I take a deep breath and rub my eyes. I’ve been staring at the phone for half an hour, maybe more. I’m no longer sure what I’m looking for, or even what I set out to achieve in the first place. I think I was going to reply to a message but that quickly became commenting on a new post that made me laugh, which led to spotting another account which I thought I’d check out. Their content was good so I scrolled a bit and then realised I probably ought to post something as I’d neglected things a little recently.
Take a good picture, compose a good meme, search for relevant hashtags, write a suitable post; suddenly I’m down a social media rabbit hole and just like the metaphorical warren, when I eventually resurface, I’m no further along than where I first popped down.
The world of freelance, self-employment and entrepreneurship has just got even more exhausting because there is something we are chasing more than money: metrics.
The pressure to generate a ‘following’ and a presence on social media has become such a time drain in itself that it can feel like a relentless and fruitless endeavour until you’ve hit a magic 10,000 likes or you’re classed as an influencer.
You figure out the hashtags that presumably generate the most leads but end up stuck in a vicious circle of trying to get eyes on ‘your brand’ vs wanting to ‘just be you’ and authentic to ‘your brand’.
And right there seems to be the crux of the issue. Everyone is trying to ‘grow and sell their brand’. We are no longer just selling a lovingly crafted product, or a service which we genuinely believe will help and nurture others; we are scrolling social media, liking and commenting, sharing and curating, tweeting and pinning and spending increasing amounts of time doing jobs which the latest branding expert and influencer guru is telling us we need to do in order to grow and succeed.
Things, which only they can teach us for hundreds of dollars so that we don’t waste our lives in the vortex. But when you view their behind the scenes stories, we see top of the range cameras on a tripod over a flatlay of the coffee mug, laptop, carefully positioned throws and stationery items. Then it’s over to Lightroom and Photoshop to lighten, brighten and make it look completely different, before then posting to Instagram as if this were a picture casually taken in a spontaneous moment.
If photography is your business then this makes perfect sense. If it isn’t, then creating the perfect feed is now an obsessive goal, which can consume more time than working in the business itself.
When we are basing our worth purely on how many likes our posts receive, or how many followers we attract, metrics become a currency, transacted for time, sanity and self-esteem.
Something which at one time felt fun and doable in a spare few minutes is now a full-time job in itself as we all compete to curate beautifully designed squares, which are ‘on brand’, or scroll through content to share and pin, and craft tweets which are punchy and engaging. The times I want to take my foot off and step away, are the times I feel the knot of anxiety that I am neglecting people, that any work will somehow become undone. They will leave to find another, who does exactly what I do in a more aesthetically-pleasing way.
Content is king and pretty pictures sell. So we filter our world to become at once engaging and informative, witty and observant, while also portraying and selling a more attractive version of ourselves.
When it’s fun, it’s natural and purposeful and there is genuine engagement and interaction which makes you smile. When it’s not, it feels contrived and forced and demoralising.
Hashtagging #dontquityourdaydream which apparently will get you followers, but then questioning if it is perpetuating the idea that pursuing the dream requires spending half your life chasing virtual likes and follows.
It’s why sometimes I need to step away, ground myself, realise I am worth more than a few dozen likes and neither am I worth less than someone with millions.
Should I care if I lose a few followers? They were probably going to leave anyway. They were probably chasing likes and follows, tactically following to be followed back. A game of cat and mouse that makes me feel as if I’m just a porn being used as part of someone else’s game that I don’t want to play.
Social media has its place. It is a hugely valuable, (mostly) free and accessible marketing tool which can be a primary funnel for your business. You can attract ideal clients and customers, and importantly build supportive relationships and find comfort and reassurance with like-minded people.
The key is to realise when doing it is becoming at best time-sapping, at worst, soul-sapping.
The other key is to block your time and keep disciplined hours around your work on social media.
I admit, there are times I love Instagram and I enjoy building genuine relationships on there. I love chatting on Facebook and I use Pinterest more than I realise, but I need to learn when to stop and when to give myself permission to step away.
What are your social media habits? Is it something that can suck you in or do you have a good strategy and discipline around your time? Would love to hear your thoughts, just leave a comment.
If you’d like a resource packed with tips to help you remain productive and focused, without falling down the social media rabbit hole, check out The Homeworker magazine. It’s full of ideas and strategies to help you manage your time and avoid procrastination.
We also feature articles that help you communicate effectively on social media and marketing your brand in issue 3, The Communication Issue.