When I first started at Bon Appétit in 2016, I was a social media team of one managing multiple accounts that had over one million followers. I came from working at a startup where we would only post a few times a day to inheriting an editorial “rule” to post upwards of 60 times a day across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I was overwhelmed. Often, I would come home from work only to schedule more Tweets (and also usually cry). I felt like I was the problem, that I wasn’t quick enough or witty enough to fire off enough posts. The truth was I was overworked.
Luckily, I made a case to hire the wonderful Emily Schultz and the workload became more manageable as a team of two. But that doesn’t mean the burnout or boundary problems vanished. I’d still wake up on Saturdays to 7 a.m. texts about a caption or spend vacation days checking in on how a post was doing. As I’ve mentioned in a previous newsletter, there needs to be organizational changes to make social media management a sustainable career. For example: salary adjustment, monetary allowance for mental health tools, mandatory (and encouraged) days off that are actually respected, meaningful networking opportunities, solutions for weekend social coverage, and more. In tandem to that work, there is also a lot we can learn from fellow social managers on what has worked for them in terms of setting boundaries.
This week’s newsletter is dedicated to a big, long list of ways fellow social media managers log off, check out, and create boundaries. There are also just some general observations on this topic that I felt compelled to include. Almost 200 of you responded (thank you!) and judging from the amount of responses that simply said “I don’t log off!!!!”, it’s clear this sort of resource is necessary. Read through the responses below and please share any tips or advice you have in the comments.
“Like most SMMs, even when I'm scrolling timelines on a personal account, I'm still consuming through the lens of ‘that's an interesting content strategy.’ I've learned I really just have to put my phone/laptop away. On weekends, I carve out ‘hobby’ time, where I dedicate 2-3 hours of doing whatever—reading, puzzles, cooking—and the screens are across the room. Some other activities: getting outside, cleaning, organizing drawers/cabinets/closets.”
- Yasmin Tekyi-Mensah, Sr. Social Media Manager at StockX
“I have a ‘Shutdown Ritual’ calendared out every day so that I get a reminder 30 minutes before the end of the workday to begin the process of checking social for the last time, going over any scheduled content, finishing up emails, etc.”
- Carolina Chau, Social Media Director at RAICES Texas
“It's really hard to create boundaries. Everyone thinks social-related tasks are always a ‘quick’ update, when in reality we're juggling 12 other ‘quick’ tasks. After-hours requests take on a guilt cycle: ‘Can you update this quickly?’ at 8 p.m. or on a weekend turns into feeling like you SHOULD be able to do it quickly, so then you have to, and then the boundaries are relaxed or broken. It's hard!”
- Nora Varcho, Social Media Director for Death & Company
“I love going on hikes/to beaches with little to no cell service to force myself to detach from my phone.”
- Bianca Garcia, Social Media Coordinator at Glossier
“Unionize your damn workplaces, and if you do work in a union shop, get involved with the union and its activities. The work of social/audience folks can often get overlooked and we are our best advocates.”
- Brandon Carter, Social Producer on the politics desk at NPR
“Since the pandemic started, I've found a lot of solace in birding. You can't see or ID birds with your face in your phone and you need both hands to hold the binoculars best.”
- Cody, Social Media Manager at American Kennel Club
“It's really important for anyone who oversees a social manager to understand that they can't be available and ‘on’ when they're not actively working. Just because our phones are with us at all times, and therefore we have the tools to do work at all times, does not mean we should be expected to work at all times. I truly believe that a lot of my ability to create good content and build a strong brand comes from being able to step back and step away so when I come back, I am refreshed and ready to put my best foot forward.”
- Julie MacDonald, Digital Media Specialist at Planted Detroit
“During the weekdays, once the last post is scheduled for the day I immediately turn on whatever reality TV show I'm watching atm (right now it's Summer House and Top Chef, both on Bravo). When the workday is over I need something to snap me out of work mode.”
- Jeb Perkins, Social Media Manager at Los Angeles Magazine
“Honestly, I’m having an incredibly hard time with this. This is my second social media coordinator position and I’m having a far worse time separating work from my personal life here. My company is fairly large, and my boss doesn’t want to pay for a scheduled posting system so every post (3+x a day and at least 10 stories) is posted by hand by me, even on holidays. I also am not given access to data, so I have to make sure I have 24/7 WiFi access. How do I convince my boss that I need help? This constant lingering worry if I miss a post or can’t post is having a negative impact on my relationships and my mental health.”
“We should all be paid more xx”
- Emily Schultz, Social Media Manager at Bon Appétit
“I’ve tried to look less at my competitors. I used to look at every post from them and compare my work to theirs. It wasn’t healthy. Being aware of what they’re up to but not letting it drive me into a frenzy has been a helpful life update.”
- Patrick Moynihan, Director, Social Media at Food52
“The life of a social media manager who cares is one full of guilt—wondering if you're missing something, agonizing over typos, trying to make sure the tone of every post and caption is perfect. Sometimes I have to remind myself that users don't necessarily want a 'perfect feed' to follow all the time.”
- John-Michael Jalonen, social media manager at VCUarts
“I think this is different for everyone, but I'm also very aware of how posting even fun stuff on my personal accounts feeds into the desire to stay locked into my screens, so I'll assign weekends with a "don't post" policy. I'm not always perfect about it, but it's a reminder to myself that it's good to take a break from being perceived, even if there's a difference between doing it professionally and personally. I'm a big believer in You Don't Have to Tweet and Never Post.”
- Caitlin Schneider, Senior Social Editor at VICE
“Turn off alerts. Turn off alerts. Turn off alerts. Ground yourself in perspective. It can feel like the whole world is on social media. But that’s not the case at all. It’s just a tool and a lens through which we see the world, not experience it.”
- Caitlin Looney, Community Manager at MERGE
I also want to call out a few common themes I saw in the responses that may not have made their way onto this round up: leave your phone in another room, be upfront about boundaries with your boss, go camping or somewhere with minimal cell service, and turn off all notifications on the weekends. I’ve created an anonymized document here with ALL the advice I received. Thank you all for sharing so openly with me.
And now...some job postings: