When a bunch of social media managers told us they would rather like to take a break from social media, it set our editor’s head whirring. Just how can we take a break from something that is our job, without getting fired? Below is not a solution, but might be a starting point for further discussion.
Digital detoxes. They’re becoming quite the thing, aren’t they? Just like alcohol, meat and white male privilege, social media is increasingly being added to the list of things that people are giving up – at least temporarily.
I’ve witnessed this growing trend a lot recently; the idea of stepping back from social media was definitely young people seemed to identify with at this year’s YMS LDN, while in a survey run by this very website 49% of Higher Ed social media managers told us they would like to take a detox from Facebook, Twitter et al.
Now, for a young person wanting to get away from screens and explore the world a bit more, ditching the socials for a bit is fairly doable. For a person who pays their bills and puts food on their table by working on these channels every day, it’s a bit tougher.
In fact, I’d argue it’s one the toughest things going; for a social media manager, to give up social media.
Think about those vices I mentioned above; with a bit of focus, you can drop all of them with very little pain.
You want to give up alcohol, then don’t drink and don’t put yourself in alcohol-heavy situations. Want to give up meat? Don’t eat it. Google some vegetarian or vegan recipes and get on with it, safe in the knowledge you’re saving money, improving your health and helping the environment. Want to give up your privilege? Just stop being a dick then – simple.
But for a social media to give up those platforms? That’s like asking an accountant to give up spreadsheets, a builder to give up power tools or an HR worker to actually be helpful for a change.
So, what to do?
Just detox outside of work
The obvious response to this problem is to tell social media managers to get on with their damned jobs and, if they’re that bothered, to not use social media outside of the 9-5.
But, does anyone really think that would help? Surely the point of a detox is to totally rid yourself of whatever you’re detoxing from. This approach would be like all those Dry January evangelists only abstaining for half a day at a time – I wouldn’t sponsor that.
If a social media manager really wants a social detox, they need to be able to avoid the day job for a bit too. Which leads us onto…
Combine it with a holiday
Another plausible solution is to have your social media detox while you’re on your jollies. It certainly appears to be an easier option.
It’s something that Darren Caveney from comms2point0 tried last year, with great success by the looks of his write-up.
However, there are a couple of things worth pointing out here. First, Darren admitted working 60-70 weeks ‘for a good slab of time’ in order to put himself in a position where he could switch off for a week.
Second, well, you might like using social media when on holiday. You might search Instagram for great places to go and see with your own eyes, you might check out reviews on Facebook for that restaurant you’re thinking about for dinner, or you might even just enjoy posting your snaps for the world to see and be jealous of.
A more drastic approach would be to change careers. But, most social media managers do actually like their job. It’s just that this job is unique in blurring the work/life balance boundaries.
How many other professions out there are centred on something that is as omnipresent in our personal lives as social media? There can’t be many.
Sadly, I don’t have a silver bullet for all of this. All I’ve got is a keyboard, a website and, ironically, some social media channels to spread the word.
A challenge for employers
So, what should be done if a social media manager really wants to take a social detox?
To start with, their request shouldn’t be ignored. You don’t have to search very far to find studies about the detrimental health effects of social media and, if someone is actively looking to take a break, those effects will only get worse. You don’t want social media burnout.
Employers in this situation should be willing to help – at least for a specific time period.
How about offering some sort of job swap or work shadowing for a week or two? Let your social media manager experience life elsewhere for a bit and then return the favour. You’ll give them the break they want and a great experience of what else goes on in your company.
And, how about encouraging your social media people to keep work stuff off their personal devices? Give them a work phone for work stuff and only expect that device to be switched on out of hours when absolutely necessary. And pay for them for any time where they do have to switch on that device.
And, lastly, how about not putting the responsibility for social media on the shoulders of one person? After all, social media is a communications channel. The ability to use it professionally should be an essential skill for any marketer, communicator, customer service agent and, if we’re being honest, leader in 2018.
Upskill your team, get them involved and trust them to do it properly. You’ll have a much more robust and sustainable approach to social media and you’ll be able to do more with it. Not least allowing your social media expert to lead on strategy and bigger picture stuff to really make your social media fly.
Right after their detox, of course!