How TikTok’s head of US safety figured out how to log out of the social network
It is not easy for Eric Han to leave work or social networks. Han, 35 years old, head of US safety at TikTok, witnessed user base skyrocketed while locked. Since 2020, social media apps have also received increasingly scrutinized about how it handles the spread of misinformation, misinformation and graphic content during a volatile global news cycle.
Han has spent 14 years in the trust and secure space and started her career as a content moderator, all of which has to be said that work is always hectic. But given his heavy workload, Han says it’s important for him to decompress by taking meaningful breaks and being the leader for his team.
Han told CNBC Make It: “Honestly, for the trust and safety people, especially myself, that was the driving force behind us joining the PTO. “The field attracts a lot of selfless people who have a mission and mentality that want to keep the foundation safe.”
But this kind of culture can be exhausting, even at a company like TikTok that offers American employees 17 days of vacation a year. “We would say to people who haven’t been on vacation in a while, ‘You have to slow down to get up to speed,'” says Han.
Here, Han shares how even a trust and safety specialist at a social media company can pull out of a job.
How he replaced his travel preferences during the Covid lockdown: I’m the kind of person who plans trips and has enough Google documents, Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor tabs to open when the computer crashes. But during the pandemic, my wife, who works in medicine, and I were unable to make our usual large trips to Southeast Asia or Europe. So we built a garden.
I told my team, “I’m going to take two days off to just plant the seedlings.” I never thought of myself as the type to have a favorite tomato – black krim, by the way – but two and a half years working on it, it’s been my element of peace. There’s a benefit to being able to have a period of meditation and just go out during the day. I can spend the whole day or take a day or two off to just sit in my garden.
The importance of redefining time off: Considering the work we do for trust and safety, and with the recent heavy news cycle, we’ve found our team needs more time to unpack. From a leadership perspective, we have to make sure that not only do we have the right intentions, but we also have to make sure that on an institutional level we have the resources, like mental health days and emotional support services.
Tips to stop checking social media during vacation: I used an app called Freedom that limited my access to certain websites and apps. Other times, I will just delete social media like Reddit, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok from my phone. Challenges always follow.
I don’t bring my phone to certain places. Sometimes I’ll lock it up in a hotel. My parents grew up in a village in Malaysia, so when I visit I can be intentional and think, “Anyway, I’m going to an area of the country that isn’t very well received.” I can either turn off my Twitter brain or not look at Instagram.
I also take pictures a lot when I travel, so I can focus on that.
Why he and his team consistently encourage breaks: We always talk about time off. It’s just like saying, “Hey, how are you? What are you doing this weekend? And, oh, do you need more time off?”
We are both very expressive people and we take care of each other. A lot of that is built into our culture, about making sure we check in and encourage each other to do interesting things.
What he would tell his 25-year-old self about taking time off: Be more adventurous.
Every 5 to 7 years, I travel with my parents to where they grew up in Southeast Asia. In my 20s, I’d rather hang out with my friends in Vegas. I probably had a youthful attitude, “I’m going to a village with no reception?” Now, I can’t wait to do those things.
It took me a while to think about what a privilege it was to connect not only with my family, but also with my ancestors and where I came from. Those are some of the more transformative moments I’ve had as an individual learning where I come from.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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