For a majority of us, our relationship with social media is relegated to a cheeky glance at our phone over a break at the office, or plopping down on the couch for a few swipes down the ol’ timeline. Others complain they spend too much time on “Insta” by spending hours liking the day’s spiciest memes, or obsessively replaying a random dog’s “stories.” When excessive social media use crosses into unhealthy territory, it can affect mental health.
But what if social media is literally your job? Does a daily mission to be constantly present and engaged on social lead to similar behavior after hours? Our social media manager at Talkspace, JoAnna Di Tullio, shared a diary of how running social media for a popular brand affects her social media intake, and if she’s ever able to truly disengage from “the scroll.”
A Social Media Manager’s Daily Diary
First alarm goes off. I’m exhausted after spending the night tossing and turning (thanks insomnia). I hit snooze.
Snooze (yes, I am this person).
Okay, okay, okay, I’m up. I grab my phone as if on autopilot and start my initial morning phone checks: texts, weather, bank, emails, and last but not least, Instagram. I do a quick feed scroll and watch the first few stories that appear. I always look forward to my initial morning social check to see what rolled in while I was asleep. It’s like a little rush.
Make no mistake about it, social media is addictive. I let myself get lost for a few minutes before I get up to caffeinate and work out.
Waiting for the L train (the working title of my memoir). I’m standing on a subway platform in a sea of Brooklynites all waiting to cram on to the next jam-packed train into Manhattan –– everyone is equally tired and frustrated yet sedated by the cool blue light of their phones.
I catch a glimpse of the girl standing next to me who is filming a Snapchat story, the dude to my right is Facebook stalking what looks like a possible love interest…everywhere around me is the aimless scroll, the blank looks, the lack of human connect.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of the same behavior but it still gets me down sometimes. Ahhh, it’s going to be one of those days.
I roll in to work, large coffee in hand, and get ready to settle in to the day. I run social media and brand partnerships at Talkspace, so you could say I’m pretty “in it” as far as the digital world goes.
Social can be a double-edged sword. There’s so much good it can do –– it has the power to connect, inspire, teach, and organize people. I know a girl who was separated from her twin sister at birth and almost 25 years later reconnected all because of Facebook. Following the election of President Trump, women connected across all social channels to organize a march that drew nearly 5 million participants worldwide. In fact, social media has been one of the quickest and most efficient means of rallying people around causes, for better or for worse (see the 2017 election results).
It’s a powerful force –– use it at your own risk.
By now I’ve checked notifications on all of our accounts, responded to customer inquiries, and queued up content for the day. I love this aspect of my job –– getting to connect with people who are looking to improve their lives and sharing ways to do it.
As a long-time participant in therapy myself, I believe deeply in our mission to de-stigmatize therapy and increase access to mental health care. I feel grateful for the opportunity to work for a company that’s disrupting the mental health space and focusing on how technology can be used as a force for good.
Before I grab lunch I check back in on our notifications to make sure nothing has popped up that needs attention. Social media is often the first line of contact between Talkspace and our users so it’s really important that I stay attentive and connected.
But if I’m being fully transparent here, between the allure of the endless scroll and the voyeuristic element, it’s hard not to fall down a rabbit hole: “This person got back together with who?!” And, “This dress looks so beautiful against the backdrop of the South of France.” And, “Look at how colorful this Acai bowl is!” Next thing I know, I’m unsure where the past 25 minutes have gone. Sound familiar?
Around this point in the afternoon is where I start to get restless. My energy dips, I’m slightly irritable, and my focus starts to wane. It’s particularly bad on days when I haven’t given myself a proper screen break (something I really need to work on).
We have the NYC luxury of working next to Central Park –– a perk that in warmer months provides the perfect place to take a little mental break. The key here is to not find my way to the park only to get lost in my Instagram feed again…The struggle is real!
I go through periods of time where I am really vigilant about my own social media use. I deactivated my personal Facebook account a few years ago, following a tough break up. I only set out to take a month long break, but after a month I realized that I felt happier and less anxious so I stayed off “the ‘book.” I don’t regret this decision; in fact, I recommend everyone take a break from Facebook! Yes, this social media manager is telling you to get the hell off social media!
Energy starts to spike back up and I feel the immediate urge to check my personal Instagram. I resist. It’s hard, but necessary.
I’ve noticed more and more how Instagram has a numbing effect. Feeling bored? Sad? Scared? Angry? Lonely? Tired? Get lost in a world of influencers, exotic vacations, and 6-pack abs. Sorry, am I beginning to sound like a cynic here? It’s the inevitable truth of a day spent hovering over a tiny screen.
Getting ready to wrap up and call it a day. I take a quick scan of my to-do list. Not bad, got through the non-negotiables and a few of the bigger picture items.
I have to admit, some days I feel like I don’t get as much done as I could have. When I trace back to the culprit it’s usually because of excessive time spent on social media. It’s a real catch-22 for someone whose job it is to be on social media all day….
Finally home and settling in for the evening. After work, I make it a point to do something physically social, whether it’s a yoga class with a friend, dinner, or hanging out with friends. It’s something that I prioritize after a day spent at work and online.
Around this time is usually when I try to write (in an actual journal) and meditate. The goal here is to resist the urge to pick up my phone. Lately I’ve been trying to focus on cultivating better sleep hygiene because of my struggle with insomnia. I used to bring my phone to bed with me –– now I
don’t am getting better.
The truth is, I’ve let myself get really lax about my screentime. I find myself compulsively reaching for my phone, panicking when I can’t find it for 2 seconds, and then finding an instant sense of calm with the wash of the blue-lit screen. As I write this, I realize that it’s probably time to get back to being more vigilant….
Shit! Still scrolling.
Phone down, panic on, eyes closed. Tomorrow I’ll be better.
Reflecting on the Social Life
As you can see, making social media such a large part of your personal and professional lives requires balance. Occasional guilt for overindulging is okay, and reminds us that we recognize the need for limits. It’s also important we connect with people face-to-face to keep us grounded in reality.
If playing the “comparison game” on social media makes you unhappy, or you feel excessive social use is having an effect on your mental health, this may be a sign to seek assistance. Social media, like other addiction-prone activities, is often used as an escape from larger mental health issues that should be addressed. Talkspace therapists have experience helping others through their unhealthy reliance on social media, and are there for you if you need help.
Photo Credit: Thought Catalog