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Healthy Boundaries for a Virtual World
Posted: 9/24/2013 | Wellness Comments
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These are exciting times, and the relatively new world of social media has completely changed the way we engage and relate with each other. Websites with user-created content–like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, and others–have altered our lives with instant communication and access to an endless stream of information (and sometimes misinformation). We’re connected to people we may never have met outside the internet, as well as important friends from our past.

I read some interesting statistics about Facebook recently which apparently has over one billion users, most of whom check their page nearly every day for an average of 20 minutes per visit. Many people constantly check their phones for updates, tweets, and posts. On the darker side, you don’t always know who you’re talking to with over 83 million false profiles on Facebook alone. Sadly, social media has become a source of evidence for divorce cases, lawsuits and even potential employers. While there are some amazing benefits to building an online community, it’s now more important than ever to learn and implement healthy boundaries in this virtual world.

Here are a few ways to stay aware and safe as you enjoy your social media experience.

1. Master your privacy settings. Do a little research to understand how to protect your privacy, and then use these tools. If you’re using Facebook or a similar website for personal entertainment, remember the whole world can access your information if you let them. If you have 500 “friends”, do you really want them all to know about your relationship issues? Share your recipes, jokes, observations, and memes with the world but make your personal information (and other’s!) available only to those you know and trust. If you’re using social media as a way of networking for your business, keep the details of your personal life out of it. You want to be a human being but guard your privacy as well as your professional reputation.
2. Be picky about your pics. As a general guideline, don’t upload any picture you wouldn't’t want your boss/mother/child/rabbi to see. It’s easy to get carried away in a moment of fun and frolic, but commit those antics to memory rather than your home page. It may not be wise to share your new tattoo, galpal, or taste in tequila with your future.
3. Take your time with new friendships. It’s fun to meet people online, but remember a virtual relationship doesn't’t progress naturally like a “real” relationship. You don’t have the benefit of a shared physical environment or the important information that a voice and body language can give you. (Remember those 83 million false profiles?) Stay safe and don’t share information until enough time has passed to know the person.
4. It’s O.K.. to “unfriend.” Give yourself permission to stop engaging with anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable. This might mean a person who is too aggressive with their views, a person who’s been disrespectful toward you, or just someone who’s presence doesn't’t feel good to you. You don’t have to be overly nice. Be civil and take care of yourself. This is the great thing about the internet; you can let go of people who aren’t good for you with a single click.
5. Don’t waste your time. It’s so easy to get swept away by the videos, memes and discussions online, not to mention those private messages. Before you know it the whole morning’s gone by. Monitor your time (statistically 20 minutes) and stay away when you have work to do. Use a system that works for you. There are even apps that will manage your time for you by blocking those addictive websites for a time.

It can really be fun and inspirational to share yourself and your interests on social media sites. It can also be good for your business. If you remain aware of potential pitfalls and set good, healthy boundaries, you can surf and share safely. Enjoy your online community!

Please share any thoughts or stories you’ve heard about people sharing on line. Your comments make a difference for us all.

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