10 Tips for Setting Boundaries Online

By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

5. Ask for clarification.

Without verbal cues, it’s easy to misinterpret a person’s message online, Gionta said. If you’re iffy about someone’s comments, simply “respond and ask for clarification.” You could say, “It’s my understanding that this is what you meant. Is this correct?” Or “Is this what you meant when you said that?”

6. Be honest about your feelings.

If the person’s comment is loud and clear and you’re clearly upset by it, move the conversation over to email or the phone (depending on your relationship), Gionta said. “If they say something inappropriate or hurtful, let them know how you felt about it.”

Sometimes, people just don’t realize that they’re crossing your boundaries. Gionta told the story of someone who was sharing things that made her circle feel uncomfortable. They brought it up to her directly. She didn’t realize that she was infringing on others’ privacy. But once the group explained, she changed the way she communicated. Even in social media, “it’s easy to forget [and] think that it’s more of a one-on-one conversation,” Gionta said.

“Letting them know authentically and honestly how it made [you] feel is very helpful and positive in maintaining the relationship and getting to know one another,” she said.

7. Practice the three-strikes-you’re-out rule.

Give a person 3 chances to set things right.

If you’ve asked the person three times to refrain from making certain comments (or if they’ve crossed another boundary of yours), it’s time to take “some type of action that limits their contact with you,” Gionta said. That might mean defriending them on Facebook or blocking them altogether from your account — or even your email.

8. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Keep in mind that everyone has different comfort levels, Gionta said. With so many different personalities, temperaments and cultural backgrounds, what offends one person may never give another one pause, she said. “Generally, there are some clear ways of communicating [where] everybody would be offended. But there’s a gray area.”

So if it’s the first time someone offended you, give them the benefit of the doubt, and avoid jumping to conclusions, Gionta suggested. They might’ve had positive intentions but it regrettably came across the wrong way.

9. Honor your feelings and comfort level.

At the end of the day, boundaries are about how something made you feel, Gionta said, so pay attention to your own emotions and comfort level—and proceed from there.

10. Be thoughtful in your own responses.

In online communication, Gionta said, “our words and language [tend to] come across more powerfully and bluntly. When we just see the written word, it has more of an impact on us psychologically.”

So when making or responding to comments, take a moment to think through what you’d like to say, and ask yourself “How might this come across?” Gionta said. In general, you never want to “respond in anger or in impatience.”

Overall, remember that your offline life isn’t the only one that requires boundaries. Creating margins around your comfort level is equally as essential for your time online. In fact, it makes sense: Both make up your world just the same.

 

APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2011). 10 Tips for Setting Boundaries Online. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/10-tips-for-setting-boundaries-online/0008038
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.