Social media– it’s on all day, every day, unless a site outage, massive security hack or act of God/nature decides to shut everything down with a screeching halt. If you’re part of a specific community or monitor certain topics as part of your job or for professional development– or hell, I don’t know, IF YOU’RE HUMAN– it’s easy to be overwhelmed or feel trapped in an echo chamber. If you’re like most people, a day, a week, or some similar period of disengagement can be a great time to disconnect, reflect and recharge.
If you’re me, or like me and social media is part of your job… disengagement just isn’t an option. With that in mind, here are a few ways I’ve found prevent or cope with burnout on the social web.
- Limit your access. If you find yourself constantly tempted to check a social network “just one more time” because you’re afraid of missing an all important update… don’t. Great, significant or valuable content will always find a way to resurface. If you’re especially worried about what happens in your feed when you’re gone, especially on Twitter– don’t be. They send digests of tweets you may have missed, and you can even select to be notified every time that someone of significance to you fires off a tweet. Budget yourself a certain amount of time each day, resist the urge to see what’s going on every waking minute, and leave it at that until you feel prepared to throw yourself back into the three-ring social media circus. Alternately, be sure to pick only access point to consume/create social media content– through the site, a client, or mobile app. Pick just one, and only one– and stick to it.
- Turn off as many notifications as possible. Chances are that if you’re a social media-a-holic (myself, I prefer the term ‘technologically inclined’), you’re also an app-o-holic of sorts and you have ways of being constantly connected to social media networks through a mobile device. (If you aren’t yet, don’t worry… Facebook and everyone else is working on the mobile problem for you.) But if you’re nearing burnout, meaningless noise, interruptions and emails from social media apps may be just the thing to push you closer to the edge than ever before. Turn off as many emails as you can, or just filter them, to handle the notification clutter in your Inbox. And as soon as you’ve done that, turn to your mobile device’s app settings to do the rest. Until app developers stop the notification madness, turning off push notifications that provide no value to you may just be the only option to keep you sane.
- Filter, filter, filter. If you’re working in social media, or if you use it for professional development… chances are that you probably access social media networks (again, Twitter) through a client like Tweetdeck or a 3rd party app (but not for long) like Tweetbot. It happens to everyone: there’s one story, one influencer, one topic or one person whose tweets you can’t stand– but yet you can’t block or unfollow them. In these cases, where you don’t want to be caught unfollowing someone for personal or professional reasons (yes, you can find out who unfollowed you), the only thing you can do is open up your Settings, find your “Global Filter” or “Blacklist,” and type in whatever app, name, keyword, topic or user whose content you cannot stand to see. After you hit “Save” or “Apply” or “Update” or whatever those kids call it these days, you’ll have peace and quiet for as long as you’d like. While this will only work inside of the client that you use, not within the site itself… it’s most certainly a breath of fresh air when you need it most.
- Make a list, or lots of lists. And use them. If you’re really in the middle of a sneaky hate spiral, and you can’t bear the sight of your Timeline or News Feed, make a list. Lists are a great way to keep track of people, brands, news outlets or anyone/thing you’d like to keep track of the most, especially in a hurry, and they work on both Facebook and Twitter. An easy way to start is to group accounts by vertical or by relationship to you, though I prefer keeping a list of accounts I’d want to see if I only had 10 minutes a day to check Twitter and Facebook. Lists, thank goodness, can be public or private… so no one has to find out that that NeNe Leakes is your homegirl and that you’re addicted to reality TV.*
- Don’t use your news feed as your primary means of content discovery. In “real life”, it’s easy and natural to become annoyed when you’ve spent too much time with a friend or group of people– and the same follows for those with whom we interact online. It’s incredibly important not to be too focused or too connected to social networks every spare moment of your day, and to keep an eye on the primary sources from which much of the content you consume emanates. If you’re a blog reader who wants to cut down on blog noise from social media network pushes, access the blogs you follow in an RSS reader. Too much fluff, too many echo chambers and too much noise if left unfiltered may just be your undoing– which is why we have nice things like Flipboard, Instapaper, and Pocket to aggregate content for later consumption.
When it comes to social media- especially in consuming and creating content– quality will always be better metric than quantity for success. Spending too much time consuming content doesn’t make you an expert. Sharing the same content across multiple social networks without thought to the best way to use the tools you have at hand does not make you an expert. A high follower count does not make you a guru of social media. Having an account on every social media network in existence does not make you an expert, either– rather it’s called being a jack of all trades, and a master of none.
Want to avoid social media burnout in its entirety? Think carefully about how and when you consume social media. Be thoughtful about the networks through which you choose to engage and about the tools you use to create and consume content. Be sure to follow a few accounts for no other reason than that they make you laugh or they provide you with a much-needed break. Always be open to following and expanding your own social network, but be mindful to weed out content sources that are no longer of value to you, too. The secret, really… it isn’t a secret at all. Social media is all about knowing when to step away. Don’t worry– when you leave, even if it’s for an hour, a day, a month, or a year… it will always be there when you’re ready to come back.