Despite the name, social media can be remarkably isolating.
I read a great article from the BBC recently that surveyed 1800 social media users on how social media made them feel. The study found that it not only added stress to the respondents’ lives, but also increased awareness of the stress of others.
This stuff feels all pretty on the nose, given that right now we’re currently self-quarantining due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a little stir-crazy and a little starved for human interaction. Social media has maybe never been more important for keeping us informed and in touch with the world.
But man, social media can be a mixed bag
On the one hand, social media is the best!
I love the way it puts me in touch with my audience’s likes and dislikes, how I can connect organically with users and find new ways of doing business. It’s also been a powerful way to handle customer service interactions quickly and organically.
Plus, it’s fun. You get to network and meet people no matter where they are in the world.
On the flip side, however, social media is exhausting.
Those customer service and sales interactions can be deeply draining. If you’re a business owner running into criticism online, it’s really easy for those negative social media interactions to ruin your whole week. And social media notifications can feel like a never-ending, constantly dinging to-do list that just goes on forever and ever.
How can we use social media for business without going a little nuts?
The thing that has saved me from getting buried under the negative side effects of social media was learning to navigate it in a mindful, intentional way. Marketers love productivity tips and algorithm pointers, but I think mindfulness is something that we should talk more about.
Back in 2016, I’d been running my business managing social platforms for my clients for a few years. Every day it felt like I was drowning in notifications, and I was getting this awful, panicky anxiety every time I heard my phone ding. On top of that, it was a political election year in the States, and it was an especially negative time on the internet.
My anxiety skyrocketed, and I was really wondering if social media was really the career for me. But I didn’t want to give up my business, so I knew something needed to change.
Turn Off Notifications
The first thing I did was to turn off my notifications.
I only let texts and messages from my team come through on my lock screen. To this day, I don’t get notifications for email, Instagram, DMs, nothing. And honestly? It’s incredible.
I block in dedicated time for checking emails and notifications at specific times during the day, with a notification set to remind myself to check my socials once a day in case I forget. I rarely miss messages, and I no longer feel the icy grip of anxiety every time I look at my cell phone.
Bliss, I tell you. Pure bliss. Now, I even enjoy my social media! What a concept!
Meditate. (No, Really)
The second thing I did was to learn how to meditate. I wanted to strengthen the “walls” of my mind to strengthen myself up so that social media wouldn’t constantly take all my mental energy.
I downloaded Headspace, which is an app full of guided audio tracks that walk you through a meditation. (This isn’t a sponsorship, I just love the app!)
I admit that the first five times I tried it, I felt next to nothing. Maybe my brain was broken? Maybe my head was incapable of achieving stillness even for two seconds?
But by the sixth time I meditated, this insane thing happened.
I didn’t think about anything.
If you’re a busy-brain like me, you will understand how crazy that is. It was mind-blowing! I don’t think I’ve ever not thought about something before. It only lasted a moment, but it changed my approach to social media.
After that, I was able to much better regulate my emotions around social media, which gave me a lot more control over my experience. I felt way less frantic about everything.
Curate Your Experience
A third tactic I employ is to be very deliberate about what I allow on my feed and who I work with.
For example, on Facebook if I see someone whose posts stress me out or make me feel angry or judgmental, I just unfriend them. It’s nothing against that person, but personally I don’t have the stamina to walk around exhausted by every Facebook political post that wanders onto my feed. It’s better for everyone if I just opt out of that cycle of emotional upheaval by unfollowing or unfriending.
I’m equally deliberate about who I network with, specifically collaboration partners. For me, because I talk a lot about social media, most of my best clients aren’t actually on social media. That’s why they need to hire me, after all!
So I like to network with people who are tuned into people who could use my services. Take my collaborator Travis. I met him on Instagram and hired him after we got on a call to talk about a partnership. I ended up hiring him because I liked his energy.
It was organic, natural, and open minded. I think that kind of spontaneous yet deliberate connection is why social media is a little bit magic.
Wrap It in Compassion
My last tip is to pour a little honey on it.
People can be ugly on the internet, and it’s a little disorienting to come face to face with a spewing troll typing misspelled, all-caps hate in your timeline. Believe me, I get it. But in my experience, the only way to emerge from that exchange without going nuts is to wrap the whole thing in compassion.
I see this happen a lot on Facebook ads. Some people reply to Facebook ads with a lot of hate, probably because they weren’t expecting to see it. But if you’re the one placing those ads, it can be really frustrating to get some random hate comment from a stranger who doesn’t understand how targeted marketing works. It used to really upset me, if I’m honest!
But when I tried looking at it more compassionate and sympathetically, I found that it was much less likely to ruin my whole day. Just thinking, “hey, I bet that person is stressed out if they’re out here railing on a Facebook ad,” made it easier for me to let go of my anger and move on.
It freed me from feeling so lousy about it. And really, with social media, isn’t that kind of the name of the game?
How do we handle negativity and criticism with grace and compassion?
It’s a tall order, but by being deliberate and empathetic, by learning to unwind and get your thoughts to chill out, your professional life on social media can be a lot less manic.
I recently launched a new series called the “Social Media Unwind.” It’s a bite-sized, mindful meditation series for online entrepreneurs and digital content creators, and my goal is to help you relieve stress and tension.
I totally understand how working professionally at social media can be stressful, and I’m excited to share the podcast with you. They’re short and sweet, guided, and down-to-earth, and I hope you find them helpful.
Search for “Social Media Unwind” wherever you get your podcasts, or check it out at SocialMediaUnwind.com.
Andréa Jones is a social media strategist who works with lifestyle brands to build their online presence through targeted social media and content marketing solutions. She's also the founder of SavvySocialSchool.com – a membership community with everything you need to achieve visibility, growth, and engagement on social media.