Social Media Fatigue
Wake up, check social media. Go to class, check social media. Have lunch, check social media. Avoid studying, check social media. Sound familiar? If you are anything like the average GenZ, you likely are spending around 4.5 hours per day on social media (YPulse, 2021), which is probably more time than you spend studying or being with friends per day. With this much social media consumption, you may end up experiencing social media fatigue.
Social media fatigue occurs when an individual has a negative emotional response to using and interacting on social media (such as Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter), which leads them, temporarily or permanently, to stop using the platforms. People who suffer from social media fatigue tend to become overwhelmed by the pressure they feel to make posts and maintain connections with friends online. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the more often you use social media, the more likely you are to experience social media fatigue (Malik et al., 2021).
Signs And Symptoms of Social Media Fatigue
Social media fatigue may appear harmless. We all get sick of things from time to time, right? But, the reality is that social media fatigue can be linked to negative wellbeing outcomes, such as anxiety and depression (Dhir et al., 2018). Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of and to look out for the signs and symptoms of whether or not you are experiencing social media fatigue.
- Memory issues, such as forgetting what you were browsing or had intended to browse on social media
- Inability to decide what to post or how to update your status
- Exhaustion or general fatigue
- Anger toward using and keeping up with your social media accounts
- Feeling irritable when viewing repeated content
- Feeling anxious when referred to, tagged, followed, or friended
- Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of online information you consume
- Decreased academic performance due to procrastination and an inability to focus on tasks
- Isolation and reduced desire to communicate with others, both online and in-person
- “Ghosting,” or suddenly ending communication with online friends
- Temporary amnesia
Why Do I Feel This Way?
Social media fatigue has been studied worldwide, and a common theme always emerges: information overload. When tapping into any social media platform, think about how much information hits you all at once. You see what your friends are up to, the latest news, products to shop for, funny videos of dogs, and enough new posts to keep you entertained for hours on end. It turns out that when our brains receive too much information at once, they don’t exactly have the capacity to remember and make meaning of it all. Because we lack the mental resources to process everything we see, this leads to physical, mental, and emotional fatigue.
Another factor that could be driving your social media fatigue is FOMO or fear of missing out. In relation to social media, FOMO is exactly how it sounds, feeling anxious about keeping up with what your friends are doing, current events, or online trends. Experiencing FOMO can lead to social media fatigue. One study observed that people who had FOMO were more likely to check their social media constantly than those without it, which led to the formation of unhealthy social media habits (Dhir et al., 2018).
6 Wellbeing Strategies For Social Media Fatigue
There are several strategies that you can try. These are aimed at helping to develop a healthy relationship with social media and to create a balance between engaging and disengaging, in order to protect your wellbeing.
#1 Limit Social Media Use: This one seems like a given, but it is important, because the more often you use social media, the more likely you are to experience fatigue. Try limiting your daily use by setting a timer for when it’s time to stop scrolling. There are even some apps that can temporarily block the use of the social media apps for you. You may struggle with sticking to your time limits at first, but don’t give up! The more you practice, the more manageable it will become.
#2 Be Mindful of Follows: It’s time to reevaluate who and what you are following on social media. Being picky about the content that you view can help you to avoid information overload and anxious feelings. Before following (or unfollowing) people, pages, and groups, ask yourself these questions:
- Do their posts make me feel anxious?
- Do they provide me with helpful information?
- Do I have a good reason for following them?
- How will I feel if I don’t follow this account?
#3 Identify Boredom Busters: Boredom is a big reason that people turn to social media. The next time boredom strikes, do something else besides opening an app. Instead, try calling or meeting up with a friend, reading a book, going for a walk, or decluttering your room or backpack. The point is to channel your boredom into a more productive manner.
#4 Get Your News Elsewhere: While many college students get their news from social media, it is important to remember that there are other ways to learn about world events. Try getting your news from trusted news source channels or websites instead, and skip the comment section if there is one, as those can be filled with arguments and opinions that can stir negative feelings inside you.
#5 Engage In Mindful Browsing: Mindfulness and social media don’t seem to go hand-in-hand, but they can! Before you open your app, ask yourself, “Why am I going here?” If you have a purpose, such as finding that article your friends keep mentioning about hacks for cooking meals in a dorm room or wanting to see pictures from an event the day before, then proceed! And once you have successfully found what you were looking for, get the information, and then hop-off. If your answer to “Why am I going here?” is that you’re just bored or you don’t know, pick another activity to keep yourself occupied.
#6 Identify Avoidance Patterns: Whether it’s diving into a research paper or doing the dishes, we often turn to social media to avoid responsibilities or even social interactions. You want to be mindful of when you are turning to social media to avoid certain tasks. If you feel you use social media as an avoidance tool it’s time to try a different strategy. Instead, try giving yourself a small positive reward such as your favorite coffee or snack for completing an activity you were avoiding. You can even try stress management techniques such as journaling, breathing exercises, or mediation for those activities that cause you stress or anxiety.
Bright, L. F., & Logan, K. (2018). Is my fear of missing out (FOMO) causing fatigue? Advertising, social media fatigue, and the implications for consumers and brands. Internet Research, 28(5), 1213-1227. https://doi.org/10.1108/IntR-03-2017-0112
Dhir, A., Yossatorn, Y., Kaur, P., & Chen, S. (2018). Online social media fatigue and psychological wellbeing—A study of compulsive use, fear of missing out, fatigue, anxiety and depression. International Journal of Information Management, 40, 141-152. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2018.01.012
Malik, A., Dhir, A., Kaur, P., & Johri, A. (2021). Correlates of social media fatigue and academic performance decrement: A large cross-sectional study. Information Technology & People, 34(2), 557–580. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-06-2019-0289
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YPulse. (2021, February 10). Social media behavior report. https://www.ypulse.com/report/2021/02/10/social-media-behavior-report/
Zhang, S., Shen, Y., Xin, T., Sun, H., Wang, Y., Zhang, X., & Ren, S. (2021). The development and validation of a social media fatigue scale: From a cognitive-behavioral-emotional perspective. PloS One, 16(1), e0245464. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0245464