Friday, December 8, 2023

How Are You Today, Sabby Jey? Creating Boundaries Online, PTSD, ADHD & The App That Has Prevented Her From Burnout (And no, #notspon!)

Sabby Jey may have come to many New Zealander’s attention after appearing on The Bachelor NZ, but, there’s a hell of a lot more to this 30-year-old pocket rocket.

The Kiwi born Sri Lankan holds a Bachelor of Business majoring in International Business and Finance, is fluent in English and Tamil and is now a business owner, content creator, trained actress, inclusivity advocate and model. She’s amassed a huge following across Instagram and Tiktok, with one of her most famous series being ‘Boujee on a Budget’ where she shares tips and hacks for how to live it large, for next to nothing (we’re talking hacks like how to get up Auckland’s Sky Tower, enjoy a drink AND a snack for $13!). Sabby is full of fun, but she’s also very outspoken when it comes to the issues that matter most to her – something, which can often leave her in a vulnerable state online.

So how does she protect her space online and prioritise her own mental health? True to form, Sabby even has some hacks there to

How are you today, Sabby?

I am feeling calm and positive. I’m really looking forward to spring and Christmas! 

Wow, calm is not something I often hear people describe themselves as being in the lead up to Xmas! Well done! Now, you have a massive following online – how do you look after your mental health in today’s social media landscape? What are you having to contend with online? How do you look after yourself?
At times, we all feel overwhelmed by the self-imposed pressure to keep up with the digital world and appearances. When I spend too much time on social media, I can start to feel insecure when I see many people posting their highlight reels and a curated version of themselves, which to me appears perfect. I have also felt at times a need to match other people’s trajectories, even if it isn’t my reality.

Parasocial relationships is something I have become aware of as my audience and online acquaintances come to me for a lot of advice on different topics and personal interaction. Sometimes I get consumed in it, leaving me detached from my real life and relationships. To counter this, I’ve now set healthy boundaries to prevent social media burnout with time limits on browsing social media and short weekly time slots to reply and engage with my community. I also limit who is within my perimeter digitally. I have this epic app called ‘Opal’ (not sponsored, haha) that gives me a maximum of 15 minutes to browse any social apps, email or messaging. I then have to wait again before unlocking the apps, causing me to be mindful of my screen time. I also set a daily limit of hours spent on apps to make time to eat well, do chores and relax. I’ve built the discipline to ‘call it a day’ with editing, posting or interacting on social media, when I hit the limit. A digital detox is something I have also engaged, usually this is two weeks of still posting content but no social media engagement and minimal phone use.

Anytime I start to feel reduced uncertainty about myself or drawing too many social comparisons to others from social media I call my mum. My mum always gives me the same advice, but it’s the best advice. That is to count my blessings and reflect on my life’s positive aspects. So, I spend time counting each day’s blessings on my fingers till I run and realise with that shifted perspective, I have so much to be grateful for!

Just like a game-changing piece of technology, social media is a great tool from a business, community and instant interaction perspective.  Social media has changed the business landscape as you can now build and grow your business, your personal brand and connect with like-minded people on the same journey as you work together and support each other. With healthy boundaries and cultivating digital detox practices, our online presence can be happier and healthier amidst the constant digital noise.

Social media is part of my business and in any profession or career, challenges are an integral part of the journey – a sentiment that I am sure resonates with all of us striving to carve a career path.  I’ve come to firmly believe that the key lies not in dwelling on the difficulties it can bring, and instead focusing on solutions. It’s a sentiment that parallels the experiences of many people I know.

I imagine there’s a lot of pressure that comes with being an ‘influencer’ – is there an expectation to always be ‘on’? Does it get exhausting?!?

Whether you are an Influencer, content creator or someone with a high profile, who is on social media you are instantly accessible in a public domain, whether you’re present or those who follow and watch you, are.  It can be daunting to stay honest and open in an online environment where you are being watched and then open to judgement.  I’ve come to embrace this by bringing purpose into every piece of content I create. I also remind myself that to be in the ‘always on’ mode is not mandatory.  Instead I grant myself the liberty to step away and be present in person or to take some healthy me-time.

The digital landscapes of Instagram and TikTok wield algorithms that seemingly prod creators toward the perpetual cycle of creation and engagement, as well as account holders to be checking what can be an exciting new world through the app. However this doesn’t need to be the case, and it’s up to us individually to have digital boundaries.

Less known is that I also have PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  The prospect of baring my thoughts to the online world, where opinions abound and judgment looms, is complex. Navigating this while contending with the stigma surrounding PTSD and ADHD has been an education in resilience.  When opening up about these two topics and mental health struggles I have seen a lot of support along with pushback and criticism, which is a testament to the diversity of voices on these platforms.  I also know that vulnerability doesn’t equate to instability but is another reason why we all need digital boundaries.  

My advocacy for issues impacting women of colour is a topic I am passionate about.  Unfortunately speaking up about these critical social issues can be even more of a challenge, as being outspoken can lead to being labelled.   


My advocacy for issues impacting women of colour is a topic I am passionate about.  Unfortunately speaking up about these critical social issues can be even more of a challenge, as being outspoken can lead to being labelled.    

Sabby Jey

The corporate side of business and being engaged with brands I love does see me needing to find a balance between sharing my personal views and brand collaborations.  I have to strike a balance between expressing my personal opinions and speaking up alongside my corporate work of being engaged by brands I love, because understandably they have their own audience to answer to.

For me, social media is a path that involves authenticity, resilience, optimism and balance and overall it is a wonderful community.

You’re also doing a lot of work with brands and PR companies, helping with education around diversity and being more inclusive. Can you tell us about what that looks like and what you’re doing?

I have developed a BIPOC inclusion initiative which is a low-key service provided to PR companies and the brands they represent.  The initiative is a free resource on inclusivity workshops, pitching lists, confidential community feedback, as well as assisting with crisis communication when a brand receives negative feedback around not being inclusive. Over the past few years, more than 30 NZ based PR companies have shown interest in this initiative, which attests to the resonance and an aspiration for change.  Initiating the process with mini-inclusivity workshops, open conversations around what is working and the challenges when it comes to inclusivity has been valuable in helping them steer toward a more inclusive path.

In addition, I have extended the platform for content creators to discuss their experiences and observations.  I have put forward BIPOC creators to brands and in turn also helped content creators reach out to brands they would like to work with.  While the conversations often remain private their significance is not to be understated. 

In the past speaking up or complaining hasn’t been effective.  Instead, engaging in heartfelt one-on-one discussions has fostered an environment for growth and change by brands and PR companies.  It’s evident that that effecting change from a standpoint of compassion has been more positive than speaking out.  Through this initiative, I’ve contributed to a shift in the industry’s approach to greater inclusivity where brands are inspired to rise to the occasion and demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity.

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