For the past three years, I’ve found myself working in the deceptively unglamorous world of social media.
For those of you too old to tech, too hipster to acknowledge popular culture or living in an Amish community (what are you doing reading my blog?) – yes, social media management is an actual career and a very necessary aspect of modern-day marketing.
#DYK that the average person spends 90 minutes a day on their phone. That equates to 23 days a year and 3.9 years of the average person’s life spent staring at a screen.
It’s a depressing statistic, but one that could make even the non-believers understand why social media marketing is so widely invested in.
Contrary to popular belief, just because you have an Instagram account, it doesn’t mean you’re capable of directing a brand’s social channels. It’s not rocket science but you will require a creative and strategic mind, outstanding copywriting skills, an ability to navigate eye-wateringly boring budgets and most importantly, you must have a love of the repetitive.
I never set out to become a Social Media Manager. I doubt many do. Over opinionated with an inflated ego, it’s evident I’ve the makings of an aspiring columnist. But through a series of unforeseen career moves, I found myself responsible for a department store’s social channels at the age of twenty-one. I’ve since spent the last two years trying and, until very recently, failing to jump ship.
When I landed my first social job, I arrogantly reveled in my uber cool and pretentious ‘Social Media Executive’ title. Admittedly, it was an ‘uber cool’ job at times. I met Mark Ronson, I interviewed a Victoria’s Secret model, I went backstage at Burberry where Cara Delevingne upheld her diva status and I got a 50% discount on Givenchy handbags. What wasn’t cool was how my outlook on real life and virtual reality became so intertwined and distorted that I’d often be found crying in a toilet cubicle, fearing the aftermath of a misspelled tweet.
Two years more conceited and now a fully fledged ‘Manager’, I’m predictably met with the same riposte: “So you sit on Facebook all day?”. Tiresomely, I force out an exasperated “ha” and halfheartedly explain that there’s sooo much more to it. But who am I fooling? Certainly not myself. I do spend my days scrolling through mind-numbingly dull tweets, soullessly sharing perfectly curated Instagram photos and despising myself a little more everyday.
During a conversation with my brother’s friend at a house party last Christmas, I caught an arrogantly intelligent York grad rolling her eyes and stifling a laugh as I explained the innings of my ‘career’. Haughtily flaunting her PPE degree above me, I felt humiliated not because she’d shamed me but because I knew she was almost right to laugh.
It may be situationally impressive, but it pains me to watch those in my industry celebrate menial achievements such as gaining a few thousand followers or receiving, “OMG DED <3” comments from a gaggle of teenagers on Facebook. Does it ever dawn on them too how soul-destroyingly superficial our lives have become? We self-praise like we’ve actually achieved something; but we’re not saving lives, we’re speaking in emojis and counting red hearts on Instagram. Our biggest success? Managing to fit informative text, a link and a photo into a 140 character limit on Twitter.
I’m not here to undermine your existing or prospective career in social media. I’m simply admitting my true feelings about this unabashedly shallow industry. Of course there are those actually making an impact on the social media scene; Nike’s empowerment of women, WWF’s fight against imminent extinction or Coca-Cola’s attempts to unite the opposed. But for the most part, we’re sitting here with an iPhone, iPad and desktop, trying to make a false emotional connection with strangers by using the hashtag #MondayMotivation.
What’s worse is that I’m not just living vicariously through the internet as a means to pay my rent but also on a personal level. If I’m not Instagramming a blogger for work, I’m Instagramming my edgy East London brunch for recognition. Following likes becomes an addiction, willing them to tipple into double figures.
Forget the ‘if a tree falls…‘ philosophical thought provoker, it’s now more relevant to ask, “If you went to Sketch and didn’t Instagram the egg-shaped toilet cubicles, did you really go at all?”.
Recently I was confronted by a colleague for my “off brand” Instagram post of a (delicious IRL) cupcake. I’d like to take a moment and thank that colleague because you helped me see that I was not in the midst of an existential crisis but instead consumed by a laughably empty and fastidious industry.
Perhaps I’m wrong and my perspective is a lonely one. However, if you’re seriously considering a future in brand-side social media, please take my writing as a warning. You may lose all sense of self and fall victim to the deepest, darkest, most hostile depths of the Internet. If your faith in humanity is questioned, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
But before you go, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram.
Images via Giphy.