In this blog Lauren explores the negative impact social media can have on our lives and how it can lead us to setting unrealistic expectations. Some of these are dictated by the wider media but many are based on the beliefs of what success looks like, shaped by the social media accounts of our business and personal connections.
As a regular contributor on LinkedIn I often see the ‘good news’ stories people share and they’re a great read and at times quite inspirational. However, there’s another side where the veneer of success is replaced by stresses and worries that accompany many in the workspace and in our daily lives – for obvious reasons, these often go unposted. This can lead to people outwardly expressing joy and satisfaction in their work, whilst inwardly they’re desperately seeking a solution to many of the problems they’re up against. I know, as I’ve been there; and I work with clients who are there when they first come to me for support.
Careers are complex and so often it takes someone to point out the obvious, or not so obvious, for us to make a positive career change. That’s where career coaching can be a real benefit in helping you to reposition the focus of your thinking, or in helping you to identify a strategy or career path that supports your goals. It also helps you realise that what success looks like to you is often very different to that of your social media contacts.
Earlier this year the World Health Organisation officially defined burnout as a chronic condition, this means that as of next year it will be an internationally recognised”occupational phenomenon”. Burnout, defined by the WHO as “ syndrome…resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” has been on the rise in recent years.
The reasons behind the increase in workplace stress and incidents of burnout are varied, yet there is a valid concern that our use of social media is contributing to this rise.
Social media has many positive uses in the workplace, for example, it facilitates professional networking, is a low cost way for small businesses to promote their products and services and allows colleagues to communicate effectively, however it also brings some negative effects.
For many workers, their use of social media means that they are always connected and can never switch off. This is especially true of those running creative businesses or freelancers, who use social media as a means of networking and self promotion. Many feel that they simply cannot afford to miss any work opportunities if they sign out for a brief spell, with many actually feeling anxious about logging off and potentially missing out. This is only fuelled by our over reliance on smartphones, where every notification is instantly picked up.
Theodore Roosevelt famously said that comparison is the thief of joy, and he had a point! The thing with social media is that we all post the best bits on our feeds, often omitting the less than perfect reality. Our carefully posed photos only show half the story, yet we still constantly compare ourselves to others, and their seemingly perfect lives. Comparison is shown to have a negative effect on mental health, driving us to keep striving for unattainable perfection.
Blurring of Boundaries
Social media has in many cases led to a blurring of our work and personal lives. How many of us are friends with, or follow, our colleagues on social media? How many of us have had your social media accounts checked by a prospective employer? There is a constant pressure to document our lives, at work and home, and this can leave little time for ourselves. Especially if we have to keep a professional veneer 24/7. For small businesses or freelancers who use their social media for promotion or as a kind of online CV, this can be especially detrimental.
Being constantly exposed to a heavily edited version of other people’s success can cause us to have unrealistic career expectations. We can feel that we should have achieved xy or z by a certain time of life. It also glosses over the reality that in any career there are challenges and tough days. The pressure to perform and compete with others can have a negative impact on mental wellbeing. It can be difficult to keep our focus on our own career path and goals.
This constant being ‘on call’ is not healthy and is proven to have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing. Despite the pressures, it is important to take some time out for some self care each day. It’s also essential to keep your focus on yourself, stick to your plan and your goals, and don’t compare to others who are on a different journey.
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised above, it can be helpful to start a conversation in confidence about your career with someone who is impartial. Please feel free to get in touch with me to learn more about the coaching services I can offer.