CharityComms Podcast: Wellbeing in the age of social media
4:32PM Jun 21, 2021
Lauren Haizel-Cobbina, CharityComms
Tereza Litsa, Lightful
Hannah Lattimer, Samaritans
Beth Kanter, Wellbeing specialist
Jake Edwards, Mermaids
Hello, everyone, and welcome back to another CharityComms episode where this season we'll be discussing all things wellbeing. As you know, things have changed this season, and so we'll be having a guest host takeover each episode, they'll be inviting three guests who will be interviewed about various topics surrounding wellbeing. So today we have the amazing Tereza Litsa, who's the social media and content marketing lead at Lightful and the host of the Reclaim social podcast. Tereza will be talking to her guests about wellbeing in the age of social media. So welcome Tereza.
Thanks so much Lauren, good to be here.
Super happy to have you, and I know this is going to be a great episode. I'm sure people are gonna enjoy this. But before we kick off, it's only right that we get to know you a little bit more, about your journey in the land of social media.
Sure, of course. Well, hello, everyone. I'm Tereza, I'm doing social media content and training at Lightful - so we're working with charities all over the world. And in terms of my own journey, I've started working as a social media manager, I think it was nine years ago. And I've been in the charity sector for four years now, which I clearly enjoy.
Love it. And she's award winning. Can I just say she's thriving. So for those that don't know, and Tereza is also one of the masterminds behind the Reclaim Social movement, which is a campaign that seeks to reclaim social as a force for good. So I wanted people to learn a bit more about the campaign and how it came about and how you think it's helped to remove the negativity in the world of social media.
Oh, yes, we started Reclaim Social four years ago, it was kind of like a one off day to share positive stories using the hashtag #ReclaimSocial. So it was really interesting, it got very popular, we decided to just turn it into an annual day early in February. And we come together and share inspiring stories, which is obviously very uplifting and very useful for those working in social. Beyond the big day we're also working with others throughout the year exploring what it means to have a more positive online experience, and how we can really practically help each other to make it happen.
Amazing. I'm going to put you on the spot. Is there any story that someone shared specifically during this year that really warmed your heart and made you feel like we are reclaiming social as a good force?
There were many stories this year that were around kindness and for example, cases, especially during lockdown of people helping each other, communities on a more local level coming together. So obviously, when you felt like oh there's, so many negative news around you just check the hashtag and feel a little bit better.
Definitely, well, you guys are doing an amazing job. And I look forward to it every year. But I wanted to ask you personally have your own personal experiences of running a social media platform influenced your view of it, and how's it shaped your understanding of how important it is to look after your own wellbeing in these roles?
Yeah, well, working in social media for many years, it really affects you in a sense of how you view everything and how you can combine your work with how it could affect for example, your wellbeing. So I definitely relate with everyone feeling overwhelmed or tired from time to time, and especially this year, it was definitely challenging. And I think it's really vital to be able to protect your mental health and be mindful about it. And from my personal perspective, that's how it also was linked to Reclaim Social. It's not just about the bigger picture of being more positive. It's also the reminder that for those working in social and digital, it's really important to be mindful with your usual activities in general and platform. Definitely.
Are there any tools and like coping mechanisms you've used personally, that's helped you?
Well, I'm trying and I'm saying trying. I have limits on my social media apps and it really helped this year because it's really tempting with all the news and how everything was really changing to just stay glued on your phone. When you are working on social you try to set some limits and some time blocks when you have to work, for example, and check the platforms to say that, okay, I'm not going to be distracted and just stay on Twitter the rest of the day. It's just trying to be a little bit disciplined really.
Definitely, and I think with the pandemic still ongoing somewhat, it's easy to do that, like doom scrolling kind of job. Yeah, it's too much. It's too much. So I think that's a great idea. But I'm gonna stop talking. And I'm sure everyone is waiting to hear from our guests. But before we pass over the baton to Tereza, could you tell us one thing you took away from this episode?
There were really great tips from all three guests in terms of as we were discussing right now, how to cope with this challenging year and working in social and I think it was a really great reminder that we have amazing people in the sector working in digital and comms and we certainly need to help them as much as possible and remember that they're just doing their job and it can be challenging sometimes. So we always need to be kinder with them really.
Wow amazing. I can't wait to hear this.
Hi everyone, me again. Just to say, first up, you'll be hearing an interview with Tereza and Hannah Lattimer, who is the social media manager at Samaritans.
Hello Hannah, thanks for joining the CharityComms podcast, great to talk to you.
Hi, of course, thank you so much for having me.
Well, I'd love to ask a few questions on wellbeing and taking care of the social media team at Samaritans.
First of all, how do you support each other when dealing with a crisis? Whether it's a negative comment, bad PR, anything? Because obviously, I know the feeling being at the forefront in terms of social?
Yeah, good question. I think for us, it's making sure that if anything sort of awful comes in, it's a sort of flagging it to each other. So, to give some context we're a team of two, so there's me and a social media assistant, and so if anything comes up, we'll normally flag it to each other and try and take a breath, pause, think about how we're going to reply to something. And then we sort of craft a reply together, making sure that everyone's happy with it, signing things off. And then for us, really, it's about making sure we're checking in with each other. So if the crisis is sort of rolling on or continuing we, we use slack a lot. We always keep in touch over slack.
Classic digital team. Yeah. So we're always sort of in touch with each other, over slack to kind of have that real time conversation. And then it's always about encouraging breaks, if we're having a really difficult time to just step away from it. It'll still be there when we get back. Yeah, just to make sure that we are taking a break, taking a breather and sharing anything that's really difficult with each other to sort of check in.
Yeah, yeah, that's definitely important. So when you have to deal with that, as you've said, how do you actually support each other going beyond the issue where you have to deal with, as you've said. How do you make sure that you take care of each other?
We tend to have lots and lots of chats about mental health in general, just because of the kind of stuff we deal with, we sometimes get some really challenging images and descriptions of things, which can just be really tough. And we're not robots, so we always make sure that we have space in our one to ones to talk anything through and to make sure that we're sort of telling each other if things are tough, we tend to be really honest with each other, which is really nice. We, you know, we talk very openly about mental health as a team.
And when it comes to burnout, because obviously, we know in social media, it's always something to keep in mind, because it's really easy to lose track. Are there any practices, any ways to make sure that you're always like having that stop before it gets really bad for someone?
Yeah, definitely. And I think at the start of the pandemic, I was a team of a social media team of one so I'm really pleased to have a team member, but it was really easy for me, in particular, to just kind of work through lunches and not take breaks. So something that I realised very quickly that, that is obviously a problem, people are sort of booking meetings all day. So I'd yeah, not take a break. So now it's about making sure that we're just, it's really simple, just booking lunch into your diary.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, totally agree.
Like stepping away, because otherwise, I think it's so easy to just work continually through. We care about what we're doing and I think burnout can be quite common in the charity sector, especially because people are really passionate. So yeah, like booking time and kind of booking just space in diaries to say, 'please don't put any meetings in', and making sure that as a team we're both doing that as well. And then just again, really simple things sticking, sticking to our hours making sure that we're not working over and above what we should be. And actually, the last thing is the mind and wellbeing action plans, we've been using those which there's kind of a section in there, which talks about what does stressed look like? Me and my team have sort of both shared our wellbeing action plans to look out for the signs.
That's really good.
Yeah. Which is really handy. And we sort of try and keep those up to date as well, to make sure that we we kind of, yeah, just chat through things.
No, that's really important. And have you noticed any changes the last year, obviously, working remotely and having to check in with each other? You're not in the same office? You're not just seeing someone the signs of like, being tired or stressed?
Yeah, it's interesting. I think, because I guess as a social media team, I kind of I haven't actually met the social media assistant at all.
Yeah, because you just said they're still new.
Yeah, yeah. So it'll kind of be weird because we've, we've carved out this way of working, where we're sort of in a couple of times a week, and we're constantly on slack. We've only ever been a team virtually. So I think for me, it's the it's the wider digital team and how we've kind of coped. We always make sure that we have, you know, week, weekly check, check ins, and I think it's just about sort of making sure that we're all taking a step back, leave the house.
So I think for me, I've noticed that because I'm an extrovert, I really value that sort of face time with people.
Yeah, of course.
So checking in with people and just booking like, really silly meetings to just chat rubbish.
Just the water cooler chat.
Yeah, I think that those have been really important to me. Whereas, you know, there's some people in my team who are introverts who have actually really taken well to this time. So it'd be really interesting going forward to sort of see how things, how things change and come to the new normal.
Yeah, that's definitely a big change. And we see that whether you work on digital or just work remotely anyway, there is a big change on how you, people, work.
So what would you like to keep from the current year pretty much, and all the changes ahead? In terms of your job, it could be around your team, anything that would make you feel better in terms of your mental health and also being productive?
Yeah, I think, I think for me, and for actually most of the team, it will be a sort of blended approach. Yeah. So I actually can't believe that I was driving an hour into the office. So I think, yeah, I think for me, I actually really value the time at home that I have to sort of get my head down and, and get some things done. But I have really, really missed being in the office and just having that those water cooler chats, those silly bits in the office. So yeah, I think, I think the new normal for me will be a blended approach of working from home and, and being in the office. Just to make sure that yeah, I'm kind of getting out of the house. It's just a really nice, it's nice to be in an office with other people, I think.
Yeah, I agree. It feels like a good approach. Whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, it's good to have that balance after all.
Yeah. And I think I guess the other thing that I would keep is the amount of times that we just check in with each other. And we've really put that time aside for specific mental health chats to say, 'Hey, how you doing? How are you doing with content? Have you found anything difficult just to kind of give that overall space for it? I think that's really important. And we kind of build out that time, a little bit separate to our one to one.
Just to kind of give ourselves a focus.
Yes. I've also noticed that within our team, that it really helps. And it's good to normalise such conversations to just check in and not just have the one on one in terms of like professional talks.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And, yeah, it's just really nice to save that space, I think. Yeah.
Yeah, definitely agree. I really enjoyed the chat. And it's really great to hear from you. And hopefully everything goes well with the team.
Thank you so much. Thanks.
So next up, we will be hearing from Beth Kanter, who is a trainer, virtual facilitator, and nonprofit innovator with a specialty in workplace wellbeing.
Hello Beth, thanks for joining the CharityComms podcast. I'd love to have a quick chat on social media and wellbeing because you are definitely the nonprofit wellbeing expert.
Oh, great to be here, Tereza, thanks for inviting me.
You're welcome. Well, it's been a challenging year for everyone working in social media for sure. How do you think we can be more mindful with our screen time trying to stay productive of course for work?
That's a really great question. And I'd like to share an answer related to I guess, if I'm speaking to people doing social media, one of the things that I found helpful was to try to avoid getting on first thing in the morning and, and just being there. And you know, when you get on and you're responding, and you're engaging, I mean, that's great, but sometimes that can make you really less able to concentrate. So I would schedule those engagement periods, actually, at lunchtime and later in the day, when I felt like concentration wasn't at its best. And I would save my concentration for more higher level tasks, like thinking about strategy or crafting content and try to get those things done before I did my engagement. And I would also set a timer for myself, because it's so easy to get lost and forget about time. So I would set my iPhone on for 15 minutes or so and then turn it off and then I'm done.
That's a really good point. And I think having time blocks in general is really important. You have to be strict. If you want to stay as productive as you can, of course,
Absolutely, then that's like a whole other technique called the Pomodoro technique, where you actually - and it's named after a timer that looks like a tomato, hence pomodoro - and it helps if you're, you find yourself procrastinating. So I'm going to set my timer for 10 minutes, and I'm just going to start on this one task and just do it get into it and do it for 10 or 15 minutes. And it's really great because it gets you started.
And then other thing, obviously with social media that we're very aware of. There was the doom scrolling this year with reading, all the news, everything about Coronavirus and all the things that changed. So how do you deal in terms of like handling the negative news? And when you have to be exposed to social media for your work?
Yeah, I mean, well, there were some plugins that on Chrome that actually changed your newsfeed to like pictures of kittens. And that can help be helpful. And because you get in and you're, it's designed so you're addicted to scrolling, and you just keep on scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. So you have to be really mindful that you're in that loop. It's called the ludic loop, and pull your attention out, be mindful about it. What I would do, the big thing that I had to do, and I remember doing this like six or seven years ago, I was in this really bad habit of having 50 million, not 50 million, but I had quite a few tabs open. And I was just bouncing, oh, I'm gonna go on Twitter and post, oh, what about Facebook, and I was like a squirrel in that movie Up 'squirrel'. So I just learned how to be really mindful, when I go on, I'm going to go on social media and I'm only going to go on to my Facebook page and post and I'm not going to start looking at everything else. And I'm done. And every time I felt myself wanting to open another tab, and just like wander, I just pull myself back and get back onto task. I would actually book times as I mentioned earlier, where I was doing that, but I would put time limits on it. So once I started separating kind of, you know, there's times I have to be on social media and I have certain tasks to do, and I have to be intentional. And I do that. And then there's time where I just engage and kind of have fun with it. But I have to put time blocks on it.
It's still a challenge for me, I think you have to be very strict in terms of like, doing one thing, as you've said, and not jumping into another tab or just scrolling a little bit more like just a few minutes. It's never about the few minutes.
Exactly. And, and you can train yourself to be mindful of it. You know, I'd read a book, actually I'm blanking on the title, but Howard Rheingold wrote it. And it was about really being mindful online, it was published around 2011. And I found that book really eye opening, because I never really thought about my attention when I was online, and so it's really about managing your attention. And as soon as you become aware of that, and practice that, then it's just so much easier to do it, you know, it becomes second nature, as opposed to when I wasn't doing it. I was just training myself to like waste my time and be unfocused.
So when it comes to charities and nonprofits, so how can they protect their teams working online when you have to work and you have to be exposed to so many things? And especially when it's a sensitive topic? How can you take care of your team from an organisational level?
Well, I think it's encouraging people to have breaks, and encouraging them to be aware of what it's doing to them. That's another thing with the mindfulness. It's like, it's not only consuming the information, but also being aware of the impact that it's having on your body. Does it make you feel stressed? You know, is it increasing your heart rate? There is this thing called email apnea, there's studies that have found - and the researcher was Linda Stone - that when people were responding to emails, they were actually holding their breath, and it was making their heart race. And there's another study that just came out from Stanford about the impact of Zoom calls, that when we see each other on the screen, it's eliciting a fight or flight response, which is pumping adrenaline and other stress hormones into your system. So that's not good for us, it's not good for our mental health or physical health, especially right now, you know, during the pandemic, so we really need to give ourselves permission to take those breaks, and permission to be offline. It's okay.
Definitely agree. So last question. If you had to share one takeaway, one thing for someone working on social or even just remind ourselves to consider when you feel overwhelmed when you feel that that's a lot for a day, what would you say?
Just look away from the screen, get up, take a walk around the block. If you have a dog, go take them out for a walk, you know, just get up and get away from the screen. It's okay. I do that a lot. I trained myself to feel like when I'm feeling 'what does overwhelm feel like?' and I've trained myself to just say okay, I'm just moving away from the screen. We get sucked into the screen and we just stay there and we shoot ourselves constantly with another arrow. But just stop, get up, take a break. Even if it's like two minutes to walk from one end of your apartment to another. Then you've rebooted your brain and you've tried to get your energy back.
And definitely make sure you leave your phone at home. You don't need it all the time.
Perfect. Thanks so much, Beth. It was really good to chat to you.
And last but not least, Tereza will be interviewing Jake Edwards who is the communications assistant and social media lead at Mermaids.
Hello Jake. Really great to have you on the CharityComms podcast. So what it's like being the social media lead at Mermaids?
Well, what a question. It is, it's amazing. It's really fun, sometimes scary, and stressful and challenging. But I think overall, it's such, it's such a unique charity in such a unique social media kind of following to be sort of working with lots of opportunities to be really creative, lots of opportunities to be so colourful and fun. But then lots of times when things are quite, you know, real and serious. And it's been really quite a tough, I want to say a couple of months, a couple of years for the trans community, and finding ways to get that across in a way that isn't doom and gloom, that keeps the gravity of the situation is a really delicate balance.
I think that's what I would imagine, what you said, very much that from my perspective it sounds very exciting and very interesting and being able to help the community. But then as you've said, there are also many challenges. And I guess, working in social media, you're also exposed to this really you can see all sorts of comments and things that you wouldn't necessarily want to see. So in terms of your job, what would be your approach when there's like some sort of press coverage that you wouldn't want to see? And of course, it might affect, you might see more negative comments at once? Do you have a policy in place? Do you have some practice in terms of how to deal with that?
Well, I think it sort of depends where the negativity is coming from, and what people are talking about. Our most common thing that we deal with will be sort of pile ons, from people who are trying to detract away from the conversation, the positive conversation, around trans people and trans lives, and they will come in with arguments that aren't helpful that we don't really need to listen to or respond to. So that is pretty much what we do. We don't listen, we don't respond, when it's a lot of comments on a certain post, I will go through and hide a lot of the comments. And guaranteed every time someone will come back and be like, Oh, look, they're hiding all of these comments, as if it's some kind of secret that people shouldn't know that we're doing that. But actually, we're doing it not because of them, we're doing it for the sake of trans people who might come on to this post and see those negative things. And that they have a sort of safety barrier in place of not having to look at as much negativity, if anything, any comments ever violate the terms of service on a platform, we will report if it's somebody that's being particularly malicious, and coming back multiple times, in a way that is obviously not attempting to be constructive and have a conversation, we will block them. And I think it's, sometimes people get so sort of scared and intimidated by the idea of blocking people on social media, but actually, it's, you know, you're bringing the power back to you as an organisation, but also you as a community of trans people and as a community of people looking after the best interests of trans people it's not within, I think, not within the interests of the trans community to constantly have to get in these unproductive conversations with somebody that doesn't want to learn and doesn't want to understand your point of view. So I think just sort of removing yourself from that situation, focusing your energies elsewhere, is especially more productive. And also just knowing that I don't have to wade into those conversations every day does wonders for my mental health.
I think that's very important what you're saying, because at the end of the day, you need to think of your community, your audience, and you don't want to just have the negative comments there and affect people who might actually want to have like some sort of some interest, some things to want to check out on their feed. And is that a lot of manual work on your side? How do you usually take care of that if there's some sort of crisis and you just see an influx of negative comments?
We mostly, we do deal with it manually. I think we find that the sort of individual control in that way is quite nice. I'm obviously the social media lead. So it is primarily me, but our comms manager, and campaigns officer will also hop in and help out with the social media stuff. So it's not just me, I've got support. And I also know that if things are getting really overwhelming for me emotionally, that I can say, 'Can someone take over on this for me, because this needs to be taken care of but I personally am reaching a sort of point where I need to step back and step out of this', which is nice to know that I can you know, sort of wave that SOS flag.
Yeah, yeah, and that's the next question actually. I was about to ask how have you been taking care of your mental health? Especially the past year because I feel like social media managers have spent even more time on their phones and it's also your work that you have to deal with that. So obviously, it's not always an ideal scenario, when you have to deal with such comments and you have to protect yourself too.
I mean it's always that balance of the out of hours working that I find is sort of the most, not difficult, but the more challenging aspect of working in social media. I think it was just about quite early on understanding whose responsibility it was and when. Making sure that people are getting that balance outside of work, making sure that we don't miss anything important, but also that we're not sat there on, you know, a sunny weekend feeling like, we have to wade through hundreds and hundreds of negative comments. So we're definitely not as 100% on the weekends, but we still do have quite a big presence. It's just making sure we're, we're scheduling things in and things like that, on a sort of more personal mental health note, I found that just having daily check-ins, not necessarily with the same member of staff, but like going to different team members, usually it will be either people in the comms team, or people within our trans non binary network, and just going to those people and just having a little chat and saying, 'Hey, I'm looking at all of this on social media, can I just talk to you, like human to human about this situation', and we'll often have quite sort of, you know, philosophical moments, or have those moments where it's just like, we don't need to deal with that let's focus on something else, let's have a positive. Though, it's really just about, you know, having that community at work. And I think that's so especially prevalent within charities, you know, you're there for a reason, you all have a passion. And that passion definitely extends to, you know, everyone that's working there, and really caring quite deeply about each other's mental health.
I think the idea of the community was probably more important than ever, because we also felt a bit isolated anyway, on a physical level. So you needed any sort of community, whether that's on social media, whether it's just with your team members, as you've said, or it's pretty much any way you can stay sane.
Yeah, I mean, before all of this, it would be that you'd go into the office, and you'd be able to turn around in your chair and be like, 'oh, I've just read this comment, how exhausting' but now it's sort of like you're, you're left with this kind of build up of not having those little office moments of being able to get up and walk, walk somewhere and get a coffee together. It's so vital to you know, your, your mental health at work to the way you feel in your day job to how productive you are. I think those little moments really to me boosts productivity, so to have to find ways around that sometimes gets exhausting. So like, I just, just want to turn around and talk. But then having to pick up the phone and wondering, Oh, are you in a zoom meeting? Are you on the phone to someone else? So it's yeah, it's really about just sort of creating that open, you know, call me whenever and if I'm free, I'll pick up sort of thing.
Yeah. And on a more positive note, trying to end the conversation in a more encouraging way. Do you remember in the last year something that really made your day? It could be something you've seen on social media for Mermaids, could be something in your team, something that you actually felt better seeing that.
Gosh, it's such a human thing to not be able to pick out all the positive moments. I mean, there must have been so many, just positive, wonderful moments. I mean, I think that the first time that I saw everyone back in the office again, that has been just so like soul healing, but I think as well it's just it's been like funny little moments on Zoom. When we've been sat there talking about a work thing and then we've sort of gone on like a five to 10 minute tangent about like something weird that happened in our personal life and just just those little sparks of human connection. You know, it's the humanity moments that have made it you know, bearable and at times enjoyable
I mean that sounds great. It's pretty much the case you just realise that you actually miss the human connection and it's nice to have it back.
Yeah, I think especially you know, being in London you get so used to that like that bustle and busyness. You know, even if it's like two am and you're down some random side street in the corner of London, you're not alone. There's still people there with you in the street. So being able to, I mean going into like central London and being entirely alone in Leicester Square is so eerie. It makes you think you're like where is everyone you know where are like the tourists carrying like five bags from m&m world like I miss.
Yeah, that's exactly the case. Well, thanks so much for joining that conversation. It was nice pretty much as you said to connect even for a bit and have a chat and find out more about you really great.
Wow, what a great episode and a huge thank you to Tereza for hosting, and to her guests, Hannah, Beth and Jake. It was so interesting to hear how they've all been able to cope in the age of social media, especially amongst the negativity in crises, they've still found ways to overcome and maintain their wellbeing. As we mentioned, in the last episode, CharityComms have co-authored a wellbeing guide for comms professionals. Every article in there is written to help anyone at any stage of their career and with every organisation in mind. It's also a living guide, meaning that it can be added to over time. If your charity are leading the way when it comes to staff wellbeing, or you're a mental health professional, get in touch and share your tips. So that's a wrap for this episode, which is actually the penultimate for this season. So please keep an eye out on our socials to find out who our next guest host is, and what the final episode will be about. Till then, if there's something you'd like to hear about, or if you have any questions for us, then you can catch us on Twitter, I'm @LaurenHaizel, or head over to the CharityComms Twitter page @CharityComms. Alternatively, you can reach me at my CharityComms email, which is also in the episode description. Make sure you subscribe if you'd like to be notified when we upload and if you enjoyed this episode, we'd really appreciate a review or rating. We'll see you in the next episode. Bye for now.