In early September, I had to write an article about corn. The Corn Kid took over social media, and as an Editorial Writer for Sprout, it was my job to cover it. In terms of workload, it wasn’t a heavy lift. But this article came with a new challenge. I had to wade through approximately 600,000 videos–all using the same sound–to get the content.
To say it took a toll would be an understatement. I found myself whispering “it has the juice” under my breath while on the phone with my mom. I couldn’t tell you what my date across the table said five minutes ago, but when it came to corn, “I [could] tell you all about it”. When I had to spend hours consuming corn-related content, “everything changed”. Even now, thinking back on it makes me want to curl up in a corn husk.
Social media is interesting–news outlets want to write about it, your friends want to talk about it and it’s a way for most people to zone out for a few blissful hours of scrolling. It’s great to love what you do, but it’s not so great when work is everywhere you turn. If you’re an SEO marketer, you’re constantly looking for new keywords. But when it’s time to take a break, you probably don’t get texts and push notifications about the latest Google algorithm change.
Social media marketers have to achieve work/life balance in a world that increasingly focuses on their work.
So how do you manage it? After my corn incident, I came up with a list of dos and don’ts to maintain my sanity. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than burnout, which 63% of marketers have experienced in the last three months.
Social media and your social circle
Has this ever happened to you? You’re meeting new people for the first time and they ask what you do. You say you work in social media and now that’s the hot topic for the rest of the night.
Like I said before, social media is interesting. It’s engineered to capture our attention. After all, that’s why we have jobs in the first place. But sometimes it’s interesting at inopportune times, like when all you want is to escape, but people keep sending you versions of a fall harvest meme in an attempt to relate to you. Or when you’ve had a particularly rough day and might throw your phone into Lake Michigan, but the friend you’re having a drink with wants your take on whether or not a TikTok trend is real.
Don’t despair. There are things you can do to mitigate this without alienating your friends.
Don’t: Assume everyone will automatically understand why social media is complicated for you
My job at Sprout involves identifying social media trends and writing about them. To know if something is a trend or just trending in my corner of the internet, I have to consume a lot of social content.
For a lot of my friends and family, this seems like a dream scenario. After all, they scroll through Twitter when they’re pretending to work. I don’t even have to pretend! It’s seemingly perfect. I had to make the effort to consciously explain why it can be difficult when there’s something hard to read in the news cycle or when a repetitive trend catches on. They didn’t know until I told them. Communication is usually the answer.
Do: Be honest about your relationship with social media
As a social media marketer, you have an inherently different relationship with social media than your friends and family do. You have every right to tell them you’d rather disconnect from work right now. Change the subject if you need to.
Social media and traditional media
Once upon a time, newspapers were the only way to get your news. Then, we got TV. TV didn’t make print publications obsolete, but print publications started writing about TV. We got TV Guides, episode recaps and season reviews. The point is, when new media comes on the scene, older media wants to comment on it.
I don’t think I have to tell you how this relates to social media. Whether the piece is about usage rates, “dangerous” teen trends (that are usually fake) or platform changes, traditional media outlets can’t stop talking about social media.
As a social media marketer, it can seem impossible to be a reasonably informed person while also achieving something that resembles work-life balance.
Do: Turn off push notifications
I know. If you’re anything like me, you pride yourself on always knowing what’s going on. But sometimes, it’s better not to know–in real-time, at least. If it’s important enough, you’ll find out when you log onto Twitter next. Anything you really need to be informed of in the next 20 minutes would probably come from an OS notification anyway. Do yourself a favor and take a break.
Don’t: Live by minute-by-minute updates
Sometimes a developing story is juicy. It’s easy to get sucked into a live article, constantly refreshing to see if something new happened in the last 45 seconds. The best thing you can do is step away from your phone. Developing stories are fascinating, but strong mental health is the gift that keeps on giving. Don’t trade your sanity for a dubious update from an unnamed source. The information will be better when the story is complete.
Social media for social distraction
Quick, you’re about to make eye contact with a stranger! What do you do? The correct answer is to pull out your phone and scroll through social media, pretending you got a text.
But is it the correct answer? It’s definitely the most common answer. Whether you’re sitting alone on a bus and don’t want to be bothered, waiting for a friend alone at a restaurant and don’t want to be bothered or sitting alone on your couch (and don’t want to be bothered), the instinct is to pull out your phone. Everyone does it.
But social media marketers aren’t like everyone. Like I said before, we have an inherently different relationship with social media. So while your friends can pull out their phones and zone out, when you pull out your phone, you’re going back into work mode. You’re probably not going to like my answer to this one, but it’s important.
Do: Put your phone away (yes, really)
This is an unpopular opinion. When my manager suggested that I stop spending time on social media outside of work hours, I wanted to grab her through the Zoom screen and shake her. What would I do with all of that time? It was an unfathomable concept.
But, begrudgingly, I’ve come to realize she was right. How many times has someone you know smugly announced that they’re doing a social media detox? And how many times have you secretly been jealous because you couldn’t do that and continue to be employed? It might not be possible for us to completely cut out social media or other online behaviors for a month, but we can cut down where possible.
I’ve set a daily time limit on TikTok and it’s done wonders for my stress levels–without me missing out on much. One of my coworkers will only use desktop versions of certain apps so they’re clunkier and release less dopamine. You just have to get creative.
Don’t: Trade your sanity for an encyclopedic knowledge of trends
Social media marketers need extensive knowledge of trends to do their jobs well. But there’s a line to how extensive it needs to be. Admittedly, when I was writing about corn, I probably could have looked at 700 fewer videos and had the same quality product. But, as someone who works in social media, I was consumed by timeliness and the fear that the perfect example would come out as soon as I pressed publish. So, I pushed myself to watch more videos with significantly diminishing returns.
This don’t is a little less concrete, but it’s important to understand when you’ve gathered enough knowledge. You don’t have to spend all of your time on social to understand social.
So what now?
Hopefully, these tips have been helpful for you. Your relationship with social media is important but it has to be healthy.
In the spirit of breaking out of the algorithm, here are a few places you can start to reevaluate your relationship with social media.
Read about how Megan Thee Stallion launched a mental health resource hub and strengthened her brand.
Read this if you’re feeling burnt out and don’t know how to talk to your boss about it.
Read this for more social media burnout tips.