Are you a victim of digital fatigue? Tips on avoiding social media burnout for bloggers



It all started with Facebook. Four years ago, like 3065132 million billion Americans, I set up a Facebook page to keep in touch with relatives, network with friends, and trade YouTube clips and photos. It was simple to set up, easy to navigate, and made communication time-efficient.

Then I started a blog, and was drawn into a vast world of social media. I discovered Twitter, and quickly learned how to increase my blog traffic through tweets with post links. Then I created a separate professional Facebook account. From there, it was a hop, skip and a jump into Klout...which led me to Pinterest...followed by Instagram, Hootsuite, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Tribber, and Faveous. (You can look for me on all of them.) And now I am officially a social media addict. My iPad accompanies me wherever I go. I get visibly twitchy when the battery level on my phone dips below 40%. In addition to blogging, my hobbies including sending out friend requests, checking in, and having anxiety attacks that I'm not doing enough to maintain my social media presence.

As I'm drawn more into the world of blogging, I feel a relentless pressure to join the newest networks. According to Nielsen, social networking is now the most popular online activity, ahead of sending e-mails, searching the Internet and playing games. One in every four-and-a-half minutes spent on the Web is spent on a social networking site or blog. And last year the average visitor spent 66 percent more time on such sites than in 2009, when early adopters were already feeling digitally burnt out.

The New York Times recently examined this trend, which they dubbed "digital fatigue." But as far back as 2008,  Scientific American Mind magazine examined the increasing digital fatigue we are facing as a result of always being plugged into technology. According to a study conducted by the article's authors, our neural circuitry actually becomes rewired as we become more reliant on social media.

After only five consecutive days of internet use (one hour/day), subjects newly introduced to the internet rewired their brains to match those of the computer-savvy subjects in the study. While the adaption of our brains to optimize internet use might sound enticing, the study warned that this rewiring forces us into a state of "continuous partial attention", in which we're keeping tabs on everything, while never truly focusing on anything.

The result? A condition called "techno-brain burnout", where people place their brain in a heightened state of stress through the continuous partial attention to anything and everything. Because our brains were not built to sustain this level of stress, "techno-brain burnout" (or digital fatigue) threatens to become epidemic. Some side effects of digital fatigue include reduced attention span, anxiety, digestive problems, and insomnia. Clearly, this is a very real problem.

So how can a social media savvy blogger avoid digital burnout while still maintaining an active online presence? Here are some tips:


  • Set a strict amount of allotted hours for internet usage: There is no doubt that forcing yourself to spend time away from the computer will help reduce digital fatigue. The simple act of unplugging your computer and relocating it into a different room is effective at reducing internet usage.
  • Link accounts (which is possible with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google +): This strategy makes it possible to communicate one message across multiple platforms simultaneously.
  • Use Internet management software: Software such as Freedom restricts internet usage for a certain amount of time, and can help set limits on the amount of minutes spent on your computer.
  • Wean down your follower list: This technique has proven to be hugely successful at managing social media stress. I am in the process of cutting down my followers on Twitter and Facebook, and already feel less anxious when scrolling through my feed.
  • Use syndication tools: Applications such as Ping and Hootsuite help reduce the amount of time spent on social media.

As a blogger, how reliant are you on social media tools? Which ones do you use? Do you ever feel "left out" in regards on maintaining an active online presence? How many hours a day do you spend on the internet? Do you feel a sense of anxiety when you're away from your computer? Do you have any advice for those looking to avoid social media burnout?



18 comments:

  1. I often feel pressure to keep up on all my social media accounts, but I just take some days to myself, and don't even bother checking at all. However, once I'm on twitter, I'm ON twitter.. forever.

    I think limiting time spent online or using social media is important

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  2. I haven't yet linked my blog to facebook for fear of over exposure, but I do enjoy a few tweets and twats here and there.
    There are some great social media tools out there that can be very useful when used appropriately.

    xo L.

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  3. Gah! I am with you on this!! I go through phases where I'm a kick-ass tweeter, active facebooker, regular blog poster, generally an all around overachiever! Then I hit a wall and don't want to even look at my iPhone, feel overwhelmed by my twitter feed and consumed by guilt over not being connected. Wish I could find a happy medium:). Hoot suite is my savior though...love it. Tons!

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  4. Having a blog that is so public makes me really uneasy about all the social networks. I currently only have Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter.

    I really like the three and I find it very easy to keep up with them. I could definitely see myself burning out if I were to use more.

    So I think being realistic about your time and circumstances can help you not commit to all these different networks because you'll only feel like a failure if you're not able to keep up with all of them.

    For me, it's whatever will not drive me crazy. So I'm trying to keep it simple so that I don't end up hating blogging because I really enjoy it at the moment.

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  5. "After only five consecutive days of internet use (one hour/day), subjects newly introduced to the internet rewired their brains to match those of the computer-savvy subjects in the study."

    I think I'm doomed since I've been online for longer than I haven't been online (about 13 years).

    --Courtney

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  6. A friend linked me to this post because I am talking about exactly the same thing on my own blog. It seems that there's an expectation with social media: if we can keep up with it, we should. I'm only really on facebook and twitter, but even that was becoming frustrating to the point where I've taken a week-long break from both.

    It's definitely important to step away from them and to enjoy things such as long blog posts or a walk in the fresh air. I think attention spans are becoming smaller as our brains adapt to doing too many things at once, so it feels like a holiday to cut down the things on which I'm focussing. My brain is appreciating it!

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  7. Oh my, I'm going down the same route... It started with finally joining twitter, and then a second facebook account. And I'm already feeling stressed out as I don't really do a lot of stuff on twitter, I check in every time I tweet a new post and check what the others have been up to, but no longer than, say, 5 minutes. I constantly feel like I'm behind on social media everything, but I also feel like I just can't let any more of that stuff into my life. It is a constant battle between two blogging goals, when you cut it down to the root: "Is my blog like a diary, for me and likeminded people and am I ok with it if it stays small? Or do I want to get my foot into the door of the blog world and have a big audience?" It seems like today, if you want the latter, you'd better get on all those social media services... Sigh. Having a small blog looks more and more enticing :-)

    Relatable Style

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  8. Timely post, Elyssa! I am becoming a social media addict and well into burn out. Not sure how to deal other than stepping away and re-thinking my online media strategy. This post gives me lots to think about.

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  9. The social media have become a huge part of interacting with readers and marketing a website but I easily get overwhelmed by it, also caused by my mistake to set up different profiles for different websites. Impossible to manage! I'm now trying to use just one twitter account but still have to set some good rules so that I can both be connected but not consumed by the social media.

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  10. Yes, yes, here, here! I am recently recovering from digital fatigue and didn't even know it! Thanks for this post, time for some self control for certain!

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  11. Super post. I most definitely have digital fatigue and techno brain burnout. I'm not exaggerating. Even when watching TV, I'm checking my iPhone the whole time. When I'm in the car, I'm checking. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I'm checking. Not good at all. I've been working on curbing it, though.

    One way I manage it is to NOT jump on every new (or old) social media platform. It's just too much. That's one reason I'm NOT on Weardrobe, Lookbook, Pinterest, Fashiolista, Lyst, and other sites. I manage my Tumblr and Facebook for the blog sporadically. Google+ I'm exploring for the sake of it, but it has already lost my interest. My main interaction is limited to Twitter, my blog, and commenting on other blogs. That's already PLENTY.

    Again, great post!

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  12. This is such a great post and so appropriate for me. Technology is taking over my life, I find myself checking and updating my social media accounts constantly. Otherwise, I get FOMO (fear of missing out) or guilt of not interacting/posting. I'm hesitant to use a syndication tool, there are things that may be appropriate to post on one account that are not appropriate in another. So, there goes that time saving shortcut. However, I think creating a schedule and structuring the time I spend on my phone/computer would be my best bet.

    Veronica

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  13. i'd post a comment but I forgot what I was going to say due to digital fatigue.

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  14. I've actually seen an increase in my ability to focus as I've grown older, which also parallels an increase in social networking.

    I've always had a terrible time concentrating and getting work done without removing my ability to be distracted by anything. Internet is only one such thing. If I need to write a long graduate paper, I must literally lock myself in a study room at the library, disable internet, and only open my word processor. If I am at home, I will be distracted by what's outside my window, or wondering if the mail has come yet, or who in the neighborhood is walking around outside, or if there is a baseball game going on around the corner.

    It is exceedingly difficult for me to do paperwork or research, and has always been. Long before there was a computer or internet in my house, I had trouble doing homework unless I removed myself (or more likely, teachers or parents removed me) from an environment with distractions. At first, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, but that turned out to be incorrect. When placed on medication, I simply shut down entirely, and did absolutely nothing. I needed the learning activity to be consistently challenging, if it wasn't my attention would drift. This is a different rant entirely, but our education system is ill equipped to deal with students with very active minds, and we often make the mistake of considering children with very active minds to be troublemakers or to have disorders such as ADD, instead of realising that we as teachers need to do better to engage our students so they do not become bored with the subject matter.

    In fact, my need for activity is one of the reasons I think I enjoy teaching so much. I can teach the same lesson twenty times, and because I have different students, the interactions are always different. I never do the same exact job twice. As I've gotten older and recognised the value of focusing in on the task at hand, I've become much more disciplined at placing restrictions on myself in order to do it. That means despite the ever increasing presence of internet in my life, I am quite capable of dispensing with it when the need arrives.

    Case in point: when I travel, I almost never care to status update or post pictures or tweet, etc, etc. I don't have time. I'm out sailing or hiking or swimming and the last thing I want to do is stop and remember to upload pictures or tell my followers what I'm up to. Sorry, you'll see it in two weeks when the trip is over. I have a museum to go to, and no photography or cell phones allowed...

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  15. Yes, a timely post, indeed. I've been feeling social media fatigue and just tuned out, completely, for 4 days. And I feel guilty for neglecting my favorite blogs! There will not be an easy answer to this one.

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  16. Triberr, grr. Fills up the Tweet timeline with too many repeats.

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  17. I must admit, I'm quite sick of it all! Though I think if you have a small business these days, there's no avoiding it.

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  18. I definitely struggle with limiting my computer and social media time! I actually feel a little upset if I leave a place and realize I never checked in on FourSquare, and feel guilty if it takes me more than few hours to respond to a tweet.

    When I was traveling abroad and didn't have internet access 24/7 it was definitely a struggle at first, trying to get my head around NOT tweeting about the cappuccino i was drinking, posting photos to instagram instantaneously, or checking in to the Colosseum... I was on a desperate hunt for some wifi for a while, until I finally came to peace with this idea that I could be social in the world and not on social media.

    Chic on the Cheap

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