Why unplugging is important
In an age where we are constantly switched on, it is more important than ever to be able to switch off. As today (17th September) is National Social Media Manager’s Day, I wanted to tell you a bit about my day job and how important it is for me to unplug and protect my mental health.
This national day is the brainchild of Helen and Lesley Reynolds from Comms Creatives. They decided to celebrate the work of people like me because so many people don’t actually realise what we do for a living. They don’t realise that we’re the people behind the brands, the brains behind the campaigns and the anonymous voices behind the tweets. Basically, we have a pretty important job as social media managers and want to shout about it.
For the past 10 years, I’ve worked in public relations. I worked in fast paced PR agencies for years before moving into the charity sector. When I first started out in communications, social media was in its infancy and relatively new. Mobile phones of the time, back in 2010, didn’t have the access they do now to apps or anything else. Social networking as a whole was a new concept and if you wanted to check your Facebook or MySpace page (remember that?!), you’d have to log onto your computer/laptop for the privilege. Technology wasn’t as prevalent and was quite a separate thing. With my Blackberry, which I loved, I could just about check my emails and once I’d read them, that was that.
Roll on 10 years and we all pretty much live on our phones. Leaving the house without your phone can be anxiety-inducing, not checking Facebook or Instagram for 10 minutes makes you sweat and addiction to social media is a very real thing. They’re scary times we’re living in. If you haven’t watched ‘The Social Dilemma’ on Netflix yet, I urge you to do so. It will make you think differently about social media.
Because of the above, it’s really difficult, when you work in that environment, to unplug and step away. You’re constantly ‘on call’, checking messages and responding to people on a Saturday night when you’re in your pj’s watching Britain’s Got Talent. In my current job, I help a charity with their communications which includes helping to manage their five social media channels. As with other roles before, I would be checking them around the clock and worst of all, replying to people. Like millions of other people, I work Monday to Friday until 5pm and should be clocking off and not working over that unless asked. Without realising, social media users have access to social media managers around the clock, and, because we care, we continue to respond to queries.
As with anyone, it’s so important to look after your mental health where social media is involved. Sometimes, while aimlessly scrolling, I can feel my anxiety rising, my self esteem getting lower and my brain close to exploding with information. Us social media managers are dedicated to our causes but sometimes, even we need a break. Below are a few things I’ve implemented to make sure I’m looking after my mind where work and socials are concerned:
I’ve turned off notifications
By doing this, I noticed I check my platforms less. It took some getting used to but it made me less anxious looking at my phone without all the read notification symbols popping up. The only notification I keep on is for my emails because I’m never inundated with those and no one expects me to reply out of hours/weekends.
Set a limit on apps like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook
Every week I was getting a screen report telling me that I was wasting nearly four hours every day on social media. That shocked me. All that aimless scrolling was costing me precious time. I’d definitely advise activating your weekly screen report just so you can see how often your mind is flooded by social media.
Set a screen time limit between 10pm – 7am
This is a great function on my iPhone! I noticed that I’d be checking both work and personal channels while watching TV, in the bath tub and in bed before going to sleep. Now, I’m a prolific reader and love getting stuck into a good book but I was so distracted, I’d be up most of the night on my phone. Setting a limit means that apart from text and phone calls, no other notifications disturb you during those hours. It means I can go to bed and read in peace without the distraction of my phone!
Only check social media during office hours
I bet, like me, you only work certain hours, Monday to Friday. The rest of the time is your own. Due to lockdown, it’s been trickier to distinguish between work and life and having a balance. That’s why I make sure I only check the work social channels when I’m working. We have a little auto-responder on Facebook to let people know we’ll be in touch when we’re back in work. It sets a more realistic expectation than them thinking they’ll get an immediate response.
It’s super important if you manage a brand’s social media that you know when to switch off. If we’re always switched on, everything will start to get blurry and we won’t be able to see the wood for the trees. It’s vital that your mind stays healthy and your mental health is in a good place to ensure you can give the job you love the attention it deserves (with boundaries!).