Haasch: Don’t feel guilty, social media exhaustion happens to everyone

The best option may be to put yourself first and take a step back.

by Palmer Haasch

I’ve poured entirely too much energy into Twitter in the five years since I joined. As someone looking to cover internet culture and fandom spaces, I like to think that being perpetually active on Twitter is essential to my future career as a digital journalist. I maintain two accounts: one, a personal account that earns most of my time and the other, a disastrous fan account that will never see the light of day. Managing my intake was never a problem in the past, but a large influx of followers and notifications recently pushed me to a critical point. 

Just over week ago, a tweet calling me an idiot because of an article I had written made the rounds on anime Twitter. I was inundated with angry notifications from fans until I finally muted the tweet. I wasn’t really mad. Mostly, I was surprised it hadn’t happened sooner. Despite my apathy, the blitz of mentions had done the job. Any notification, even if it was positive, had me groaning. 

Social media exhaustion isn’t a problem that’s unique to me. I wish I could attribute it to one factor like an increased follower count or getting called dumb by anonymous men on Twitter, but this is just something that happens. No matter what platform you use, how many followers you have or how often you post, social media exhaustion is a real and persistent problem. There’s only so much information that we can handle, especially in times of heavy and particularly emotionally charged news that necessitates response and action. Information intake in general can quickly wear you down, even if it seems innocuous in the moment.  

Taking a social media hiatus, in some cases, may be the best option. For me it wasn’t; Twitter is unavoidable for me, and frankly, I’m a little too roped into it at this point to drop it cold turkey, even for a week. In search of some relief, my strategy to mitigate social media exhaustion has come down to one guiding philosophy; I’m allowed to engage with social media how and when I wish, but I have no obligation to do so at all. 

That sounds self-centered. However, remembering that you don’t have an obligation to immediately respond to a comment or direct message is the biggest hurdle to cross. I felt guilty not responding to my friends, but it admittedly felt great to continue liking and retweeting content while not fretting about conversation. Sometimes, cutting back on the more draining part — while still engaging with the less intensive aspects such as liking photos — of social media can make a big difference. Your friends will understand that you weren’t able to answer their message until later. Sometimes, we simply don’t have the energy for it. While attempting to crush my sense of reply duty, I also tried to limit the amount of time I spent on Twitter each day. At work, I didn’t hold back. At home and on my commute I wrote, read and played games to give myself a break.

In the end, I also ended up making a private Twitter account that’s limited to a very small amount of friends. Having a space to retreat to where I don’t have to closely curate my own content or worry about myriad replies is equally invaluable and relieving. 

Ultimately, listen to your overloaded brain and cut back when necessary, even if you’re as plugged in as I am. Your followers and friends will wait.