Social media has many benefits. As we all know, it can be tremendous communications, public relations, and marketing tool. It has opened the possibilities for anyone and everyone to have a voice in the digital publishing age and has transformed the media and communications industries.
But on a personal level, it can also have its downsides. Especially for those of us who eat, sleep, and breathe in social media most waking hours of most days (and nights) because we manage social accounts for businesses, churches, ministries, authors, sports teams, celebrities, or any host of other public personas.
There are days when the always-on tyranny of the urgent gets old. There are the looks from your family at dinner when a tweet might be something urgent that needs to be answered. There are times when your friends are taking a “break” from social media, and it makes you a little jealous.
And then there’s the ugly underbelly of social media. When hiding behind a phone or keyboard, people can get downright mean, vindictive, or feel like it’s their calling from God to correct everyone that they disagree with on any issue, from politics to theology to sports. Watching and engaging with that on a daily basis can wear you out.
So, how do you stay mentally healthy when you really can’t turn it all off? How do you avoid burnout and not get sucked into finding your identity in your Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, or Twitter mentions?
Here are a few tips that I’ve found helpful.
Define the line between work and personal.
This is a difficult and blurry line for social media managers. Today, there’s often an expectation that you will use your personal profile and personal brand to be a voice of support for whatever your job is. That’s perfect for some people and jobs, but you may not always have a job where you agree with everything your employer says or does. It’s also highly likely that you won’t have that job forever, and then a career change leaves you with an online identity crisis.
You need to define what you are comfortable doing on your personal social profiles related to your job or industry. Do you want to be famous for your voice in the industry, or does privacy and anonymity matter more to you than recognition?
Make clear and healthy boundaries. Then as you manage your professional responsibilities with excellence, you can keep your personal accounts in the area where you’re comfortable.
Avoid comparison: Do what’s best for you.
The temptation to keep up with the Joneses can be a real problem for people who are always on social media, for business or personal reasons. The social media realm is full of people who are tweeting, Facebook-ing, Insta-storying, and all other types of content updates at what seems like an Olympic pace.
It’s very easy to get caught in the trap of thinking you have to do what everyone else does if you’re going to be seen as important in your job. If your peers are tweeting all night about business trends or the latest pop culture references, or Insta-storying their date night meal, and you feel like you need to be offline for the night, you’re going to be seen as irrelevant—right?
Don’t go there. Remember that life is not lived through an iPhone screen. Your identity is not tied to your Twitter @handle, and technology is simply a tool to be used by us. Do not place an improper amount of attention to the image you build of yourself online. Your friends, your marriage, and your kids will thank you.
Engage in the non-electronic
Find something that you love that doesn’t involve a screen or a phone. Physical books are a great retreat from the electronic world, as is cooking, cleaning, exercise, and just learning to sit in silence. I have tried to teach my kids the lost art of being perfectly content doing absolutely nothing. It’s a challenge!
What is a good non-electronic retreat for you? Find a few things that you think you would really enjoy, and visit them often for your own well being. And then take it to the next level—do that thing without tweeting about it or posting it on Instagram. You’ll be amazed at how it might feel.
Kyle is an experienced marketing and communications strategist; having developed and managed social strategy at an Atlanta-area hospital, a state university, and several churches and ministry organizations. He is the senior integrated digital marketing strategist at LifeWay.