How many social media accounts do you have? On most days I log into eight to ten different social media accounts for personal and business use on a variety of platforms – Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. Some of which look ignored because I, like most mom-preneuers, have a long to-do list that does not include updating my Twitter daily. Why do I have so many accounts? For the most part I believed that I needed them to run my businesses. In light of recent experiences and the toll taken on my mental and physical health, I have cut back.
Social media is everywhere – phones, desktops, watches, and tablets. Easy access is tempting, especially as a small business owner. Every moment could be content, a way to connect, to express your brand and grow your following. The need to have your phone in hand becomes constant because without it you’d feel naked. Or gasp! miss an opportunity to post. However, being online 24/7/365, the borders between personal and business crumble. Future clients and followers no longer ask questions during just business hours – you appear constantly accessible and therefore you are.
Social media is edited content. It showcases only glimpses of real life. However, managing that social media image is not the fairy-tale it appears to be. Likes, comments, and shares are a constant rating game as a business owner. Social media opens a person up, creating vulnerability with the inadequate communication skills of others. While certain platforms are more visual and uplifting, others have a habit of taking the toxic route. This negativity can be harming to one’s mental, emotional, and physical self. The negative comments of a few can taint a public image, business, family name and future relationships.
In real life, bullies must look at your face when they are mean to you. They go home and hopefully, there is a safe place for you too – your home. However, with social media I have found that the 24/7/365 access limits your ability to have a moment’s peace. Social media does not stop because you put down your phone. It keeps going; so do the bullies. I’m vulnerable while volunteering at a town festival, while I sleep, or during a Sunday afternoon brunch with friends. The pings from my phone greet me in the morning, alerts flash on my watch during a movie, drawing my attention from my four-old daughter to people I hardly know.
How to Detox
1. Acknowledge – Social media is not social. According to Merriam Webster, by definition social is “marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with friends or associates” or “the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society.” What occurs on social media platforms is written communication. There are no facial or physical cues that we use when interacting with each other. Simply put, even dogs would be confused by the “social” behavior on these platforms. Imagine if they were completely unable to see another dog’s tail wag, hair raise, or lip curl.
Even adults can be cyberbullies. Comments that name-call, threaten, or slander your name on public platforms should not be confused as conversations with “friends”. Cyberbullying as defined by Stopbullying.gov – “sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation.”
2. Boundaries – This past fall I placed at the bottom of my emails a statement to force myself to adhere to my own new rule. Feel free to copy and paste, adjusting the hours and wording to fit your life:
*Please Note: Replies occur between 5 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday – Friday. Weekend emails will receive a reply Monday morning. Thank you for understanding my time with my family. In case of emergency, please text or call.
3. Moderation is key – A little bit goes a long way. How much time do you think you are spending on social media? Try tracking it. This summer, after months of managing several social media accounts for both businesses I felt overwhelmed. The fact that I was charging my phone twice a day should have been a warning. I began by setting calendar reminders to check my email and social media in an effort to limit and contain the amount of time and energy I was spending. I also leave my phone in another room while I sleep to prevent late night scrolling should I wake up. Most recently, I took Facebook and Facebook Messenger off of my phone after threatening messages, from someone I have never met, ruined a family movie night.
Be Social – For Real
With these new habits I discovered a new sense of freedom. My phone spends less time plugged into the wall and in my hand. I spend more time connecting with real people. I sleep better and have less stress. Which means more energy for me. Most importantly, I am present because there is less static to distract me. This January everyone else is detoxing from food and wine. I, however, will be more social. You can find me with friends at my favorite restaurants and fitness clubs if you’d like to say hello.
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