Learn to put boundaries online

Tips for not getting screwed up by social media


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February 27, 2020 Angela Barnett

Can you think of anyone experience that can prop up your self identity and self expression, help you feel less alone, be a platform for swift global activism that doesn’t even feel like activism and help your relationships go deeper, while at the same time potentially screw up your body image, open you up to bullying, affect your sleep and increase your chance of anxiety, depression and loneliness? Not to mention give you FOMO!? Maybe a family Christmas dinner does all of that but for most people, social media can be like a relationship with a lovable baddass.

I love you,
I need you,
but sheesh you mess with my head sometimes.

The stats are in and Instagram does really well in some areas like building online communities, helping individuals feel part of a tribe and giving people access to other people’s health experience—if you want to know if you’ve got ringworm there are too many willing people to show you theirs—but it doesn’t do so well on the BIALD front (body image, anxiety, loneliness and depression. 

The trick to managing it then (and any baddass) is putting some boundaries around it. Wrap that rogue up in some rules so they don’t push all your buttons all at once all of the time.

We’re not saying don’t spend time on social media—that’s like telling a parent not to look in their teenager’s bedroom, it’s impossible not to—but hopefully these five tips will help you be in charge. More. And hopefully screw you up less. 


  1. Having a stink day? Put your timer on then.

    If you're having a vulnerable day where you don’t feel as flash as you normally do then it only takes 20 minutes of looking at 'fashion slash celebrity slash influencer slash glamorous’ images to bring down your self-esteem and mood. So on those days—and we all have them—then that's not the day to look at influencers in bikinis posing in rainforests with sloths. Maybe it's a day for some comedians or go see what Greta is up to or Verity or look up sloths in bikinis, because only 20 minutes can make everything a whole lot stinker. Set your timer and then check in with how you’re feeling.

  2. You’re the boss so take charge!

    Unlike ads about stupid weightloss pills that you never ask to see, you can be in charge of lots of things you see on your feed. If you notice that a friend, or not-even-a-real-friend, bums you out more than cheers you up with their relentless posts about their oh-so-grammable life block or unfollow them for a while and see if it makes a difference. Or if you find somebody’s comments are really annoying or hurtful then use Instagram’s Restriction option when you don’t want to ghost them. They can still comment on your posts but the genius thing is only they see it, so you can make sure nobody on your feed does, including yourself if they are super annoying. Remember, you’re the boss!

  3. Get some diversity in there!

    If you only saw people with three legs in your feed that would distort your view of the world right—and you might start to think you are a freak with your two (or one or no) legs. In the media, we usually see the beautiful people who make up only 5% of the actual population (in terms of appearance) which distorts our view of what people should look like. The same thing’s creeping into social media so we don’t always get a wider view of the rainbow world we live in. If you fill up your feed with loads of variety it makes a difference to how you feel about your own body and appearance. Follow influencers that represent! Make sure you’re seeing fat bodies, thin bodies, brown bodies, black bodies, pale bodies. Make sure you see people of different abilities, and different sexual orientation, and gender. The more your feed reflects how crazily different we all are the better it is for you.

    The Spinoff has a list of some good kiwi influencers to follow: fat activist Ally Garrett. Auckland DJ and filmmaker Shaki Wasasala, aka Half Queen, sex and body positive influencer Josie Oloito’a, aka Josie Edan, radio host Megan Annear, Jess Quinn – model, activist and Dancing With the Stars NZ contestant, wheelchair user Sophia Malthus, wrestler and trans activist Leilani Tomoniko, and finally people who make you laugh like Anika Moa. Plus @bodyposipanda and @megancrabb. Follow #bopo
  4. Connect more, comment less.

    You will have noticed that when you put up a selfie you get twice the likes and comments because all the people who love you are thinking ‘THERE THEY ARE!’ Like! Comment! It’s awesome to see what people are doing and it’s very easy to comment on what they look like while they’re doing that awesome thing...’you look hot, stunning! OMG gorgeous!’ We do this to make our friends feel better because THERE THEY ARE putting themselves out there. Like as much as you like, but when we comment on how others look all the time that makes them focus on how they look, which makes us focus on how we look and makes all of us focus on how we look and sometimes it feels like that’s all anyone is focusing on and it can get really irritating (and damaging) and can lead to self objectification. So here’s a trick: try and comment less on appearance. Go on. Just try it for a week. Talk about something else in the comments like LOOK WHERE YOU ARE and see how it makes you, and them, feel.

  5. Watch the gap!

    A study last year showed young women sometimes prefer their social media selves to their real selves. Who cares you might say! That’s our right to do whatever we want to our images! It totally is, but the wider the gap between your projected self and the real you in the mirror, the bigger the chance of low self esteem bubbling up. You might be Facetuning your images or using filters on your posts—and if you know anybody else using Facetune or any other beauty editing apps then don’t call them out or shame them, they are doing it because Khloé Kardashian told her 57 million fans that Facetune was ‘life changing’, thanks Khloé (NOT)—but just be aware of the gap. As tempting as it can be to give yourself bigger (or smaller) boobs or lips that would put Kylie K out of her lipstick business remember that your self esteem is not a rock. It can get battered about, so take care of it, and don’t make that gap between the real you and online you too wide. You don’t even have to have a gap. For reals.
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