Burnout, Boundaries, and Bandwidth – How’s Your Relationship with Social Media?

A woman sits quietly meditating in a tranquil office space.

Burnout is the buzzword that won’t go away. Of course, it’s way more than a buzzword. Tons of people were feeling burned out even before the pandemic started (for a point of reference, Amelia and Emily Nagoski’s fabulous book, Burnout, came out in January 2020) and the past several years have done nothing to reduce our anxiety levels. Now more than ever, we need to guard our time and set healthy boundaries.

If you, like me, have the privilege of being able to control your own time, you likely associate boundaries with bandwidth. Setting healthy boundaries is a matter of looking for ways to delegate or reduce our workload or creating stricter rules around where and when we work. But I’m starting to think about boundaries in terms of preserving energy more than time. 

Particularly when our work and personal lives are more integrated, we need to pay attention to our levels of frustration, resentment, discomfort, and anxiety. And, the more I pay attention, the more I realize those feelings track how drained I feel, not necessarily how much time a given task takes.

One important aspect of this work-life integration is social media. I’ve noticed that my LinkedIn usage affects my energy levels differently on different days, so I have to find ways to manage this. Figuring out what works for you is key to avoiding burnout. So, let’s take some time to reflect on what exactly makes social media feel like an energy drain.

Why is Social Media Draining?

We’ve all been there at one point or another. Maybe you catch yourself mindlessly scrolling Instagram or realize you’ve lost hours watching videos on TikTok. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with zoning out with social media. I enjoy watching yoga drill videos on Instagram while I’m eating breakfast and yes, I still scroll through Facebook during Jeopardy! commercial breaks in the evenings.

There’s nothing wrong with scrolling through social media if it makes you feel inspired or connected to others. What makes social media draining, however, is when we rely on it as a crutch or use it as a tool of self-criticism or escapism – to distract ourselves from negative emotions like guilt, shame, or sadness.

But what I really want to focus on here is using social media to build a personal brand or promote our products and services. When we use social media for marketing, it becomes draining in a whole different way. 

Here’s what makes social media draining in this context:

  • Focusing on the negatives
  • Comparing ourselves to others
  • Not seeing our efforts paying off
  • Buying into the stories others are telling us without knowing all of the context
  • Feeling forced to prop up a persona that has nothing to do with our true selves

Like any other repetitive work activity, staying consistent on LinkedIn can feel stale after months or years and once it becomes part of the fabric of your day, it’s easy to develop some frustration, resentment, or boredom around the task. 

How do you break free of the cage you’ve created for yourself? You shift your perspective. Start with your goals. If your only goal is to post on LinkedIn every day, you’re going to burnout. At some point, you’ll wonder why you’re posting and without adding engagement to your daily routine, you’re not likely to see many comments or conversations started around your content. You’d have to be a robot not to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” So take a look at your goals and make sure they support your values.

LinkedIn is my sandbox. It’s where I come to pique my curiosity, connect with other people doing really cool work, and check in on the world outside of my home office. It doesn’t drain my energy because I have goals that support my values and align with what I know about how LinkedIn works.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t need to set strong boundaries, however. After all, boundaries are what keep a relationship strong. 

How to Set Boundaries with Social Media

I often get questions like, “how do you stay consistent with LinkedIn without burning out?” Initially, I didn’t have a good answer. But then I started doing some digging and realized I set some very intentional boundaries.

As with all of the advice you find online, whether these tips work for you will depend on your specific situation. These are some of the boundaries I’ve set with LinkedIn that keep me from burning out. I encourage you to reflect on what boundaries would be most helpful to you.

1. Designate Specific Social Media Time Each Day

I like to schedule time for social media. I spend 30 minutes on LinkedIn in the morning commenting and posting. You can generally find me there between 8:30am and 9:00am Monday through Friday. Then, I come back for 30 minutes in the afternoon to check my notifications, respond to any comments I’ve received on my posts or comments, and check my feed for new inspiring posts.

Importantly, I don’t spend time scrolling social media (work or personal) during work breaks. I’d rather practice yoga, take a walk, talk to a friend, or listen to a podcast when I have free time during the day.

2. Avoid Toxic Conversations

“LinkedIn feels too much like Facebook.” “Women need to stop posting selfies showing so much cleavage.” “Women need to stop talking about their emotions. It’s unprofessional.” “Emojis don’t belong on LinkedIn. It’s unprofessional.” 

Toxic conversations happen all over social media, including on LinkedIn, though you’ll see fewer of these types of comments on this platform than in other places. Fortunately, I don’t see a lot of toxic conversations in my feed partly because I have trained the algorithm not to show them to me. So if all you see are toxic conversations, spend some time hiding people, purposefully seek out some more positive conversations, and participate in those conversations. You don’t need to encourage the trolls.

3. Be Yourself

The idea that there are unwritten rules on LinkedIn and if you violate those rules (i.e., people only want to talk about work), your content won’t do well is a myth. If you feel like you need to be someone else to participate in the conversations on LinkedIn, examine this belief.

Being yourself and bringing your personality to the comments and posts you create is essential to feeling that energy boost on LinkedIn. Sure, staying on message makes sense, but remember, the message is yours. It should be different from how someone else would communicate a similar message. Be yourself and don’t be afraid to push whatever limits you believe are holding you back.

4. Ignore the Noise About the Algorithm

Another way to burnout quickly is to get hyper focused on the algorithm. This will quickly drive you batty. Unless you want to become a LinkedIn data expert, learn the basics and listen for the experts to tell you about any big changes, but don’t get obsessed with the algorithm. 

Otherwise, what matters the most is consistent engagement, consistent posting, at a consistent time, and with a consistent message. That’s it.

5. Take Breaks

Breaks are good – whether we’re talking about taking a vacation from work, spending a few days away from your partner, or doing a social media fast. And while you may be quite happy to take a break from your personal social media, it’s harder to feel good about taking a break from promoting your business. But, it’s necessary if you want to avoid burnout.

I take a week off every few months. Time away gives me a moment to reflect and rebuild my stores of creativity. It’s nice to be able to set down the pressure of needing to come up with a new post. That release of pressure often opens the floodgates to new ideas and throws you right out of any rut you’re feeling.

So, how’s your relationship with social media? If you’ve been feeling burned out, ask yourself whether setting some healthy boundaries would renew your energy and help you find another gear. Make space to manage your burnout, boundaries, and bandwidth. It’s worth it.

And if you’re ready to hear about all of my LinkedIn secrets, here’s how you can get started: https://thepocketphd.lpages.co/linkedin-roadmap/

Photo credit: https://www.123rf.com/profile_grinvalds