If I were to ask you, what is the first thing you go to reach for when you wake up? Would you answer with your mobile phone? Would you answer differently if I were to ask you what is the last thing you put down before you go to bed? The invention of the smart phone is a demonstration of what mankind is capable of as one of the greatest inventions following the wheel. In conjunction with the internet (another one of mankind’s ingenious inventions) and social media, it has given us access to information and connectivity that was never available to us before.
This fast-stream of content and information can leave us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted leading to social media fatigue. Technopedia defines social media fatigue as a “social media users’ tendency to pull back from social media when they become overwhelmed with too many social media sites, too many friends and followers and too much time spent online maintaining these connections."
The greatest crime social media is guilty of is comparison. Research has found comparison to lead to feelings of stress, anxiety and fatigue. The chronic obligation to maintain online relationships has been found to create feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out). These feelings of being down and exhausted can manifest physically in your body. You may be experiencing symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, muscular pain, irritable bowel syndrome or back pain and you can’t explain why. In addition to physical symptoms, compulsive social media use can elevate feelings of anxiety and depression.
It’s important to reflect and recognise what your screen time is doing for you. Remember that the smart phone and the internet was created to help you, not to swamp you with emails, text messages and stay up to date with the latest notifications that broke the internet.
Am I using too many platforms?
Before you start downloading TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook or whatever the next social media sensation is, ask yourself, do I need it? What am I going to gain from it if I download it? Do I have the time, resources, or most importantly, the energy to keep up with another platform? Social media is going to keep developing and evolving, but that doesn’t mean you have to jump on every bandwagon that rolls through the app store. If this new platform is going to support your connections and serve you, then go for it! But don’t hit the download button if you don’t feel like it will.
It is okay to take a break
Sometimes we need a break. We are all human, and the world will keep spinning if you step away from the socials. Take a step back, re-evaluate, rejuvenate and come back when you are happy to be back. There are other ways to connect with people who matter to you, and you can use this time to better yourself – learn a new skill, get outside, call your parents! People who want to connect with you, will find a way to reach out.
Just be you
It’s easy to forget the things you read and see online aren’t a true reflection of what is going on but merely a curated glimpse into someone’s reality. It is often when you find yourself trying to compare to someone else’s version of reality those feelings of anxiety begin to creep in. When you interact and engage with social media, you may find being your genuine and sincere self will ease off a lot of anxiety you may be taking on.
It’s becoming clear there is a pressure to remain engaged and connected with people through social media, but it doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits all approach. Maybe we need to shift our perspective and re-evaluate how much of a spotlight we want to give to social media. Instead of following the crowd, lets create our own path to find what works for us.
Written by Osteopath Dr Renae Nygen
1. Adamsson A., & Bernhardsson. Symptoms that may be stress-related and lead to exhaustion disorder: a retrospective medical chart review in Swedish primary care. MC Fam Pract 19, 172 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12875-018-0858-7
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