Most weeks at work for the past five years I have spent somewhere between 60-70% of my working hours in social media. My best estimate has me working between 50- 60 hours a week since founding the business in October of 2013, my best calculations have me spending approximately 1,800 hours a year working in/ on social media, brining me to approximately 9,300 hours total.
This work could include something as simple as scheduling pre-written posts for an organization, replying to Facebook messages, or reading up on the most recent changes social media platforms. This work could be as complex as building a Marketing or PR strategy, creating or modifying an editorial calendar, creating digital advertisements/ campaign, leading a team through a sporting event, or community managing social media channels during a crisis.
Like many colleagues of my age mid thirties or older – who came out of school with marketing, communications or public relations degrees/diplomas, there was no Facebook (founded in 2004), Twitter (founded in 2006) or Instagram (founded in 2010) during our formal education. We were already working when social media was coined, and we scrambled to do what everyone else was doing: learn as we go about this emerging media and how it would impact business.
It quickly became clear that social media wasn’t niche but rather an expected part of an organizations communications and/ or marketing and/or media planning. I’m still in awe when a resume comes across my desk of someone who has completed an entire degree in social media, although when I think of what I’ve learned since graduating school about how social media fits inside all these entities, I can understand how you could fill an entire degree.
Because of my education and professional background, I prided myself in avoiding the pitfalls of social media that I saw my friends and peers experience. My understanding that when I logged on to a platform I was experiencing a highlight reel of others lives. Were at a moment in time when people are literally dying for selfies, (dont event get me started on #doitforthegram) but I knew better than this, I knew that likes did not represent a worthwhile life. I was also tuned into the fact that searching Google for a warm winter sweater meant I was incredibly likely to be served an ad for it on Instagram the next time I logged on.
In short, I knew the tricks. I knew the gig. I was better than that; I would not be sucked in to the vortex.
Then I had a baby.
The life altering implications aside from the act of birthing a small human and becoming a parent, something else happened. In the dark (literally- my daughter was born slightly before winter solstice) I began to spend hours and hours scrolling.
I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled, (I later learned this has a term: infinite scrolling) sometimes switching between channels furiously with the tap, tap, tap of my single hand, while my other hand nursed, pumped, mixed formula and cleaned bottles. I began to fall deeply into my own hole of darkness, and all the while I became hyperaware of the images being served to me, especially on Instagram. Here are beautiful mothers; they have their hair blown out and their nails painted. They are looking lovingly at their babies. They love being mothers. They are doing great on no sleep! They love going to activities with their babies! They are rejoicing in newfound motherhood! I would then look at my own baby, squishy faced and screaming – she screamed almost nonstop the first three months of her life – and notice that tears were streaming down my own face.
Theres a moment here where I could take another thousand words to explain what it was like for me to experience postpartum depression (PPD). It wasn’t a light switch but rather a gradual deepening of a personal darkness, one that grew daily until I begun to fear I was going to harm my beautiful baby girl or myself. I grew increasingly anxious. I was afraid to be alone in our house. I spent all day crying, except for when someone would come over I would get dressed, smile, hold the baby, tell people how great I was doing and how much I loved being a mother and as soon as they left I would lay on the floor of my living room and sob, often in tandem with my own sobbing infant. *
While I was experiencing PPD, I was also constantly and endlessly on social media. I was lonely and I was adrift. The small glowing screen made me feel less alone, even though I understood the envy I was feeling was being perpetuated by a machine larger than I, a nagging voice in my head continued to remind me in a quiet voice this behaviour was probably not helpful.
I am lucky: worried friends and family directed me towards resources, and eventually I began therapy, then started attending a support group, and eventually I would start taking anti-depressants. My darkness slowly lifted. I learned about helpful behaviors. At the urging of a friend I limited my social media use. She reminded me that social media is life through a filter, and it was my responsibility to remember that filter, and that my own mental filter was required experiencing others lives through social media.
This experience begs the terrifying question: if someone who works in this field for a living who is aware of the marketing trickery, the targeted ad buys, the Instagram rabbit holes can fall into it, is anyone really immune to it?
I dont have the answer to this quandary, but I do believe that a problem well stated is a problem half solved, and this is a conversation I want to keep having. We owe it to ourselves, to our families and friends especially our children to discuss this.
How are we equipping people to use social media in a manner that positively impacts their lives?
My wish for the world is that we recognize social media for what it is, a tool that connects us to one another. My wish is that we can learn to recognize problematic use and our troubling thoughts that arise from it. My wish is that we can develop our own boundaries for healthy social media consumption and remember that liking a post on Facebook or Instagram pales in comparison to a text, an email, or a phone call. Even better yet, arrange a real life hug, talk, or get together with someone. My wish is for everyone to develop their own filter to experience social media with, and to remember that some filter is required every time you log on.
My personal debt of gratitude goes to the people who supported me during this year, and threw me a life preserver when I thought I was going to drown. Ive listed the resources I used this year in Calgary below.
*Its important to note that each woman who experiences postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety has a slightly different experience. *
Postpartum Depression in Calgary:
Postpartum Therapy Calgary:
Breastfeeding / Feeding help in Calgary:
Social Media addiction:
Kids and Social Media: