The Good, Bad and Ugly of Being a Digital Worker

So, you want to work with social media - that’s great. What are the reasons you want to work in the digital space? Common sentiments include: I love social media, it’s so fun! I am obsessed with Instagram. I’ve been on social media ever since I can remember.

If those are your reasons, I would reevaluate your desire to work in the social and digital space. Why?

Working with social media and being in the digital space is a full-time job. Yes, it is draining and yes, it is time consuming. However, when you have a true passion for the work it stops feeling like work and actually becomes enjoyable.

I have been a digital worker since high school and plan to continue working in the digital space after college. At first I thought it would be incredibly easy… and boy was I wrong. There is a certain amount of detail, hard work, creativity and passion that is required when working in social media. If you don’t have the passion for communicating in the digital space, working with social might not be for you. Additionally, if you are the type to unplug and live offline… I have bad news for you.

Something I learned early on while working with digital media is that you are always on. If anything happens online, you must act fast to respond, react or deal with a customer issue ASAP. According to HubSpot, users expect brands to respond within six hours on Facebook and one hour on Twitter. If you fail to respond in a timely manner, you risk losing business and sales for your company.

This expectation of always being online does not stop while you are at the office. In fact, it creates a mental stress and physical need to be online. Paul Barrett explains this in an article for HRZone by citing a study in which "61% of managers felt the technology made it difficult to switch off.” This always-at-work mentality literally follows you home - there is often no clear cut line as to where work ends and home begins. I have felt this first hand - my work follows me home, to the grocery store and even when I am out with friends. While I sometimes work remotely in the comfort of my own home (or bed, usually) I have found that if the passion and desire to work online isn’t there, it is not going to work out in your favour.

My feelings are not unique, they are actually extremely common. A report by Pew Research Center asked digital laborers to provide some anecdotes about their experience working online. While the interviewees had many positive things to say about working in the digital realm, there were a few negative aspects that stood out to me. Below are direct quotes Pew Research Center provides from their anonymous respondents:

“It has become an ever-present overhang on all aspects of life. There is no escape.”

“Digital technology radically increases expectations for instantaneous responses. This is unhealthy.”

“Engagement with technology is starting very young, and we don’t really know what the impact will be.”

“Increased isolation is a negative effect I feel in my life; the time I spend using digital technologies could well be spent in other more creative and productive ways.”

“I am becoming increasingly aware of the way constant access to digital forms of communication can be overwhelming.”

We absolutely cannot deny that technology, media and digitisation has somewhat, if not totally, consumed most aspects of life. Unfortunately, if you do not eat, breathe and sleep digital media, being a digital worker is not the right fit for you. To be more specific, if you don’t have the passion and excitement to generate unique and organic content, you’re going to feel extremely burnt out.

Let me give you a personal example. My current position as a Social Media Marketing Intern requires me to engage, interact and build relationships with influencers and consumers in the food and wellness space. This entails leaving genuine, creative and wholesome comments on their social media content. Now, I am not going to sit here and lie by saying I am super excited every day to leave comments on people’s posts, read their long captions and use a million exclamation points. Some days I am physically tired and mentally worn out. 

However, that is not how I feel the majority of the time I work. I truly enjoy reading our influencer’s responses and replies. I love learning and reading more about people’s experiences in the health and wellness space. I like having the freedom to create, communicate and inspire through digital media. Without this deeply ingrained passion and dedication, your work will come across as dull and uninspired. Every day will feel like a burden and I guarantee this starts to take a toll on your mental health.

So, what exactly are the good things about being a digital worker? There are a lot if you have the right mindset to live in the digital space.

One of my favourite things is putting my creative brain to use. In my every day life, I am soooo type A and don’t often get to exercise my creativity in my usual day-to-day. There aren’t many rules when it comes to creating digital content since the landscape is always changing. Some of the content I have the ability to create include visuals, graphics, long-from articles, copywriting and social campaigns. The possibilities for creation are endless and requires a lot of experimentation.

Another great aspect of working in the digital space is being able to work from home. Yes, work might follow you home and you have to adopt that always-on mentality. But who doesn’t like to work from bed? If you find that you are most productive in your own home, office and space, working online/remotely is such a great benefit.

If you love to be in the know and constantly touch up on your skill set, digital laborers have the ability to do so. When you have the passion for the work, you’re going to want to keep up to date with the ever-changing digital climate. There are many ways for you to expand and strengthen your skill set both through online platforms and benefits provided by work.

Social media and digital technologies are always evolving, which constantly keeps you busy. If there is anything you need to know about me, it is that I hate being bored. I am always looking for something to do and love being busy. That’s probably my favourite part of working in digital media - you can constantly learn, evolve and find something to do.

I highly recommend being a digital worker if you have the passion and understand the expectations. Just like any job, working in the digital realm has its rules and standards. However, if you eager and willing to grow as a digital worker, you might just find that it is a challenging and rewarding job. Even though there is a lot to take on (both physically and mentally) there is a lot that comes with it that helps grow your career and ultimately, life.

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