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How To Have Healthy Boundaries with Friends IRL and Online

Leah owns a holistic health and well-being practice based in London. She works with clients face to face, over the phone, and online. Leah specializes in helping clients clear emotional, physical, mental and behavioural issues by tuning in to their energy and specific needs. She practices holistically drawing from many healing modalities including coaching, neuro-linguistic programming, meditation, energy healing, body processes, yoga, mindfulness, feng shui and more. As a single parent of a child with multiple allergies, Leah has lived through great stress and has arrived on her own healing journey, one that has helped her and her daughter live happier, healthier and more balanced lives. Her journey informs the work she does with individuals and families. Leah always focuses on helping clients release their potential. She supports them by facilitating transformation in whichever areas of life are a priority to bring them back to full and balanced health. Find Leah on FB and Twitter.

Growing Up With Social Media

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, most young people have never experienced life without social media; so much of our lives are taking place online. Because of this, instances of fate, where you bump into someone randomly, miss a date because you were late, or turn up to a party on your own and while waiting for your friends make new ones, seem to be few and far between.

When I compare my young adulthood with my daughter’s, I notice the drastic differences. We are both introverts, but she grew up immersed in a virtual world, whilst I had to bite the bullet and brave a party, club or ‘gathering’. I envy her ease, but I also see the benefits of stepping outside of your comfort zone IRL.

Back in the early 90s, only landline calls or face to face communication was available. Most of the time young people weren’t allowed to use the phone as each call was charged per minute and parents were in control. So, we went out. I walked round to a mate’s house, not knowing if they’d be in and knocked on the door. If they were there, we made a plan, and if not, I moved on to another mate. In fact, my mates didn’t even knock. They whistled up so as not to disturb my mum.

Now, in modern times, I understand the dilemma many young people face. With all of the notifications on our devices, it’s like 40 mates turning up to your door at the same time. And at all hours of the day and night! It’s like friends are showing up whilst you’re eating, sleeping, or on the toilet. Does this sound familiar?

Too Many Notifications

I used to get mad at my daughter for not answering texts, calls or emails. One day, we sat down to come to an understanding of what was going on. She revealed a strategy that I had never considered. She explained that her notifications were constantly calling her attention– between group chats, Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter, texts, emails and all the other ways to communicate through the phone. Her approach was to turn them all off, thus missing my attempts to contact her. (She was missing messages from friends too.) This strategy was working in one way– allowing her to avoid the overwhelm of too much contact– but it was contributing to frustration in some of her relationships, due to the gaps in communication.

Do you feel compelled to answer every notification immediately? Is your phone vibrating under your pillow at night?

Without time away from external demands (like social media), stress levels can go through the roof. We all need time to rest, reflect and recharge. We all need space to go within and listen to our own thoughts. 

There will always be something or someone to respond to. Consider asking yourself: is this urgent and/or important at this moment? Do I have the energy?

Setting Boundaries Online and Offline

This conversation goes well beyond the notifications. It brings up the question about who we want to (and don’t want to) be surrounded by in our digital lives, as well as IRL. While my daughter and I were talking over dinner, I asked her if she was catching up with friends back home. Her answer was no. We had a chat about it, and I could see that she’s outgrown some, drifted from others, and having scheduling conflicts with most. I suggested she cull some of her social media contacts. That may sound cruel, but before social media, this happened naturally. Now, even if you want to part company with someone, you’re (likely) still connected on several apps.

Do you unfriend or unfollow people on social media? I unfriend. Why would I keep a ‘fakebook’ friend that has repeatedly let me down, ghosted me, gaslit me, snubbed me, or just doesn’t care? I see no reason to beat around the bush. It’s not mean or cruel; it’s a boundary. 

I am not suggesting that you avoid talking problems through where there is a genuine connection. That has true merit, as relationships go through ups and downs. However, if you know in a deep, real way that a connection isn’t serving you, leaving seems like the best form of self-care

How often are you feeling drained because you stay connected with people you don’t like or don’t align with

My daughter had a conversation with a university friend who said, “I think I’ve got too many friends”.  He said that he wore himself out over the holidays catching up with every old school and college “friend”. Are they all really “friends” though? It’s natural and okay to outgrow people.

You evolve. They do too, just not on the same trajectory as you. Maybe when you were 10, having a friend who liked tag and the Simpsons was enough. Now, you’re both maturing and they have different world views.

What experiences have you had with growing and changing in a friendship? How do you know if/when you are ready to let go? Is there someone you’d like to have an honest conversation with in order to get clarity?

Making Space for Friends Who Inspire

What would it be like to get notifications from people who light you up, make you laugh, inspire you? Do you got room for them? Are you making space for the new to come in? Would you like to be online less and IRL more?

If modern-day life with social media is a breeze, and you love the buzz of constant beeps, rings and vibrates then ignore what I’ve said. However, If you feel anxious and overwhelmed because you’re being pulled in so many directions you don’t even know what you’re choosing, then I invite you to take stock. 

First, take some deep breaths to get grounded into your body. Ask yourself: What do I need/want our of my time on social media? Next, look at one account/app at a time, and maybe even consider setting a timer for 20-30 minutes. This process can be time-consuming as well as a bit emotional. As you work consider the following:

  • Are there groups that no longer feel like me anymore? Are there groups that annoy or distract me?
  • Am I following people whose posts I scroll by every time or whose posts bring up unpleasant feelings?
  • Is there anyone I don’t want following my personal journey anymore?

It’s okay if you feel unclear about some groups/people. Perhaps you remain friends for now and make a mental note to check in with how you feel when you see their posts in the coming days. 

Some argue for the internet’s ability to connect us all and others for the idea it’s isolating us more from real contact. Either way, use it for you, not against you. You’re the boss of you! It is your right and responsibility to decide what and who you want making demands on your time. 

You’ll start to hear your own voice more if you spend some time away from other people’s opinions and agendas. Take a break. Reassess who and what your priorities and values are and declutter your social media now! Maybe even pick up the phone or invite someone for coffee.

Let me know how it feels once you’ve lightened the load. If you want support through this process and feel ready to experience a deeper connection to your authentic self, reach out and schedule an online session with me! Use promo code ‘social media’ to get 25% off.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. issinash

    Love the ideas in this article. Thanks for writing 🙂

    1. Courtney Harris Coaching

      Thank you so much for reading along!

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