5 ways to deal with social media fatigue.

My name is Tolly, I am a blogger, and I have a dark, shameful secret.

Sometimes, I don’t like to blog.

Or Tweet. Or Facebook post. Or comment on other blogs.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I actually toe a very fine line with my computer.  I love social media.  But sometimes it makes me anxious.  Overly neurotic.  And if I hit a certain “wall” of computer screen exposure, I have to detox for a few days.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the past few weeks on this blog were pretty much devoted to me promoting The Bleet-Up.  Those posts were punctuated by emails you didn’t see, and Tweets or Facebook posts that maybe you did, drumming up buzz for our little party.  Fortunately, it paid off.  Our guests were good-time Glendas, our venue (Whole Foods rooftop) was totally decked out, and our Santa Clause was drunk.  I had an absolute blast, and if you attended, I hope you did, too. 

But.  It’s the reason my blog has been blank for the past few days.

I think “fatigue” is something that social media users are afraid to talk about.  Hell, I am.

When you’re building a little space on the internet, and slowly but surely, community happens inside that space, the last thing you want to do is confront the temptation to turn off the computer.  You think, “wait a second — why is this happening?  I built up a little following, and now I’m just, I’m just, burnt out or something?  Do I fail at social media?”

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When I was in elementary school, I would regularly eat too much Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Like, Monday through Sunday Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast (and sometimes after school snack) consumption, and when the box got empty, oh my God Mom, PLEASE BUY THE CINNAMON TOAST CRUNCH!  I was a little addict, jonesing for my next hit, whether it was poured properly into a cereal bowl or simply poured into my hand.  In most photographs of me from age six to eight, I have a maniacal, hellcat smile on my face; this was in part due to the amount of Cinnamon Toast Crunch coursing through my tiny body.

But one day, overnight, my tastebuds changed.

Suddenly, I did not want Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I wanted mini Eggo waffles. Or scrambled eggs.  Or anything, really, just as long as it wasn’t those damn brown sugar-laden squares. The sight of that white box disgusted me, and those three cartoon, grinning Cinnamon Toast Crunch “chefs” on the front mocked my supreme dissatisfaction. Their cereal had no place on my spoon. No place in my life.

Eventually, after a long enough retreat into the solemn, colorless world of Cheerios … I would return back to my Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

I had just needed a break.  That was all.

And that is what it is like, with me, and maybe you, and social media.

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Like I said, I think “fatigue” may be a dirty word for social media users.  Especially here in Austin. We’re wired, baby!  We’re like the top American city for bloggers!

And on a collective level, that’s a serious accomplishment.

But on an individual level, it’s inevitable that you’ll crave unplugged time.

I say, listen to that craving.  I don’t know about you, but I need experiences in my life that are un-Tweeted, that are just mine to keep. When I’ve been swimming in social media for so long, though (it’s also a big part of my day job), sometimes I don’t know how to get back.

So here are the offline ways I restore balance, and ease social media fatigue:

1. I remember what I blog about. Which for me is Austin. I shut my laptop, and go on a freaking walk. Sometimes I cheat and take my phone (which has Twitter), but it’s always better when I don’t. To experience my environment directly and unfiltered, without feeling compelled to “report” it.

Foodies have it the best, I think. When they remember why they blog, they return to their muse with all five senses. And that’s the point I’m getting at, here: To devote your whole body, or as much of it as you can, to the thing that inspired you to blog in the first place.  Social media gets you caught up inside your head; rich smells, interesting things to see and touch, other people’s voices, etc. get you out of it.

2. Read things that are not on the internet.  For example, a book.  I know that many of us are obsessive readers.  Long-form reading material offers a different kind of satisfaction than the quick hits of Twitter or your Facebook homepage, no?  It’s a repetitive action, and lulls me into a type of meditation.  It also makes me forget about ‘me’ for a while, while social media does the opposite (i.e., unchecked, it can make my ego go berzerk.  ‘Ego’ has many definitions but this is the one I’m using here).

3. Buy a Christmas tree with somebody.  Or, cook with somebody.  The key word is “somebody.” One of the ironies of social media is that so much of it happens in physical isolation, and when I find myself going through long stretches where I haven’t done many things with other people, i.e. activities other than nodding to one another at work, why, it’s time to go drinking!  Or go see something at Alamo Drafthouse together, or coerce them into trying a Salty Oat cookie at Quacks, or volunteer together or play with dogs or whatever it is you do that not only rocks your socks, but can be shared.

(Speaking of coercion, I just found out that I successfully wife-shamed Ross into throwing away our plastic Christmas tree sometime last Spring, a fact he did not reveal to me until Monday, when we TOTALLY WENT REAL CHRISTMAS TREE SHOPPING TOGETHER. I am unreasonably passionate about real Christmas trees, and now, the house smells all piney and forest-y!!  Pat on back, self).

4. Call my mom or dad.  As in, I teach myself how to use the phone again. I’ve discussed phone anxiety before, and I think social media overload is part of the equation for many of us. We get so used to typing, editing, re-typing our little computer messages that the relative spontaneity of phone-speak seems … bizarre.  “Is that silence I hear on the other end?” you think, when the other person has merely paused to take a breath. “Um, they are being quiet? WHY ARE THEY BEING QUIET!?”

This is what happens when you are used to an unending stream of Twitter messages. When it’s just one-on-one, you and another person, chances are, the conversation will hit natural pauses. I used to think that phone silence = prompt for me to giggle or make a joke, but now I see that that’s just my way of displacing nerves. It’s ok to be nervous about phone silence, but it’s also ok to keep experiencing it, until you get to the point where you’re like, “oh, this is how people talk!  We sometimes just don’t know what to say.”  Because sometimes, you don’t.  And that’s kind of nice, that you’re both vulnerable together.  I think it builds intimacy.

5. Go to the places I’ve always wanted to go but haven’t yet.  God, there are so many in Austin!  Would you believe I haven’t seen the freaking bats yet?  There’s one.  Here are more:

South Austin Museum of Popular Culture
Sustainable Food Center for one of their Local Food Potlucks
Chaparral Ice (totally serious)
Tranarchy
Stitch Lab for sewing classes, where I have wanted to go ever since Indiana talked about it on Adored Austin.

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So now, I would love to hear from you.

Bloggers, Tweeters, other social media users: Do you ever experience social media fatigue?


If yes, how do you deal?