A Relationship on the Rocks:  Setting Boundaries with Zuckerberg

Recently I took a much needed break from Facebook. Facebook breaks are not unfamiliar to me, but my prior breaks from Facebook were certainly less complicated. I took a long break 12 years ago while I studied for the GMAT and applied to business school and I’ve taken other breaks from Facebook at intense times during business school or with my job. However, this particular break was a long time coming and something I had to do as part of a massive social media reset in my life.

Rewinding a bit, the months of December, January and February 2021 were particularly dreadful in terms of the content that was delivered daily in my Facebook news feed. For whatever reason, the famous algorithms we keep hearing about almost seemed to take pleasure in drawing my attention to the most ridiculous and off the wall things that “friends” of mine on Facebook would post or comment on each time I logged in. I hit a point where EVERY.SINGLE.TIME I logged in, the absolute worst of Facebook was staring me in the face:: election drama, COVID conspiracy theories, COVID vaccine misinformation and fearmongering, hateful arguments regarding mass shootings and gun control, & appalling rhetoric around human rights. The worst of the worst with Facebook was on full display and Zuckerberg had me right where he wanted me – angry, in a state of despair, and oddly craving more.  If I had to describe my relationship with Zuckerberg’s social media giant, it was more than just “complicated.”  We were officially a relationship on the rocks.

If you haven’t seen “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix, I cannot recommend it enough. The documentary explores the dangerous human impact of social media with several former social media tech giants sounding the alarm on their own creations. Keeping up with my Facebook feed had started to consume an embarrassing amount of time in my life and at times, it felt like I had another job. It was the first thing I’d check in the morning {from bed!} and the last thing I’d check in the evening {also from bed!}. When I wasn’t logged in, I would be thinking about it and wondering what I was missing at that very moment. In many ways, I had lost my ability to remain level headed and diplomatic in certain Facebook conversations and said some pretty passive aggressive things that I wish I could take back. Obviously, I had issues and was spiraling out of control.

One evening at the beginning of April, I saw a close friend’s post related to a COVID conspiracy theory and I snapped. I made yet again another passive aggressive comment on a thread and all of a sudden the voice in my head simply said, “Stop.” That’s when I knew not only did I need an immediate break from Zuckerberg, but I needed a full-blown social media reset in my life.

I deleted the Facebook app from my iPhone and iPad that evening and vowed to not visit the web-based version for a minimum of 3 weeks {longer if necessary} and until I had sorted through my proverbial dirty laundry with Facebook. The mental relief was INSTANT, y’all and I’m not exaggerating one bit. Immediately, I felt lighter and less stressed with more mental focus and energy. I hung out in that space for about the first 10 days and it was glorious. Then I started to sort through my vulnerabilities related to Facebook and quickly realized that completely deleting my Facebook account and never logging in again just isn’t realistic for me at this point in my life nor was it something I wanted to do. It’s realistic for tons of other people, but the reality is that I am part of several groups and organizations {hello, Houston Moms!} where engagement via Facebook does in fact bring me joy and serves a positive purpose in my life.

At that point, I decided that the healthiest way for me to move forward was to set firm boundaries around my relationship with Facebook and slowly start to re-engage. Here are my Top 5 tips for setting social media boundaries for yourself to protect your own mental health and wellbeing:

  1. Seek what gives you joy on social media and focus your energy there:: 
    For me, I actually get the most joy out of Instagram. Instagram has its own set of issues, but I genuinely appreciate that the focus on Instagram is on images and not comments or likes. However, I also really enjoy several of the groups that I am a part of on Facebook. But instead of logging in and just scrolling mindlessly through my feed, letting Zuckerberg’s algorithms dictate my experience I log in and go straight to my “Groups” button to see what my peeps are up to that day. For a while, I was also relying on receiving much of my news through news outlet Facebook pages but that was a disaster that brought me zero joy so now I have alternative sources for my news that do not involve Facebook…or having to see ridiculous comments from trolls.
     
  2. Shrink your following::
    I don’t know many people who can say with a straight face they’re *actually* friends with everyone they are connected with on Facebook. Same goes for me and I have been on a massive spring cleaning binge to purge people from my Facebook circle who either do not bring me joy or people who I no longer believe need that much access to my life. I also recently discovered the beauty of the “Snooze for 30 days” and “Unfollow but stay friends” options on Facebook. Highly recommend!
  3. Be extremely selective in the # of social media apps you use & time you spend::
    I am strictly an Instagram and Facebook person. I have an old Twitter account but I just never really understood the appeal and the same goes for Snapchat. So my social media presence is somewhat limited.  I also set limits on my usage. I’m not yet to the point of using timers or scrutinizing my Screen Time reports from Apple but I am more thoughtful with my time now when I know I am just bored vs. actually wanting to engage on social media.
  4. Chronicle your social media history so you are no longer handcuffed to it::
    A frequent excuse from people contemplating deleting their social media accounts is that the account contains years and years worth of stories and pictures from some of the most important moments in their lives:: graduations, weddings, births, family reunions, travel, etc. Let me introduce you to Social Book.  The company has been around for more than a decade and is the global leader in printing content from social media sites. Basically they will print your Facebook or Instagram history and put it into a gorgeous hard or soft cover book to enjoy forever. You decide the content of your book (Specific years?, Only photos?, Photos and posts?, Comments?, etc.) and they handle the rest. I did this a number of years ago and was highly impressed with their product. Now I have a hardbound book that includes part of my Facebook history, even including the photos that those random friends I met while backpacking through Europe 15 years ago took and posted to Facebook and that’s kinda cool.
  5. Completely isolate the app(s) in a location on your phone that requires effort to access::
    After 3 weeks of not logging into Facebook at all, I slowly eased my way back in. I put the app back on my iPhone and iPad, but I intentionally placed it on a screen all by itself that takes longer and more effort to access on my phone than my home screen. This serves two purposes::  I am far less likely to click on it simply when I’m bored and staring at my home screen and it also forces me to be more thoughtful with the decision around whether or not I want to invest time engaging on Facebook if I have to take additional steps to access the app.

These boundary-setting tips are by no means the magical cure for having a more positive social media experience. However, they are definitely working overtime right now to help me engage on Facebook in a much more disciplined and healthier manner than before. Your boundaries might look different than mine, but my point is that if you are struggling with your experience on social media but know that it is unfortunately a necessary evil in your life – take a break, focus on what matters, and set some boundaries. You will be so thankful you did.


 

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Vicki has always had Texan blood pumping through her veins. Raised in Katy as the oldest of four girls and now a resident of Kingwood, she’s known for her undying and somewhat fanatical love of all things related to H-E-B, Amazon Prime, Taylor Swift, and Texas A&M, her alma mater {WHOOP!}. She has a passion for supporting other working moms in the workplace, as well as military veterans. Married to Paul since 2011 {also an Aggie and a veteran}, she has three kids:: step-daughter Madeline {2003} and sons Hamilton {2014}, and Harrison {2019}. By day, Vicki is a full-time working mom who works in HR and by night she’s a closet “60 Minutes” & “Real Housewives” fan. Always first out on the dance floor for “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, Vicki enjoys unwinding with friends over a glass of wine, a new craft brew and/or a H-E-B cheese ball.

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