How to Avoid Social Media Burnout

Whether you're immersed in social media for a living, for fun or perhaps for a little of each, using it can sometimes overwhelm you, particularly where you're signed up to a range of networks. Social media burnout happens when what was once fun and enjoyable turns into a chore, paving the way for either avoidance or half-hearted interactions. If you're feeling burned out in the social media sphere, realize that you're not alone––it's a commonplace experience for those who fail to set boundaries after an initial burst of enthusiasm. However, it's definitely a phase you can overcome by restoring a little order and focusing more on what you actually want from your social media interactions.


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    Identify possible social media burnout symptoms. Even a sneaking feeling that you're overdoing the social media connections each day might be enough to help you realize a change is needed to your current approach. However, it's not always self-evident that you're enmeshed so deeply as to be harming both yourself and potentially the "brand" you're putting across to others. Be particularly alert to possible burnout where you've been making excuses to yourself for pushing beyond your available time and energy, making room for social media at the expense of the rest of your life. Be clear that passion and obsession are not the same thing, and that being obsessed with inputting social media updates will eventually wear you down. Here are some signs that you might already be suffering from social media burnout:
    • You're plugged in to social media for most of the day and all of the evening, yet it doesn't feel very productive at all. Moreover, you find it hard to disengage even though you keep telling yourself that you must. To a lesser or greater extent, you may also realize that you've confused the quality and quantity equation.
    • Apathy or lethargy sets in. For example, when once your first thoughts turned to social media interaction, now it seems like an ugly chore looming over you, as if you've created a monster of necessity that needs feeding even though you'd rather forget about it. You may already be avoiding networking as much as possible.
    • You've become abrupt and possibly even rude with your messaging. This is the online equivalent of real life snapping at others, or acting defensively before anything is even explained.
    • You're in a rut of the same-same-same old stuff. You simply keep on recycling what worked this time last year without giving a toss that this year's approach has changed direction. You've… just… stopped… caring.
    • You feel pulled in many different directions and it's a huge source of stress. Yet, stepping off this treadmill feels threatening.
    • You've simply decided to disappear. You've gone missing in action, totally disappeared from your favorite social media accounts and you can't even be bothered to respond to those kind messages asking after your well-being. And people have stopped wondering about you at all––you've been written off.
    • And if social media is part of your job or business, you may be asking yourself: "What work/life balance?" If your social media input has bled into your offline life to the point where you're updating while cooking, changing diapers or taking money out of the ATM, it's definitely time to reassess your direction!
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    Acknowledge the loss of passion and enthusiasm for what you've been doing by way of social media networking. Accept that your involvement needs revitalizing. Switch off and go and do something you love to bring back some sparkle into your life, such as taking a weekend trip away, starting a weekly sport or getting involved in a new hobby. Whatever it is, adding a little fun diversion into your real life will help to restore your creativity and give you a bit of space. Use this time to put social media "on hold" and simply enjoy the moment without trying to see an angle in it for updating or posting purposes. When you do get back to deciding on your new social media approach, having experienced a few unrelated distractions will improve your sense of connection with people and the world, often making it easier to find fresh motivation to reconnect.
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    Identify where things are and are not working for you with social media. Social media is usually delivered at a fast pace. Getting caught up in this pace can be a major cause of wearing you down, and most likely it's because you haven't set yourself precise boundaries as to when you will and won't interact. If you're a people-pleaser type personality or someone who just can't bear the thought of letting down anyone, you're at high risk of burnout both now and into the future unless you put in place secure boundaries for your usage of social media. Even if that's not your personality type, the frequent pressure to "be the best in social media" can create unwarranted pressure to perform like crazy. It is therefore recommended that you make a pros and cons list of your involvement to try to restore a sense of what truly matters when you use social media:
    • Write down the things that you find frustrating, boring, challenging, time-consuming, exhausting and petty about your social media input.
    • After identifying the negatives, write down the things you love about social media input, such as connecting, sharing information, energizing action, growing a cause or interest group, knowing people are learning from you and vice versa, etc.
    • Mull over your two lists and see what actually matters to you and where you feel most stretched and most engaged. By doing this, you can begin to concentrate on how to improve the mix in future.
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    Prune your social networking choices. Start by looking at the extent of your social media accounts. Do you have too many perhaps? With so many possibilities including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, and more, it can easily be a case of stretching yourself too thinly. Which ones are most important or valuable to you? Which ones will give you the most mileage for what it is you're using social media for? The answers to these questions will differ depending on whether you're interacting for fun, for a business or job, for a cause or charity, for any other particular reason. Some social media sites are simply better slanted toward outcomes dependent on your need than others, and only you will know which do the best for your needs. Even if you decide that you need to keep all the social media accounts you have, there are probably better ways to aggregate them, namely organize them so that they're in one place. If you're not already using a program that lets you aggregate different accounts on the same social media site, get one, as it makes life a lot easier. Many such programs can be downloaded for free and unless you need all the bells and whistles, they are generally free to run too.
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    Save on the time spent by adding on the quality: A large part of your time is spent on increasing the visibility of your post. And it is a frustrating experience to find the results not matching the efforts. This is one important factor that usually leads to psychological burnout. An intelligent SEO and SEM management would lead to much better results.
    • The title or the first line of the post should be enticing enough for the people to read the entire post and click the link to reach the concerned web page. You need to spend as much time on the designing the title as on the contents of the post. The title should encourage your friends to like it, and more importantly share it.
    • Liberally use “#” tags to categorize your post to as many segments as possible. This will help your post to appear on search engine in more categories, more often, and any result that appears more number of times on search engine from diverse geographic and demographic regions, starts getting higher search engine ranking, thus providing more visibility. “#” tag is a very relevant factor on Google+ & Tweeter.
    • Try to include relevant quotes from people who are frequently searched on search engine. For example if you include a quote from Bill Gates, you can have a # tag as #Bill Gates. This adds a bit extra to the visibility factor.
    • Comment on trending topics. Though the topic may not be connected with your product, an intelligent comment will encourage people to view your page, where they can view your post, some may even be inclined to retweet or share the comment, thus bringing in more people to your page, and increase n followers.
    • While posting on Linkedin. It is important to post only on relevant groups. Linkedin allows you to join 50 groups. Join the most relevant groups, and post on them. Ask questions, Ask for suggestions, encourage members to comment, respond to each and every comment. More number of comments (that includes yours also) will help the post to remain live longer on the group. Please post only once. Don’t spam.
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    Make a plan for interaction. To set the all-necessary boundaries in place and to skew the input toward mostly the stuff that inspires you, a plan can be helpful. It doesn't need to be complicated (in fact, the simpler, the better) but it does need to have a sense of direction.
    • Start by focusing on the things that you've identified as mattering most to you. What will you action out of this list from now on? What will you cease to action?
    • If you haven't already set in place a time allotment schedule, do so now. For example, if you've decided that Twitter is your top resource and Facebook a pale second, then schedule most of the time you're allotting for social media input to Twitter, with a much reduced amount of time given to Facebook. Try to choose time percentages that reflect what you get out of each social media stream.
    • Be tough on just how much time you will allot daily to social media in general. Select an amount of time that is reasonable and in proportion to all of your other day's activities. The amount will vary dependent on whether you're using social media for fun or work, or both, but be honest about the real amount of time needed. Generally, if you need the internet for work purposes (for example, you're a paid blogger, a website owner, etc.), then you will probably need more time online than someone who uses the internet for fun and socializing only. But even for those working with the internet, eight hours a day online should be sufficient time and only some of that time needs to be devoted to social media. Allocate finite time slots, perhaps once a day or several times throughout the day, and plan to stick to these. And importantly––make it a point to carve out family and friends time, especially on weekends, as well as time to tend to chores, your personal needs (exercise, relaxing, hygiene, etc.) and general life needs.
    • Draw up or digitally produce a "chart of interaction." This can help you to track interactions and enable you to overcome a sense of not interacting enough with key people. This means you'll need to identify key people with whom to interact regularly first. Then, create a sliding scale of interaction that will fit in these key followers/fans, etc. according to importance or value. Realize that even one interaction every few days can be sufficient––you do not have to enter into "he said/she said" conversations on a regular basis! If you've fallen into this habit, put a boundary around it now. It's polite enough to acknowledge regularly rather than engage deeply every single time.
    • Be clear on when it's okay not to interact. Again, this is about boundary setting––a lot of comments, posts or updates don't need to be replied to and many general interactions don't require a high level of responsiveness either. Make up your mind to respond to quality and where clarification is essential (such as on a blog commentary) rather than trying to respond to everything. In particular, unless you truly need to quell a reputation-damaging fire, avoid responding to negative comments or things that are deliberately provocative. Life's too short.
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    Limit the places where, and devices through which, you interact with social media. If you've become used to updating on-the-go, it can be a good idea to stop this piecemeal habit and to corral your updates to specific places, on specific devices. Some ideas to help you do this include:
    • Smartphone/cell phone updates: Your mobile may be your biggest problem since you can carry it anywhere you go and can use it for quick and easy access to your social media accounts. Turn off your notification ringtone. If you hear a ringtone every time you receive a tweet or Facebook notification, hearing that sound may make it difficult to ignore. Also, try putting your mobile device away. If you keep the phone in your pocket or attached to your belt, you're going to be more likely to take a peek at it.
    • Eat your meals at the table with your family or real life friends, or a good book, instead of with your social media friends. It can be all too easy to plop down in front of the computer for a meal, to check updates and status changes. Yet, doing this perpetuates your social media obsession and isn't conducive to good boundaries (let alone an enjoyable meal). You might even consider making a rule that no food can be near the computer––there goes the fuel needed to stay glued to social media all night long!
    • Get away from the desk or portable device more often. Clean your office space or home, get some exercise, think while walking about, do yoga or dance, take the dog for a walk, spend more time with your kids, visit a lonely neighbor or get involved in something good. The social media can wait.
    • Do you have a distinct work or computer space in your home or office environment? If you're forever bouncing from one spot to another, changing digital devices as you shift, you're telling your brain that it's okay to go online wherever you are, whenever. This prevents you from making boundaries and sticking to them, so it's recommended that you select a spot in your home/office/wherever you do social media and make that the only place you do social media interacting.
    • Many people think it's okay to do social media inputting in front of the TV. Maybe it is in short spurts but the trouble sets in when this becomes a ritual or a habit for you and you associate TV with updating online. If you're barely concentrating on TV or on anyone around you while you're busy with social media, you need to ask yourself what the real benefit of this type of behavior is to you––the lack of attentiveness can soon create a scatter-brained feeling to everything you do. Not only can human beings not multi-task successfully but at the end of each session like this, you can tend to feel exhausted all while wondering what it is you've actually done. And if you have children, think about what signals you're sending out with respect to human interaction.
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    If you've made promises to others in your social networks to share their information, review their products, or to guest feature them, etc., start becoming a whole lot more selective. Whether you're doing these things on social media for friendly, volunteer or work purposes, it's important to not be overwhelmed by the whole "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" phenomenon that social networking often encourages. This is a fine approach but only to a small extent––even if the technology being used never lets up and doesn't need sleep or refreshing, you need both. By being more selective and a little more assertive about saying "no", you can ease yourself out of commitments that don't fit within your boundaries and values.
    • If you ever feel coerced into sharing or helping someone with spreading the word via social media, that's a good indicator that you're too pressured. Try to meet existing outstanding commitments but start easing off accepting any new ones. Tell people that you cannot continue to do the things they've asked of you in future (for example, because of lack of time, a change in your direction, a reshuffle of commitments, etc.). Be polite but stay firm––this is about liberating yourself from being bound to commitments online that don't match up with what truly matters to you. Moreover, if you're asked to share commercial/product news or information for free, decline to do so––you have a value if you're being asked, so ask for payment and make the effort worth your time, or don't do it at all.
    • Accept that no human can be all places all of the time. It's a simple fact that can be easily lost in the rapidity and enthusiasm of social media engagement. You are entitled to time off, be it your weekend, your evenings or a day here and there. You are entitled to update once or twice a day only, or only when there's something interesting to say. You are entitled to interact with social media with a regularity that fits into your current lifestyle rather than one dictated by trying to keep up with other people's over-committed examples.
    • Don't be afraid to tell people that you're busy. It's their problem if they can't accept that you're a working mom, a programmer working 6am to 11pm, a freelancer with tight deadlines, etc. You've explained your limitations and it's their choice to be overly imaginative about your time availability. Whatever they think doesn't make their ideas about when you should be available any more valid. Use your profile, your updates and any other relevant places to tell people why you're busy and when you are available to interact.
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    Put on your humor armor. It can help to develop your sense of humor, particularly when responding to people who might otherwise get their hackles up about your levels of commitment to networking with them. A few pithy, fun lines that acknowledge the other person but make light of the situation can be a good way of defusing people who ask too much from you in social media contexts. For yourself, humor can help to keep your approach toward social media lighthearted and purposeful.
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    Ask yourself how essential each and every update actually is. This question is useful both in terms of time allocation and also in terms of delivering quality to those following your social media accounts. Make every update, post, comment and share count. Ask yourself if the content or opinion is interesting, if the tone is appropriate and if the context is right before posting. And ask yourself: "Would I want to read/know this?" Be honest!
    • Beware cross-posting between social media accounts. Sometimes this can work but if lots of your friends or fans are following each of your social media accounts, they'll get an overdose of your information and start to see you as being rather unoriginal. Try to be more variety-focused than this and use the "quality not quantity" equation to keep it manageable.
    • If you've gotten into the bad habit of being the "mad poster", who just has to be the first to update everyone on relevant news, stories or information, try chilling for a bit. First, the news will still reach everyone's ears whether or not you're sharing it (and many a time it's best not to be the sharer of early news that can often contain misinformation); second, you may have a false sense of utility by doing this when in actual fact you may have a reputation for "always being glued to the screen/obsessive". Is that really how you want your friends perceiving you?
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    Ask for help if you need it. For those who use social media to promote their business, work or freelancing activities, don't try to do it all alone. You can hire people to help specifically with running social media. Or, think laterally about getting people who can help with other aspects of your life that can free you up to concentrate on your necessary social media input, such as hiring a babysitter or nanny for your kids, or a gardener to fix that never-ending garden mess or someone to answer the desk calls, freeing up your time to get the networking done. Look for affordable ways that will add value to your experience and help you enjoy social media interaction rather than viewing it as a chore.
    • Consider family members and friends as people who might be able to help you out in some way. Pocket money, a gift or simply acknowledging they're doing you a good turn can be a great way to repay their kindness in helping you out. Such help can be especially useful if you're running a special social media campaign for a fledgling business or a cause and you feel swamped.
    • Maybe consider teaming up with a friend who also has social media work/business/freelancing requirements but finds these obligations somewhat overwhelming. You could create a roster together that lets each of you have time on and time off, caring for each other's updates and information sharing as needed. This could make a great vacation arrangement too.
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    Stop and smell the roses. You can't smell roses online, well not yet anyway, and even if you could, it wouldn't be authentic. Real life should always come first because this is from where you draw your inspiration, energy and vibrancy. And it's important to get balance so that your IRL (in real life) experiences continue to be your principal form of interacting with others. Can you remember the last time you met up with your IRL friends? If you can't, then it's time to restore this aspect of your life pronto!
    • Engage in real life conversations with your BFF or a group of friends again. Social media is a poor substitute for face-to-face interactions. Make arrangements to catch up today!
    • Take your family out to dinner or the movies without any electronic devices accompanying you. Keep one very simple family phone that has no internet access for just such occasions, in case you need to make emergency calls but nothing else.
    • Get your business team out of the office and away from social media screens. Go to the park together, get to a cafe for lunch together or do a fun activity as a team. This can reinforce team spirit and give everyone a refreshing break from screens, screens and more screens!
    • Plant some real roses (or other favorite flowers) in your garden or on the balcony. Tend to them, water them, love them and watch them grow. Sit with your roses and contemplate the world for a bit. You may be very surprised at how much inspiration for your social media interactions springs from such times away from online networking. Keep a paper notebook and pen with you for inspirational moments that you can share online later. Or, just let it all sink in, to be recalled later when needed.


  • Get a job where social media usage is banned. No better way to curtail your involvement for a set period of each day!
  • Burnout and addiction are closely related and ironically, even though you may be feeling burned out, you may also be addicted, the addiction feeding the burnout by not letting you get off and take the much-needed breaks. If you think you're caught in this double bind, it may take a little more effort and time to realign your approach to social media and you may even need a little "cold turkey" in between before you can return to social media. In this case, tell your followers that you're taking some time out for health reasons and try to give a tentative time when you'll probably be back online. Ultimately, your well-being comes first.
  • When you go on vacation, also take a vacation from social media. Save those pictures you are dying to upload to Facebook for when you return home instead of insisting that you post new pics at every turn. You'll only make everyone jealous if you keep updating about how much fun you're having while they're wrestling with accounts, clients and moody bosses.
  • A break from social media can be as little as a few days or weeks to as much as a few months and even years. It's best not to close your accounts during a break period but to leave a message explaining that you're "on sabbatical" for now.
  • Ask a friend to hold you accountable. If you start posting too often or if you're trolling for Farmville items during your lunch hour, have a friend call you out on your actions. You could even keep a lunch money jar that has to be paid into each time you default, and each time there's enough money, lunch is on you.


  • Bad social interaction is bad for your health. Rudrani Tooth, a naturopath who completed a PhD in dementia studies, found that unsatisfying social interaction increases the risk of dementia almost as much as poor or limited social interaction does. [1] In other words, if online social networking is causing you distress and feels unsatisfying, you may be damaging your health!
  • Burnout is a sign that things need to change, not that you need to throw in the towel. Sometimes there is a risk of continuing to keep going in the same way as usual because you might be afraid that the only other alternative is to give it up completely. This all-or-nothing viewpoint has lost many people their dream because sadly, business-as-usual can lead to collapse and being afraid to ever get involved in that thing again. In many cases, it is much better to reassess your direction and to make changes that improve your approaches or methods; at least by trying new ways you'll know whether the problem is capable of tackled or not.
  • Be extremely discerning when reading advice concerning the necessity of interacting with people in social networking environments. Every social media "guru" is self-professed and has his or her own agenda for pushing a particular line. Just because something worked for that person or because he or she has a particular social media ax to grind, doesn't mean the methodology he or she touts will work for you. Use trial and error to readjust your own approach to social media that brings balance back into your life and restores the fun. Anything that tries to add more burdens should be viewed with great wariness.

Sources and Citations

  1. Sally Mathrick, Mind Matters, p. 67, in Mindfood, June 2009.

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