Plug or Unplug: The Balancing Act of Online Engagement

March 26, 2018

We’ve seen the studies and we’ve read the think pieces; being constantly ‘connected’ online, is detrimental to your IRL interactions, your stress level, and even your mental health. Doctors, writers, and tech experts all suggest taking time to unplug. And it sounds great…… in theory. For people who are cultivating a community online, the idea of disconnecting for even a second can sound virtually impossible.


You’ve put in all of this time and effort to cultivate a community, and you are finally reaping the benefits. Your members are engaged, your content is well-received, and your members trust you and look to you for guidance. Walking away from that - even for a day - seems like a great way to halt your momentum, and possibly even cause people to disengage. Why chance it?


Show your humanity


As the leader of your community, you shoulder a lot of responsibility. And one of the most important things you can do for your tribe is be honest, realistic, and transparent. And the reality is that you are human. Every single person needs down time, and giving the illusion that you are a machine that is on and available 24/7 is a great way to burn out. Give your community the gift of honesty. Show them that self-care is just as important as every other aspect of their lives. You stepping away shortly (even if it’s for one day) models a very important lesson; everyone needs a break. And it’s normal and healthy to call a time out.


Get a new perspective


Remember that episode of Big Bang Theory where Sheldon was stumped on a problem, so he started doing some crazy things like looking at the board over his shoulder (or breaking into a ball pit in the middle of the night) to try and get some new perspective? While the methods were a little odd, the premise is true. Stepping away for a hot minute and returning with fresh eyes gives a us a new perspective and new ideas. Taking breaks from the group gives you the time and space to learn and grow. You come back with more enthusiasm and new ideas to teach and share. It’s a win-win for everyone!


Share the load


If you’ve put the time and work into growing a community, it’s totally reasonable to worry about what they’ll do if you step away for even a minute. Parents know how much mischief a kid can get into in the blink of an eye, and it can feel like your community is just as temperamental and fragile. But the only way to help your group (or your child) become self-sufficient is to step away. If you take a two-day break every 4-6 weeks, your group will have to learn to self-sustain. And that is good for them and for you! Learning to rely on each other and their own knowledge builds self-confidence in them, and shows you just how strong the community is. As new members join, you won’t be solely responsible for welcoming and educating them. And that should be the ultimate goal of a community; everyone working together to make a connected group, working towards the same goals.

In summation


It is totally normal to feel like you need to nurture and watch your community every minute of every day. But part of growing a strong, vibrant, and engaged community is knowing when to step back for a minute. Not only for yourself and your sanity, but for your tribe to find their footing, their strength, and their voice.