In the absence of in-person events and hangouts, people are spending their free time online during the COVID-19 pandemic. By connecting with others virtually, they can overcome feelings of isolation and stress. Several months into the pandemic, professionals are concerned this reliance on the internet for companionship and normalcy has resulted in unhealthy — albeit understandable — coping mechanisms.
Of course, screen addiction isn’t a new problem. You know you should just unplug, but what happens when your professional life is tied up in social media? Telling a digital marketer to lay off Facebook is like telling a chef to get out of the kitchen. How do you take a breather and avoid burnout when your entire life revolves around technology?
The Challenges of Unplugging for Modern Workers
The truth is, social media has become both work and recreation for many of us. Even when you’re not working to build a following or promote your brand, you’re scanning content on Instagram or messaging friends through Snapchat. I’ve even run into situations where I’ve had to use social media, like communicating with an organization that was only on Facebook.
Unfortunately, these tendencies often lead to burnout. It’s hard to be creative when you’re suffering from information overload, never-ending comparisons, and mental fatigue. Trying to create original ideas or contribute authentically is difficult unless you proactively take steps to budget your time online and explore alternative activities to scrolling social media
If you work in marketing, taking an offline break not only soothes your brain but also makes you better at your job. Stepping away from the digital realm gives you a chance to relax, recharge, and refocus. After all, social media is a tool for connection — not the end goal. If you want to produce stronger and more genuine content, give your brain a break with the following social media substitutes:
1. Be a paper person.
In a world of technological devices competing for your attention, paper is your friend. I have a box filled with old magazines, article tears, and scraps of paper. No matter what kind of inspiration I need, I can find it in that box.
A lot of social media content is on-trend and recycled. If you want to be innovative, it can help to take a step away. Try looking through print publications or brainstorming in a notebook. When your brain is fried from too much screen time, a paper break can be exactly what you need.
2. Take an inspiration day.
Set aside a few hours to go exploring. Visit a local museum. Stroll through a park. Take opportunities to engage in your immediate reality and uncover new concepts lurking right in front of you.
Finding it difficult to clear your headspace? Randomly incentivize yourself. People will invest more effort in an activity if there’s an uncertain reward, so find ways to gamify your personal “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Put a $10 bill in one envelope and a $20 bill in another, shuffle, and then set them aside. After returning from your adventure, pick an envelope at random to determine your reward. When it’s time for your next break, use the money you earned from your last experience.
3. Talk to people.
Conversing with others can help you come up with new ideas and take a breather from social media. Consider talking to industry leaders, customers, or even your mother. Be open-minded. Sometimes you need to speak with someone who knows nothing about your industry to create a new approach.
In-person meetups are hard to arrange right now, but that’s where FaceTime and Zoom can be useful. When we’re able to watch someone else’s body language and responses, we pick up on nonverbal cues and better communicate. This can be a boon when you’re seeking inspiration through conversation.
4. Try something new.
As a content creator, most of my creative resources are poured into Google Docs and Photoshop. I was tired of the same old grind, so I tried improv last year. Not only was it a huge stress reliever, but it also kicked my imagination into high gear.
Whether you’ve always wanted to speak a second language or be able to whip up French macarons, force yourself to learn something new. You’ll develop skills you probably didn’t know you had, and you’ll view everything you touch as a marketer with a clearer lens.
Do you have to be on social media for work? Do yourself a favor and turn it off during your downtime. You’ll reap numerous benefits, and you won’t miss anything that you can’t catch up on tomorrow.