I coach people around their health. I do so by providing information on social media. I offer group coaching using certain social media outlets like Facebook. I’ve been doing this for about 6 years now.
When I first started, I had NO boundaries. I had no boundaries set for myself and no boundaries set for others. People could approach me at whatever time they pleased. I lived with my phone attached to me at all times. And it started to interfere with my daily life and with my family. At one point my daughter who was about 5 years old at the time, asked me to not bring my phone with me if I was out with her at the playground.
Social media has become an integral part of my business. But because it’s an integral part of my business, I have to set strict boundaries so that I can run my business without my business (or social media) running my life. I have to continually bring awareness to how I do things, what I allow and don’t allow into my life. What conversations I allow, what news stories I focus on, and whether or not I allow myself to get triggered by reading certain posts or participating in conversations.
Another issue that has come up as well is that some people feel entitled to attack others, to use harsh words and insults that they would probably never use if they were face-to-face with the receiver of those words. I call it the social media “hit and run” attitude. And it’s easy to react when we are subjected to this type of treatment.
For me, setting strict boundaries on how I run my business didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow process. At first, I set boundaries in which I wouldn’t allow myself to bring my phone with me if I was going out with my daughter (at her request). She’ll have my full attention while we are out. I also stay away from social media while driving. That being said, even after I had started doing these things, at one point, I was still replying to everyone’s message and trying my best to please everyone and felt that if I didn’t answer right away, my business would go down the drain.
There was one event that helped make the transition to setting boundaries easier. My mom who I hadn’t seen for about 3 years was visiting from overseas. My family and I were out on a Sunday enjoying the beautiful scenery. I received a message from a coaching client. She was demanding that I reply right away. I explained that I wasn’t available at that time and this only threw her into a full-on temper tantrum. All over something that could have waited til the next day. As I sat there feeling angry about it, I realized that I had to take responsibility because I had trained her to think of me as someone who was at her disposition 24/7. I had not set boundaries with her at all. I remember shutting down my phone after telling her that I would chat with her the next day.
The following day, I let her know that I was setting work hours. I would no longer be available weekends. If any questions came up during the weekend, my recommendation was for her to write them down or email them to me and I would get back to her in 48 hours. If it was something that she needed to discuss, we could do so by setting an appointment. I let her know that if this didn’t work for her, she could find another coach (which she chose to do). Now when I take on a new client, this is the approach that I take. They now know what to expect from me from the beginning and are always very respectful of my time.
This encounter with this particular client was the wake-up call I needed. I HAD to set boundaries on social media. I could no longer allow social media to interfere with my family life. Having this upsetting encounter with this client was the wakeup call I needed to be able to put my foot down and own my time and resources instead of them owning me.
Since then, I have set boundaries on times I have my phone with me. We have family time and dinner time in which we do not have our phones with us. They are out of sight. I keep my social media at a minimum on weekends and weekdays too so I can get my work done. I only use social media in the morning for about 30 minutes and another 30 minutes to one hour in the evening. I have also set boundaries on what I read. I stay away from upsetting news stories. I have removed people who tend to attack others or who tend to be argumentative. I won’t participate in arguments and I remove myself from any conflicting conversations. And there have been days when I won’t touch my phone at all.
I believe that social media is powerful. But just like Ben Parker told Peter Parker: “with great power, comes great responsibility.” The only way to not allow for social media to consume me is to be smart about it and to set strict boundaries. It’s important as a mom that I do that, because I am setting an example for my daughter as well. In being smart about my approach to using social media, I am letting her know that she comes first and my family comes first.