It is amazing what social media can accomplish in just a single moment. It is a world that thrives on interconnectedness—and somewhere, someone is always talking. So many people are talking, in fact, that on average 350,000 tweets are published every minute, whether it be 3 a.m. or 6 p.m. (Twitter, 2017). While social professionals can attempt to “check out” when the work day has come to an end, there is no disconnecting from a world that never decelerates.
Social is an essential player in the news space, and the first place many people go to get live updates and initial statements about a breaking story. Working in social media means staying continuously connected. Even personal usage is affected; when you’re spending over 40 hours a week immersed in the world of social, you do not want to spend all your free time…immersed in the world of social. This constantly engaged, refusing-to-disconnect attitude and this intense profession can ultimately lead to mental health issues. Social may never sleep, but there are plenty of reasons why social professionals still should (or at least try).
Currently, 81 percent of Americans have some sort social media profile online, which is up 57 percent since 2008 (N.A., 2017). With the increased use of social media, brands have turned to using social platforms as a favored form of communication with consumers. However, in an internet space that expects and requires immediate response rates, sleeping with one eye open is often the only option. The average response time for a brand to reply on social media to a user is 10 hours, however, the average user will only wait 4 hours for a response (York, 2017). With that in mind, there is far too much risk if something is missed.
Always Plugged In, Never Recharging
As most of us know, sleep is a primary element to our well-being, and getting an appropriate amount every night positively affects our health, mind, and body. Sleep allows time for the body to cleanse and repair itself; it recharges your brain and improves productivity levels by keeping you alert and focused. Scientists just recently reported on the first major mechanical reason our brains need to sleep: certain “cleaning” mechanisms in the brain work better when we shut the brain down for awhile. Just as garbage trucks take to the city streets during the pre-dawn hours when there’s less traffic, our brain’s cleaners also work best when there’s less going on (Welsh, 2013).
Working in a field that never takes a moment to rest requires brain power, even when lying in bed. Many of us find ourselves tossing and turning, fighting the urge to grab our phones and check all those notifications chiming in at all hours of the night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, only 40 percent of Americans get enough sleep on most nights, and a commonly cited reason is smartphone usage for work (Henion & Johnson, 2014). In addition, light from our devices is “short-wavelength-enriched,” meaning it has a higher concentration of blue light, which affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin (Schmerler, 2015). Smartphones are designed to disrupt relaxation; they keep us mentally engaged after working hours, making it that much harder to achieve a real work-life balance. And not having that balance negatively affects the well-being of individuals, families, and communities alike. People need time and energy to participate in family life, democracy, and community activities (Burn, 2015)—what we used to call “real life.”
Social professionals are even more likely than others to start each day feeling sluggish, trying to catch up on sleep on the weekends, searching for ways to enjoy some time to themselves, all while continuing to patrol content. The typical 9-to-5, Monday-thru-Friday work model is not applicable in a profession that is continuously connected. Some people start to notice the toll it takes on productivity, work ethic, and workplace enjoyment almost immediately. According to a study published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, checking your phone after 9 p.m. for work-related purposes can cause sleep deprivation and harm your job productivity the following day (Social, 2016). As this becomes the rule rather than the exception, the stress can feel overwhelming. What options do social professionals have to ensure that platforms are always being patrolled while still allowing room for personal time separate from the World Wide Web?
Sharing the Load
One way to prevent burnout and still have full content oversight is having team members work in “shifts.” By leveraging the social media patterns of our staff, which often spill over into the wee hours of the night, UMSocial can scour channels and ensure that no content goes unseen. At UMSocial we’re also lucky to have collaborations with resources that have 24-hour call centers. We work closely with units like the U-M’s Office of Public Affairs and Department of Public Safety and Security (DPSS) to receive immediate alerts. We all work together to be as effective, proactive, and thoughtful as possible.
The workplace should be as sustainable as possible, which is what we have continuously tried to do by developing team-based plans to handle all surprises. It is an individual’s responsibility, however, to disconnect as much as possible and trust the team members that take on the “night shift.” Working together is the best way to make working in social media a positive, mentally stimulating, and healthy experience for everyone.
Be social. Stay social. #UMSocial
Post written by McKenna Whipple, Social Media Content Strategist at The University of Michigan.
(2017). Twitter Usage Statistics. Internet Live Statistics.
(2017). Percentage of U.S. population with a social media profile from 2008 to 2017. Edison Research.
Burn, Shawn. M. (2015). How’s Your Work-Life Balance? Psychology Today.
Frumkin, Tamar. (2017). The 7 Most Important Customer Service Stats for 2017. Conversocial.
Henion, Alex & Johnson, Russell. (2014). Nighttime smartphone use zaps workers’ energy. MSUToday.
Schmerler, Jessica. (2015). Q&A: Why Is Blue Light before Bedtime Bad for Sleep? Scientific American.
Welsh, Jennifer. (2013). Scientists Have Finally Found The First Real Reason We Need To Sleep. Business Insider.
York, Alex. (2017). 47 Social Media Statistics to Bookmark for 2017. SproutSocial.