How to cope with difficult social media shifts

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By Ellie Bowes


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If you moderate social media as part of your role, it is important to be aware of how it can impact your emotional wellbeing and mental health.

During times of high traffic when your organisation is under high levels of media attention this is particularly important.

Moderation can put a particular strain on your mental health because:

  •    You cannot control or predict what interactions you have.
  •    You may see or read disturbing material.
  •    You may not ever obtain resolution or closure on many interactions.

People engaging with trolling behaviour can be particularly difficult, as they will often leverage the elements above to purposefully provoke or upset you.

For information on how to practically deal with trolls, see our blog on how to deal with trolls.

Here is some advice on how you can look after yourself while moderating social media, especially during difficult periods.

Give yourself space to focus

If possible, don’t try and get on with a normal day’s work alongside your moderation duties. This will only add to the pressure you are under.

Put your out of office on, and let your colleagues know you may not be able to answer questions or deal with queries as quickly while you are on shift.

Some teams create signals so that colleagues know not to approach them when they’re on shift, such as items on desks or screens, or even items of clothing.

Sharing experiences and offloading

If you have had, or are having, a difficult shift, talk to someone. This could be a colleague or your manager.

This can help you get fresh, more positive or satisfying perspective on a situation.

Trying to deal with everything on your own can lead to higher stress levels and increase the likelihood of them becoming more long-term.

Social media moderation and mental health Social media moderation and mental health

Disturbing content

If you come across or are sent something which you find disturbing or upsetting, don’t be afraid to close or minimise the window immediately.

If you feel it is something which requires action, for example, it is a post on the organisational Facebook page it needs to be reported, or it suggests someone is at risk of harm, ask for support from a colleague or a manager.

Their being prepared for what they are about to see and dealing with it in a group can help reduce the impact.

Aggression and abuse

You do not have to engage with people who are behaving aggressively. These individuals or groups will nearly always be defined as ‘trolls’ and there is no value to you or the organisation by engaging with them. See our post on how to deal with trolls.

It isn’t personal

If you are involved in a difficult exchange or are receiving upsetting messages it is important to remember the person sending them has no idea who you are. They are attacking the brand name, the organisation and what they believe it stands for, not you.

Social media never sleeps Social media never sleeps

Ask for cover

Put yourself first. If you are finding a shift particularly difficult, or you feel it would be detrimental to your wellbeing to finish your shift, contact a colleagues or manager who can take over or find cover for you.

When your shift ends

Make sure there is a definite time when your shift is finished, and that there is a process or a plan for handing over to the next person. Social media never sleeps and if you wait for everything to be resolved, you’ll never leave your desk.

It might be helpful to keep notes through the day on interactions you’ve had and possible follow up that might be needed. This can help you to switch off mentally at the end of your shift and get on with the rest of your day.

Try and make time to do something you enjoy to unwind afterwards too.

Long-term consequences

The impact of stress, online abuse or of seeing disturbing images might not always be present, or they might not be apparent to you, straight away. If you are experiencing heightened anxiety or stress, hypervigilance or reliving difficult situations in some way weeks or months later it is important to talk to someone.

Good places to start are your manager and/ or your GP.  Mind’s guide on seeking help is helpful if you’re not sure how to go about it.