The Mental, Physical and Spiritual Impacts of Social Media Burnout
If I told you there were 4.5 billion social media users around that world, would that statistic provide a shock factor? More than half of the world’s population uses social media or 9 in 10 internet users. If you’re an active user, have you thought about how scrolling your newsfeed might affect you mentally, spiritually, and physically?
We know social media can make us feel good–matter fact, it’s scientifically proven. Studies show that social media likes and comments can trigger the release of dopamine in your brain, giving you what’s known as a “social reward”. This is why it can be so addictive and feel like you’re experiencing extreme highs and then low lows.
What is social media burnout?
Social media burnout refers to the online fatigue and drain you feel when you spend too much time on social media. For instance, maybe after scrolling your timeline and jumping from profile to profile, you feel empty. Or maybe you feel a brain drain and like you’ve taken in thousands of thoughts and feelings that don’t belong to you.
Another effect could be feeling inadequate or like you’re behind in life because you’re comparing your life to someone’s Instagram story or TikTok reel.
A 2020 study on social media use and its connection to mental health found that social media can have a negative effect on a user's psychological health.
This isn’t to demonize social media and say it can’t have positive effects on our mental health. Social media can be a great tool for building communities, connecting with people, and learning new things. For many BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks not living in places with regular access to affirming spaces and communities, social media has become an essential part of wellness and mental health care.
How to Assess Social Media’s Effects on You
Now, you may be thinking about how social media affects you on a daily basis, and those are good thoughts to have.
Here are some questions to ask that can help you self-evaluate and explore your relationship with social media. The purpose of these questions is to make you more self-aware of how social media affects you and how to ensure you can co-exist in the healthiest way possible.
How much time am I spending on social media and am I ok with this?
How do I feel after using social media? Anxious? Motivated? Insecure? Happy? Drained?
Why am I using social media? What need is it meeting for me?
Is this the healthiest way for me to meet this need? Is there a better way I'm not exploring?
Am I using social media to avoid time alone, uncomfortable feelings, or painful emotions?
Am I triggered when I come across certain types of content?
What are those triggers telling me about myself? Are there any underlying insecurities I should explore?
What is my life like off of social media?
How to Create a Healthy Balance
Trying to imagine a life without social media may seem impossible for many, and maybe you don’t have to. However, it may be a good idea to put boundaries in place that protect you from burnout. These boundaries will look different for everyone, but here are a few suggestions.
Embrace Real-time Experiences
Lots of events happen on social media these days which have its upsides. How convenient is it to attend concerts, meetings, and major events online? There is a benefit of physically attending and celebrating events, though, one being the ability to feel the energy of a physical place.
For example, Black history month is fast approaching and instead of posting videos and images, you could go to a museum of African American art. Another idea is researching your family tree and uplifting Honorable Ancestors or starting an Ancestor Altar and sharing your findings with loved ones during a family meet up, on zoom, or via email/text.
Starting an in-person or virtual book club centering black artists, black authors, or topics relating to Black people is another way to honor black people beyond social media posts.
Be Intentional About Making Real Connections
Covid-19 has changed the way many of us interact. With social distancing and other safety protocols in place, in-person connections can be challenging. So, it forced some of us to embrace technology as it has been the only way to connect with loved ones.
That said, sometimes, connecting with people on social media isn’t sufficient. That’s why you may still feel lonely and isolated after commenting on someone's picture or having an exchange via DM.
There are immense benefits of real connections, so try to get back into the swing of having them. Keeping public health guidelines top of mind, meet up with people you love in person. Be intentional about going back to other intimate ways of connecting with people like writing letters, scheduling zoom calls, or joining a group or forum. These alternatives can create deeper intimacy as they’re forms of quality time that allow you to truly connect. While likes, reposts and comments may feel like forms of tangible connections, they often offer a temporary high.
We have all likely fallen victim to intending to check what’s happening on social media for a few minutes and instead spending over an hour glued to the phone. Limit the time you spend on social media as a way of preventing burnout. You could try deleting the app for the day when you’ve reached your limit, whether it’s 30 minutes or two hours. Some smartphones also have screen time controls that will stop you from using the app once you’ve reached your time limit for the day.
Another tactic for setting boundaries with yourself is blocking or unfollowing gossip sites or anything else that you find causes burnout for you. These are ways to control your digital environment and make it one that’s good for your mind and spirit. For Empaths and HSP’s, it is imperative to not only practice energetic hygiene in-person, but also in the digital realm.
Have Regular Digital Detoxes
A digital detox is a period you spend away from technology like phones, TV, computers and the likes. This could be for half a day or half a month depending on your lifestyle and how fundamental using technology is to your livelihood.
If possible, do a 21-day social media detox where you don’t use any social networks within that period. It can be an effective way to clear your mind and recenter yourself. This is a beautiful way to find your unique rhythm and voice again.
When you're scrolling social media, you’re subconsciously taking on the thoughts and beliefs of other people. Detoxing gives you a chance to pay more attention to your own thoughts and beliefs as well as reconnect with yourself. I enjoy doing seasonal unplugs, this also opens more time and space to connect with nature and the elements around us.
With the direction the world is going in, it’s likely social media and digital platforms are here for the long run. Our job is to ensure that no matter what direction technology is evolving in, we protect our mental health and remember the power of connection.