Is Social Media Stress Adding to Your Workplace Stress?


“The number of users of the social network site Facebook in the UAE was 840,OOO in August last year, while the number of users of Twitter was 5,778, which represent 40 per cent of total users in the MENA” (ECCO International)

As a keen enthusiast for Social Media, I did not immediately see the potential stress effects of this great digital innovation of published, user-generated content, which has been called, by some, the biggest leap forward since printing.

But it wasn’t long before my stress consultancy was dealing with work-related stress from office workers who found that it was too much to cope with. And I realized that not only the sheer scale of Social Media, but its particular growth characteristics, would set up new challenges for HR departments, with a need for new stress management techniques.

After logging-on to a social networking site, you are immediately invited to connect to other associated links. Without thinking about it, you agree to receive a weekly newsletter, which in turn exposes you to further blogs and their embedded hyperlinks. Entering into this seductive world of intimate sharing of information, you have probably already revealed your email address, picture and other personal details of your self and your circle of friends and family to millions of people all over the world.  And that means you will certainly be facing a great deal of information overload in the days and weeks ahead.

The other side of the problem is the internal pressure, the addictiveness, of logging-on during the day, either in the office or at home, to check what your friends are doing.

One long-serving manager had come across an old database from twenty years ago, with thousands of names on it, many of them familiar to him. Out of interest, he decided to try to track them down through the networking sites. For about three weeks, he just couldn’t concentrate on anything else. It was as though he’d found a new toy. One by one, he would enter these names into the slot, to see where they were now. Running a fish-restaurant in Portugal… Manufacturing children’s telescopes in Ohio… And one of them had been making ornamental wrought-iron just down the road for the last six years without him knowing!

Be Selective

Elsewhere, there was a young woman who had been trained in the jewellery business and had got hooked on a Question-and-Answer website, where she kept winning prizes for answering jewellery questions. The prizes themselves were actually quite trivial, but the buzz of winning had got her addicted.

In a great many cases, people tend to lose track of time, and find that their work is suffering, as a consequence. Sometimes with unfortunate results. I know of at least one manager and two office workers who have all lost their jobs as a result of unauthorised web surfing on social media sites. So be warned!

My advice is to try to get over the ‘new toy’ stage, and use Social Media in a controlled manner. Yes, it’s miraculous what you can do and see, and learn at the touch of a button. But self-control is a necessity particularly when your employer is paying for your services to be full-time during office hours.

Here are three good habits I like to encourage:

First, be selective about your networking groups. New ones are arriving every few weeks, and it will pay you to research them. Equally, sign-off from the ones you aren’t using. This is useful selection that will eliminate much unwanted correspondence.

Second, note the information overload factor in respect of people who you’re addressing via the Social Media. Don’t automatically share all information for the sake of it. Realize that there’s going to be an increasing respect for clarity and concision in all forms of communication.

Third, don’t pressurise. You don’t need to add to the cacophony of ‘Hurry hurry’ messages, which add further to workplace stress. Adopt a more subtle and diplomatic attitude, and your message will stand out from the others. Remember that the Social Media are not just social, however casual and conversational they look. They are also commercial media, which carry an important purpose in promoting the products, services, and the corporate values of your organisation.

Key Points About Social Media

• Social Media are the biggest data revolution since printing

• They can become addictive both as business and entertainment

• You need to apply formal rules to regulate time spent online

Have you met any Social Media addicts?

Tell us about them now. Make an important difference to a big new debate.

[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

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