Health

Reassessing Boundaries – The New York Times

Some people have preferred not to put their private lives on screens.

“This sense of being exposed has been a challenge for people who do not have an environment that they feel comfortable showing to whoever is on the other side of the line,” said Munmun De Choudhury, an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology who studies health and well-being online. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds who don’t have dedicated work spaces, she said, might not want to share with classmates.

As an actor in New York, Anna Suzuki has fielded a fair number of video calls for work this past year — discussions with directors, table reads for television series and so many other Zoom meetings. She also shares a studio apartment with her partner.

“Because I’m a pretty private person,” Ms. Suzuki said, “I had to figure out a way they would only see a blank wall behind me.”

The solution was to carve out a section of a storage space in her mother’s apartment, conveniently located just below hers. Her “public” perch — an oak-colored table and black office chair — has provided some separation between her work and personal lives, allowing her to turn on and off her “performer brain,” as she described it. It hasn’t always been easy. “I really have to compartmentalize,” she said. “I still had to create a public persona at home.” Yet she also found that being able to stake such a clear divide between public and private was comforting, she said.

If you’re not enthusiastic about sharing so much, that’s OK. “It’s fair for someone to say what their needs are,” Mr. Poswolsky said. “Create a boundary around, ‘I don’t want to let people into my space in a vulnerable way.’”

And consider taking your time easing back into situations that now give you pause. Dr. Creary said she observed two sources of concern for those who enjoyed the firm boundaries they formed working from home and are now anticipating a return to the workplace: that the change of location will decrease productivity because distractions abound, and that it will increase exposure to unhealthy social environments. She suggested two possible strategies to establish boundaries anew: Think about what time of day you tend to work best and plan meetings and other obligations accordingly, she said, and weigh which social engagements — dinners, happy hours and the like — are essential and which ones you can decline.

“It’s about pacing ourselves,” Dr. Creary said.

According to Natalie Bazarova, an associate professor of communication at Cornell University who studies public intimacy, social media users largely shared positive personal information before the pandemic. But over the course of the past 15 months, there has been a change. “There is more acceptance of negative disclosures,” she said, citing research she published this year. “There is this common circumstance that we’re going through, and so that shapes our perception of how we think about what’s appropriate.”

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