A Note on Digital Burnout

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It’s your friendly neighborhood blogger/indie author/book reviewer who sometimes disappears from the digital sphere for months at a time, leaving only a smattering of tweets and the occasional Instagram photo letting you know they’re still around.

It’s been a while.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been working with a new(er?) therapist for the past year or so, and with her have been making some long and much needed strides in managing my depression and anxiety. It’s been a lot of work. It’s been draining. It’s required me to be extraordinarily in tune with myself- with my emotions, with my habits, with my symptoms. We’ve made a lot of connections I was not yet in a position to make with previous therapists earlier in my mental health journey. It’s great! And it’s helping me realize…well, a lot.

One of the things I’ve realized is how affected I am by social media.

This has become increasingly apparent to me over the last year.

Back in 2017, I decided on whim that I would delete all social media apps from my phone. I don’t know what it was that made me do this, but one day I just said, “What the hell?” and got rid of them all. I kept only the most mobile heavy- aka: Instagram -and Facebook Messenger, which is really just an alternate to texting rather than an actual social platform. While it took some getting used to, and while I occasionally cheated by using Safari to access my accounts, it really helped me balance my time spent online.

Then we renovated our house in April of 2018, which meant losing access to our home WiFi for a few days. I re-downloaded my social media apps so that I could use data to access them in the interim. I justified by telling myself that I would A) only use them to keep my business accounts active and B) delete them again once our router was up and running again.

I kept promise A, but promise B fell by the wayside as I got sucked into the convenience of the apps. Then I started using my personal accounts on my phone. Things snowballed. I got frustrated, took some time away from social media for the holidays, then got back on again in January. Things snowballed again.

I made a post on Twitter last week about taking some time away from social media. I’m sticking to that. I deleted Twitter from my phone right after making that post, and deleted Facebook today. I’m stepping back again, because I’m recognizing a need for some distance.

I’ve always struggled with both wanting to limit social media use and needing to stay active for work. Not just for my writing, although social media has become a major part of self-marketing my work, but for my freelance work and day jobs as well. I can’t get away from social media. It’s part of how I earn a living, at least for now. It’s also introduced me to and helped me create wonderful communities with like-minded people I never would have known without the magic of the world wide web. All of this is contributing to a bit of digital burnout that’s wearing on me more and more each day.

Lately, all I’ve wanted to do was log out of every account I have- social media and email accounts and everything in between -and get away. Because for all the gratitude I have for growing up in the digital era, especially as a writer and freelancer whose work thrives on visibility and connectedness, I’m just…tired. I want to escape, and not in the digital sense. I want to leave my phone on the kitchen counter and wander off somewhere where no one can reach me. I want to remember who I am without the constant pressure to perform in some way, or to be available to people constantly.

I’ve always said that I don’t believe that human beings were made to be plugged in 24/7. We were not made to be “on call”, to be present in some way at all hours of the day.

I’ve known people who got pissed if I didn’t answer a text quickly enough, or who thought I was mad at them because I didn’t “like” a Facebook photo they posted. Things like this create stress that I don’t need, and that I shouldn’t have to tote around.

I’m seeking balance.

One thing that my therapist and I have been working on is the recognition that I have far more control over things than I think. Sure, I can’t change the fact that my job requires some level of digital commitment, but I can control how much time I devote to that commitment. I can make small changes to make a healthier environment for myself to both live and create in.

I’ve already started purging my phone again, and I intend to keep it that way.

I’ve set time limits for the few apps that I’m keeping (Apple’s decision to include a “Screen Time” function in Settings is a godsend, by the way) and am using Hootsuite to keep my accounts from going radio silent while I take time for myself. It’s been a week so far, and while the changes I’m making are little, I can already see them making a big difference.

So…that’s where I’ve been. Taking care of myself. Managing my digital burnout. Learning coping skills.

It’s all positive, friends. I thank you all for your patience with me, and hope that even a small piece of this resonates with someone who may be feeling similar signs of burnout. Please know that it's always okay to take time for yourself, to make changes that will make you happier, and to log out once in a while.

The digital world keeps turning, but the real one does, too. It’s all about finding a balance between them.