I had to have minor surgery last Friday and, subsequently, am trying my best to be “off the grid” this week while I recover. I’m off work for the week and have been sufficiently out of it that I actually have been (mostly) off the computer, including (again, mostly) Facebook and Twitter. And I have to admit–it has been nice. Actually, better than nice. It’s honestly making me wonder whether a career involving social media is a good idea for someone who wants a balanced life.
I’ve blogged before about why I think community management/social media jobs make work/life balance incredibly hard. (I’ve also blogged before about how there’s a huge blur between the terms “social media” and “community management” and pointed to Rachel Happe’s post on why they’re not the same thing, yet I still struggle with how to refer to either when writing about this stuff.) On the surface, it seems these careers would be well-suited to someone who wants work/life balance, right–I mean, ostensibly, at least, you can do these job from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection, right? And it is true–you can do a lot of the job from home or basically anywhere your iPhone can get a signal.
But there’s so much more to just the job part of a social media or community management job…there’s the constant flow of staying up-to-date with the latest that’s going on in social media world. Facebook’s changes. Conferences. Twitter chats. Blog posts–writing and reading them. Keeping up with Twitter–since I don’t like Google Reader I rely largely on links to blog posts that people tweet–admittedly not a great strategy, but then again, neither is having to keep up with dozens of blog feeds. And that’s just my own personal/professional development end of things–that doesn’t even count the same amount of effort on each of those things for my actual job–the blog I manage, Facebook page, Twitter, communities I manage, etc. I’m a good multi-tasker, thank god, but there are only so many hours in a day…and stopping basically all of these activities and just being still has made me realize how tiring and time-consuming it is to keep up with the constant flow of information necessary to sustain a career related to social media.
Let’s face it–having a job that requires you to spend hours and hours and hours on a computer means those hours can’t be spent doing stuff like, say, NOT staring at a computer. Reading books. Exercising. Spending time with family and friends–and actually being present, not there in person but constantly checking Twitter or email. It’s already been reported that Facebook is increasingly a cause of divorce–but what about social media use/addiction in general as a cause of divorce? Or, if not divorce (yet), certainly family strife–e.g. upsetting the balance that being an active part of a family requires? We’ve all seen movies and read books in which one of the major plot points was the father or, more rarely, mother who was such a workaholic that it caused the kids to grow up scarred or ruined the marriage or some other terrible fate. So what about new “flexible” careers like blogging or community management–careers that allow you to maybe work from home, but that also require an extreme number of hours of para-work (I think I just invented that word, btw)–e.g. the stuff that’s not a direct part of the job but actually is, such as networking, traveling, reading, and all the rest of it.
Am I just crazy from the after-effects of general anesthesia, or do you think that it is actually harder to maintain work/life balance in new social media-related jobs than traditional jobs?