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Netflix’s ‘The Social Dilemma’, Social Media Management, and Mental Health

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Written by Eleanor Kilduff on November 4th, 2020
Digital Content Creator, Ell, talks about the steps they’ve taken to protect their mental health as a social media marketer & offers some tips to help you be kind to your mind when working with social media.

I recently watched Netflix’s The Social Dilemma, a documentary giving insight into the social media algorithms designed to keep us engaged and active, using our devices, and continuing to scroll. For many, it was an eye-opening experience making them rethink their own relationship with their phone and their social media accounts.

The documentary went into some detail about how specific aspects of using social media, such as our potential emotional ties to engagement with our content (i.e. how many likes we get on our posts and how this makes us feel) and what sort of content we encounter can make us feel negatively about our self-worth.

The revelation that social media algorithms used tactics to essentially keep us hooked to our screens in a way that made it highly addictive, while not a shock for people in my industry, means that we really should be thinking a bit more about our wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of our audience.

As someone in the field of digital marketing who spends hours every day on social media, I thought a lot about the potential implications for our mental health as social media marketers and if there’s anything we can take away from The Social Dilemma to help better protect the mental wellbeing of ourself and our audience and, as we do so, become more thoughtful digital marketers.

Settings to protect our minds

As a takeaway from The Social Dilemma, where the experts interviewed advised us to limit and monitor the time we spend on social media, my first piece of advice for social media marketers would be to only have the professional accounts you manage signed in on your work phone. If you’ve not done so already, save your personal phone for your personal accounts and get a work phone for the rest if you can and haven’t done so already. To help you make the case, there are plenty of higher end smartphone handsets that will suit a social media marketer’s needs available at under the £200 mark, such as the Samsung Galaxy A series.

Similarly, check your notification settings to make sure you’re only getting notified about things you really want to know. I personally turned off all notifications other than being tagged in posts so I wouldn’t get pulled in by anything that didn’t really matter to me; I also turned off all email notifications – I wanted to make sure that I only engaged with social media on my own terms, rather than them emailing me to get me to come back!

I also found that using a screen time monitor to set how many hours a day I’m comfortable spending on social media has been extremely helpful for me. Whatever settings you choose, make sure that they reflect the way you want to use social media. Give yourself a fighting chance against the addictive nature of smartphones by tailoring those settings to benefit you.

Take steps to make your social media less addictive.


Content to boost our self esteem

I began to curate my social media feeds to reflect things that I wanted to keep seeing and that made me feel good about myself. This mostly consists of cat pics, tasty vegan treats, body positivity, and LGBT pride posts. As I find things that uplift me, I avoid things that make me feel negatively, like leaving Facebook groups where I’d find myself drawn into pointless arguments with internet strangers.

To help spread positivity in our work as social media marketers, I believe this kind of selectivity regarding content should extend to our audience. We should aim to share things we think won’t have a negative impact on someone’s mental wellbeing. We should generate and share content that we’d feel good about seeing in our own feeds.

This doesn’t mean we can’t share things about important issues we care strongly about, even if these make us feel a bit uncomfortable – it just means that a consideration for audience wellbeing should be something we take seriously.

Follow content that lifts you up, rather than puts you down.


Engagement statistics =/= personal value

A big part of the documentary that really struck a nerve with me was a dramatized section about a young teenage girl using social media. After posting a selfie to Instagram and receiving a low number of likes, making her feel really bad about herself, she deleted the image and reposted the photo, this time heavily edited, in order to garner more likes and comments.

While a big part of our role as social media marketers means paying close attention to audience engagement on our content, we need to know how to separate the content from our own self-worth. We know the value of likes and shares but must try to resist taking any lack of engagement personally.

It can be really easy to tie a lot of your self-worth to the content you create – maybe even as much as someone might tie to a selfie. We think so carefully about the content we generate and put a lot of time and effort into our craft, so it’s easy to take low engagement as a reflection of the quality of our work and even our own value.

There are many factors going on behind the scenes that affect engagement, and while we know that as social media marketers better than anyone, we have to bear that in mind before we fret about low engagement on content we create.

Likes and shares do not define your personal value.


Taking a break as self-care

Remember that while you might have to use social media for work, that doesn’t mean you’re tied to it in your personal life. After a few years of what felt like a toxic relationship with Facebook where I felt like I couldn’t leave because I had to use it for work, I now rarely go on it for personal use and I’m so much happier for it.

I’m not telling anyone to give up social media, it’s a wonderful tool and the source of many people’s livelihoods (including my own). Just make sure you’re getting more out of social media than you put into it and you’re giving as much of yourself to it as you want to, rather than it pulling you in against your will.

Especially in times like these when we’re spending far more time indoors, social media can make a wonderful window to the outside world and help connect people when they can’t be together. We can always be better social media marketers and I think those who take steps to protect their mental wellbeing, and by extension the wellbeing of their audience, will be much better for it.

It’s okay to take a break from social media. Social media isn’t real life.


Final thoughts

Social media is a wonderful, powerful, complex thing that’s revolutionised how we communicate. For us marketers, it’s a new, easy way to reach our target audience. But we have to remember that we’re only human and the people at the other end are real humans too. Be kind to yourself and be kind to your audience.

If you’re struggling right now, please don’t suffer in silence. CALM is a mental health charity that has a helpline you can call if you need someone to talk to. https://www.thecalmzone.net/help/get-help/ They can help talk you through a variety of issues and help support you through your tough time.

Headshot of Eleanor
Written by Eleanor Kilduff on November 4th, 2020

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