How to be mindful of your social media use... when your job involves social media
Experts are hailing 2019 as the year we finally put our devices down. A quick Google search brings up almost 9 million results for tips on reducing screen time. There are currently 93,000 Instagram posts tagged #DigitalDetox - and counting.
It’s clear we’re craving a more mindful way of life in a hectic, digital world. But it isn’t easy to achieve a happy medium - especially when a large portion of your working day involves spending time online.
As a social media manager who works remotely, I spend most of my time dealing with everything from influencer campaigns to Twitter Q & A’s. Putting my phone down and being present more often feels like something slightly out of reach.
For me, nurturing a healthy relationship with social media isn’t as simple as downloading an app that tells me when I’ve spent too long on Instagram. Or locking my phone away in a safe (an unrealistic tip I’ve seen numerous times across the ‘gram).
With demand for social media-related jobs at its highest, I know I’m not alone in feeling defeated by how much time I spend in the digital world. But I’ve found if we delve more deeply into our real feelings about social media, it’s possible to find that sweet spot.
Social media - a booming business.
Finding reasons to not engage with social media are thin on the ground. It feels as though even if you picked your job on the basis it has little to do with social media, the need to communicate digitally still looms.
Your boss may expect you to have a LinkedIn page. You might be a creative who needs an Instagram to showcase your work and secure that commission. And you can’t run an independent store without a Facebook page to exchange messages with your regulars.
It doesn’t help that over half of the UK workforce is predicted to be working from home by 2020. Incredible for flexibility and freedom - sometimes awful for defining your working hours. In short, the pressure is on… to always be switched on.
And then we get to the numbers. The average UK adult spends the equivalent of one day a week on social media. Unsurprisingly that number more than trebles when you work with social media (last week my screen time averaged 5 hours per day - yikes). So realistically, what can we do?
First of all, check your privilege
From studies on FOMO and whistleblowing Facebook moderators to the need for Harvey’s Law and the recent influencer backlash - it can be really hard to remember why we love the internet in the first place. And if you work with social media, that’s a problem.
To get back to a place of positivity it’s important to tune into those feelings. At the same time, we should take care to remember how privileged we are to have access to something designed to foster community and creativity. That’s why whenever I’m feeling dispassionate about the internet, I think about this tweet by the Black Disability Collective.
We’re incredibly lucky we’re able to find our tribe online and we shouldn’t forget it.
Decide what feels right for you
Living in the moment isn’t a new concept, but it’s one gaining greater traction as the ‘backlash’ against social media grows. In fact, over 2 million Instagram posts are dedicated to #TheArtOfSlowLiving - a movement that champions considered choices and a slower pace.
To have a healthy relationship with all things digital, I feel it’s important to embrace these concepts when using social media. Particularly when it’s a part of your working day.
Practically this means setting up start up pages on your browser during working hours to reduce the amount of content you absorb. Trying to only work on one screen at once (laptop or phone - not both). Or limiting the number of personal accounts you have to combat the ones you deal with professionally (I’ve made a considered choice not to have a personal Twitter or Facebook because I spend most of the week managing feeds for my clients).
Emotionally this means being mindful of what we’re consuming - especially when we’ve clocked out for the day. For example, slow living advocates are more likely to browse their favourite blog for an hour than refresh Twitter every few minutes.
Dedicating time to social media in a more intentional way gives us back control and allows us to more easily prioritise meaningful content. In fact, many Instagram subcultures from fashion to lifestyle are experiencing a revival of longform blogging as an antidote to content overload.
Essentially, applying the slow living approach to digital content is about finding things that enrich your life (and soul) rather than pacifying yourself with mundanity (however tempting the Daily Mail sidebar of shame may be).
Slow living for me, is also about embracing the life you’ve got. I’ve come to the conclusion my screen time will never be as low as a wilderness photographer based in the Shetland Islands. It’s part of my job and I’m okay with that. I’ve stopped focusing on the amount of time I spend on social media and more on the value it brings to my life. And I’m much happier for it.
Bring joy back to your social media experience
Whether you’ve had therapy, coaching or just a heart-to-heart with your hippy aunty, we’ve all heard of using meditation to calm ourselves or make big decisions. A common meditation is that almost-cliche ‘have a conversation with your inner child’. This is certainly something we can do to bring our true feelings on social media to the surface - and get back to the root of why we like using it.
When I do this, I think back to younger years spent looking at fashion photography on Tumblr and speaking to my cousins who lived at the opposite end of the country using Myspace and Facebook. Ahh, so innocent…
I then use these feelings to make decisions on my personal social media use. For me, this means ditching Twitter in favour of more visual social channels to reawaken those feelings of discovering fashion. And only following influencers that I feel genuinely want to connect and have a natter with their audience - reminiscent of conversations with my family.
It’s also important for me to help my clients to harness power of positive social media. Guiding them to build a diverse brand ambassador programme instead of paying bloggers to promote consumerism. Or encouraging them to engage real people with ‘random acts of kindness’. Healthy social media use is all about authenticity and genuine connection, and that’s something I’m passionate about sharing.
And finally (along with everyone on the planet) I’ve been inspired by the Marie Kondo phenomenon. I officially now only follow accounts that ‘spark joy’. This means you’re less likely to find me following a fast-fashion promoting celebrity and more likely to be following Pasta Grannies, Chinatown Pretty or Unconventional Acres (thank me later).
Do digital your way
This wonderful post shared by illustrator Emily Coxhead describes social media as a magazine designed to be flicked through. A pastime which can be picked up and put down at leisure. This can be difficult when your livelihood depends on your ability to connect with others online - but it does allow us to see social media in a more enjoyable way. Your way.
You may have to stick to a brief or use a social channel you don’t care for in your day job, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have control during your downtime. Empower yourself to unfollow the influencer you just can’t warm to, take a week off from Instagram and only blog about the things you really want to.
Who knows, you may just fall in love with social media all over again.
Abi Rose is a Pinterest-obsessed writer from the Peak District who enjoys living life at a slower pace. When she's not scribbling professionally, she works with inspiring independent businesses - helping them to tell their story through social media. Follow Abi on Instagram or check out what she does on her website
'Really' Illustration by Angie Muldowney of PaperPaper