When you think about it, the advice shared here to limit social media usage to a half-hour each day in order to try and avoid depression and loneliness makes sense. My own experience has shown that the more I obsess about Twitter the worse I feel.
That advice is similar to to what’s offered for many hazards. Don’t stay outside too long in bitter cold or extreme heat, don’t spend too much time engaged in dangerous activities and so on.
But those who work in those industries or in those conditions don’t have much of a choice, do they.
It’s a reminder that good advice is only applicable to those who have who enjoy some agency and power. If you work at a fast food restaurant, advice to not spend too much time on your feet isn’t really going to do you much good because that’s the job. If you work construction you’re going to be spending time outdoors, regardless of weather and other conditions.
Same for social media. An entire generation of the “knowledge economy” is doing some kind of content and social media marketing, professionally posting to Facebook, Snapchat and other networks while also monitoring conversations there, analyzing trends and staying constantly online lest they miss the hot new meme that can be coopted into a marketing program.
There will be social repercussions from that. There’s already evidence the stresses inherent in the new economy are causing psychological and health issues, including a rising suicide rate, and teen depression has been linked to smartphone use, including texting and social media. There’s a real chance that will only get worse if people who found social media was harmful for their self image as a teenager enter a workforce and get jobs where “on social media” is something they’re expected to be 15 hours a day.
Managers and other executives will have to be trained on how to deal with this, or productivity is going to take a major hit. Unfortunately it remains to be seen whether or not employees will have any power in this conversation. Right now someone whose job requires them to be on their feet for eight hours at a time might be fired if they can no longer handle that physical stress instead of reassigned to a job that’s less demanding. There’s no real reason why it won’t be the same for those suffering stress from constant social media exposure.
Decreased workplace protections mean they will have little recourse to contest such decisions while the increased power enjoyed by companies that survive waves of mergers and acquisitions mean they can discount anyone who appears to be “not the right fit” for an open position.
Staying off social media can be good for you. But there are many people for whom that’s not an option because they don’t have much actual control over their situation and we’re going to see how that impacts society as a whole in the very near future.