge your thoughts or feelings too harshly. These responses are normal and valid.
  3. Remember that it’s okay to take a break from social media and the news.  You don’t need to be tuned in all the time and you do not need to apologize for: turning off a show that is bothering you, discussing your needs and boundaries with others who may share media with you, muting friends on social media, or anything else you may need to do.

How to set boundaries with media:

  1. Remember that you are in control.  You can turn off, leave, or fast forward anything you don’t want to see.  Look into privacy settings on social media to start to control what information you see.
  2. Pay attention to warnings or look up reviews/ratings ahead of time.  Reading ahead can allow you to be able to prepare yourself or decide to skip on that movie or show.
  3. Remember what you see on media isn’t real.  TV and Movies leave out key parts like survivor healing. Content on social media is not the full story.
  4. Set time limits for your social media usage.  It can be addictive to scroll through various platforms so whether you decide to utilize phone settings and set actual time limits or agree to social media free Sundays or evenings, take some time to unplug and reconnect with yourself and those around you.

Check out these websites with tips and tricks to setting boundaries with media

https://www.communityreachcenter.org/blog/social-media-and-mental-health-tips-on-setting-boundaries/

https://jennarainey.com/boundaries/

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/set-healthy-boundaries

Here at Our Wave, we aim to foster a safe space for all survivors to share stories and access resources.  Please know that you are never alone in your healing journey.

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