If I hear another person say “hashtag” before anything in a normal face-to-face conversation I’m moving to the woods.
Don’t get me wrong, I am drawn toward social media as much as the next person and as with most jobs in marketing and communications these days, social media is woven into the fabric of my professional life. But I do get so utterly sick of it sometimes. It’s exhausting, watching a too-fast-to-keep-up-with stream of people posturing about their personal and professional accomplishments and idyllic lives, workplaces, pets, and everything in between.
It’s one thing to deal with this social torrent on a personal level, but when it’s part of our job description as marketers and content creators, the existential struggle of navigating the world of social media becomes something we need to consider seriously. It turns out that social media depression is a real thing, and we need to talk about it.
What is social media depression?
Social media depression results from a continual comparison we make (often unconsciously) between ourselves and others online. If you’ve ever felt like your life just doesn’t seem to measure up to the happiness and success of all those around you, you’ve experienced the kind of digital comparison-making that can lead to depression.
Anxiety with social media use is so common that we’ve coined a new abbreviation to describe one of its facets: fear of missing out (FOMO). FOMO was even added to the Oxford English Dictionary way back in 2013. But wait, isn’t this just the digital version of keeping up with the Joneses, you might say? Isn’t this just a part of human nature?
Well, yes. But a new study reviewing all the research done on the connection between social networking and depression suggests that the comparisons we make online can lead to greater depression than those we make offline. So our once manageable levels of dissatisfaction and unhappiness could be getting worse.
But for marketers, content creators, and social media managers, the problem leaks into our professional lives. We may feel more like we’re missing out on important career opportunities and professional development when we look at the professional successes of the people around us. Our writing, creative thinking, our marketing campaigns, and our communication strategies may seem to pale in comparison to hundreds of others we’re bombarded with every day.
Yes, there is still hope!
Now for a bit of shameless self-promotion for the purpose of providing a personal anecdote. One of my hobby projects is running a travel website called Anew Traveller. I am constantly looking to other successful travel writers and bloggers who seem to be doing it better than I am. I am surrounded by people who have more social media followers, post more frequently, have more stunning looking websites, and just seem to be winning at life in a way that I am not. It makes it difficult to maintain the kind of passion and excitement I have for travel that feeds my creativity and motivation for running the site.
So how do I keep doing it? I remind myself that nobody is doing the same thing I am. I have a unique brand and approach to travel content, and I work with some extremely qualified and talented people (friends from my master’s degree in communication). I know that I could just as easily compare my site to many others who don’t have the level of quality of content, style, attention to detail, creative thinking and drive to give back. I know that my team values real, authentic storytelling and not just click-bait for ad revenue. We value meaningful travel content, not photos of scantily clad people jumping on beaches. We are careful and selective about sponsored content and the relationships we pursue.
But one of the most important things I try to do is to not get lost in the online world. I take a finite time to take a look at what others are doing, then I refocus on my own efforts. Just as I compare my work with others I admire online, I compare with those I do not admire. I am constantly reminding myself of how people fabricate an ideal identity online, picking and choosing the highlights to share and skipping over the lowlights. A person or a company’s appearance online is a small fraction of the whole picture.
How to Change Your Perspective
Keep these tips in mind to avoid the downward spiral of social media depression:
- Remember that what you see online is not the full picture.
- Practice comparing yourself and your work with a balance of those you think are doing better and those you think are doing worse. Organizations should make a habit of holding meetings that offer a balanced perspective on employees’ work and rewarding employees according to their own personal growth in addition to the growth of the company.
- Realize that you are not missing out on anything, you are charting your own individual course through life and work.
- Reclaim your time from social media and learn how to step away from your devices. Organizations can consider implementing times at work when employees are encouraged to tune out of the online social world, or policies like no phones in meetings.
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About the Author
BiographyMore Content by Nicola Brown