Wednesday, December 8, 2010

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?"

*  *  *

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.

*  *  *

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)
-Stitch Lab for sewing classes, where I have wanted to go ever since Indiana talked about it on Adored Austin.

*  *  *

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?


bsimms8907 said...

We've discussed this before, but I don't suffer from social media fatigue (not yet at least). But I do suffer from writing fatigue. Since I am an English major I am constantly having to write, and when I spend so much of my day writing for classes it make it EXTREMELY hard to want to come home and write a blog posts. In fact I'm suffering from it right now... I have no slept a single minute since 10AM yesterday because I was up all night writing an essay from my Contemp. Asian American Lit class. And I'm still not done; it's due at noon. :(

Nicole Mlakar-Livingston said...

This is such a good post Tolly! I have FB, Twitter and I blog for my biz. Then there's Tumblr. Which I am starting to feel is another must have for social media networking. I made one and have yet to fill it with anything. Ugh! Twitter feels like a black hole for me. I can't keep up with that thing to save my life. So anyway, yes I totally am right there with you and I love your ideas for recharging your brain.

katherine. said...

so speaking of key word "somebody," wanna get together for that sau paulo date sometime next week? i was terribly hung over on friday from too much wine at a teacher bunco party on thursday, so i missed the bleet up and seeing you, which i was sad about, but the recovery by going to bed at approximately 8 pm on a friday night) was necessary.

ps: if you can please convince my boyfriend to get us a real tree even though we'll both be out of town for the holidays, i'd be much obliged.

TrophyBoutique said...

This might not be for everyone, but oral surgery really helped me tune out from the ole blogosphere!

Also: dogs.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I write out blog posts on paper. It makes my writing better every time! I also do a version of numbers 1 and 5 that you list above: I cook something I've never made before, and promise myself not to take pictures of it. Not to blog it. Not to tweet it. I get to enjoy what I make just for myself, and if it flops, I can just laugh it off no pressure. Thanks for a great post, Tolly!

elia // stylewaistland said...

Take those sewing classes at Stitch Lab! You will never regret it!

I dealt with my social media fatigue by leaving my blog alone for an entire month. Not my finest moment. But it wasn't really fatigue, just an extreme lack of time management skills... Which I am working on now.

Alex said...


if it were bat season, i would totally blog-reader shame you into going to see them, refusing to read 'til the next post i saw was regarding BATS. unfortunately, they won't be back 'til march and shaming you that long would be unfair.

that said, i too, get overall internet fatigue. i sometimes force myself to wait to read the news in the actual NEWSPAPER instead of knowing that just five minutes ago, Vladmir Putin decided to shoot a moose in Siberia. that and not really needing to know everything about everybody all of the time is nice - it leaves a sense of mystery and things to talk about when you get together with friends or family in person over coffee to have a real conversation.

Heather Howell said...

I'm pretty much addicted to social media but if you look at my blog, I've basically had little or nothing to blog about. I wish I did because it's such a release for me but I'd rather see what's going on in other people's lives. I'm addicted to FB and Twitter. I think I need a sabbatical.

PS- I've been wanting to go see the bats too! I'm thinking dinner at Guero's and then walking over to see them? Good idea?

Amy @ whatjewwannaeat said...

This is great! I totally get Twitter anxiety. Can't Keep. Up. With. Tweets. And I agree that it helps to recharge. Even just a short walk helps- fresh air is a wonderful thing!

Le Tigre said...

I found some amazing recipes and diy projects im going to try on design sponge. Lots of christmas present ideas. ;)

Rachel from Love a la Mode said...

This post was such a relief. I thought I was the only one! It's not only exhausting trying to explain to everyone else (via blog, twitter, facebook, etc) the minute details of my life, but trying to keep on top of the events of everyone else's busy lives! Thanks for the reminder that it's okay to take a break. PS: the bats are awesome and you should definitely go out to dinner somewhere near by on SoCo and then walk over and watch them. Chaparall Ice is only okay. I used to skate at the one in Northcross Mall when I was little. Honestly the rink on top of Whole Foods is the best ambiance-wise.

Dad said...

Don't you just get so wound up sometimes that your internal springs could snap? Sproingggg!!! That's why I unwind with a little sniff of heroin and a tumbler of scotch as a chaser. Smoothes everything out right away. Beats walking. After that who could walk anyway. Actually, when my mind locks up at the office I take a stroll on the Riverwalk. The exercise does me good, and I feel like a tourist in my own town. And I don't take my cell phone. It'll be there when I get back.

Austin Eavesdropper said...

@Brittney -- Hey little lady! I hope you were able to finish your paper today. Ah, college memories...I was a frequent procrastinator with pretty much every paper. It's hard when you are a freelance writer, too!

@Nicole -- I think you are so genuine on Twitter, and that is why I like interacting with you. And, Tumblr- oooh Tumblr. What is your link? I started one a while back that never went anywhere:

Haha. I'm still not sure what motivated me to start it, or where I was exactly going with the theme.

@Katherine - YES TO SAU PAULO! What day next week? Tuesday, perhaps?

I loooove that place, and their meals feed me for days. Their portions of rice, seafood and creamy sauces are kind of humongous. But the quality doesn't suffer -- everything is still rich and flavorful. How does Brazil produce so many supermodels?

@Trophy Boutique -- I love you?

@AustinGastronomist -- Hi Kathryn! What an interesting tip - writing the post out on paper. And, hey - don't you love the feeling of preparing and savoring your food, just for you? I love that, too. I mean ... the savoring part. Ross does most of the preparing. He is WAY better at it.

@Elia -- Would you believe I consider that often, too? (Leaving AE for a whole month). I feel like I "can't" though, and I'm not sure why. That's probably a little unhealthy.

Anyway, did you have anxiety about leaving it alone for a month? Was it kinda nice? I'm full of questions.

@Alex -- Your comment made me LOL. It's egregious, isn't it? And I call myself an Austinite! An Austinite who hasn't seen THE BATS! You are right and I know it's ridiculous.

Also, my dad is also a newspaper aficionado, and if he joins us in the comments section he will internet high-five you.

@Heather -- Let's see the bats together?? I am being serious.

Also, I think it's cool that you'd rather be an internet voyeur. It shows you are curious about other people! And social media can be so 'me me' sometimes -- I like it that you are more of a listener and a reader. But PS, I bet you have some good stories.

@Amy -- Oh God, I love walks. They are like my version of church. I need at least one hour-long session once a week, and it's reflective and meditative for me. Sometimes I bring a book to read, which is slightly bizarre, but I've gotten alright at reading and walking at the same time.

@Le Tigre -- Lauren! Oooh!!! I am getting hungry just looking at that post! Yummy. I did not know you were a cook? Teach me your ways. I am remedial-level.

@Rachel -- I'm so glad it helped you! I think trying to keep up with everyone's lives, and keeping everyone up to speed with yours, eventually makes you ADHD. :) Or at least that is my experience.

It's funny, because I am a blogger, and yet, I have this dream to start a group or write a book or something about conscious unplugging. Like, giving yourself breaks from the internet, and doing things like taking a cooking class or going windsurfing or learning how to knit. Knowing me I'd probably turn it into a blog, though. :-{

pinksundrops said...

My boys have discussed labeling separate boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch with their names in order to ensure one doesn't eat more than the other.

Social media fatigue. I'm there. My blog has slowed incredibly because I am creating memories I want to keep for just me and the people I experience it with. Sometimes I think, oh this would be so fun to blog, but it's okay if I don't and keep it for myself. I'm hoping my break will lead me back to posting every little thing I do eventually, but if it doesn't that's okay too.

As far as your tips, I've been holed up since family left town for Thanksgiving and am making up for it this week at a dizzying pace. Almost too dizzying! But it's healthy for my soul, and I'm loving it.

May you experience many real life, fatigue relieving, peace inducing moments when you take your social media respites!

Beth H said...

i feel ya, girl! that's why i've only made like 2 blog posts in the past 2 months. on one hand i feel like a blogger failure, but on the other hand, it's just not my top priority sometimes. and that's ok; it can wait. i've gotten over the whole "oh no, if i skip blogging for a whole week i'll lose this audience i've built up" fear. whatevs. if they like me, they'll find me again. i've got a life to live, dammit! : )

Nicole Mlakar-Livingston said...

Thanks Tolly! I guess I feel like I'm on ok "tweeter" but I can't keep up with all the people I follow. It's an abyss. Thanks for sending me your Tumblr. It made me smile to see that pic of Bon Jovie. Ha! I literally have put NOTHING in mine. It's sad really.

Jackie said...

It's exactly like this in photography. I get a lot of anxiety around my camera but the thing is, I can't separate myself from my camera. I had to take a break from photography for a while b/c it really made me sad and angry and it just wasn't normal. It was hard but necessary, but I tried to occupy my time with running and it's worked out for the better. ha

elia // stylewaistland said...

So I came back here to leave another comment and then saw your response to my first comment, so this may be a little long.

1. Last night my man and I had a night out to dinner and a crappy big-box store. Exciting, right? Then we made an impromptu stop at the carnival set up on Ben White. The first thing I said as we were driving up to all those flashing lights and screaming people was, "I wish I had my camera." And then as we bought our tokens for rides and I'm looking around, I said again, "I really wish I had my camera," thinking to myself, "This would be great content for my blog." And then I remembered what you said about experiencing life for the experience and not because you're going to write an awesome post about it. So I enjoyed the carnival and here I am telling you about it. Sure wish I had some pictures...

2. I had just started SW this Summer and when Fall came around I started working three jobs and commuting like mad. So I left SW silent for a month not by choice but pure lack of time. I guess I didn't feel too weird because my blog is so new and I wasn't in the posting "groove" yet anyway. However, I felt sad that I didn't have time to post because I'd really started to enjoy blogging and interacting with new blog friends (like you!). Now I'm really happy to have time to post! So maybe I needed a break because it is exciting again.


Anastasia said...

Oh so much. I feel like, jesus who cares! ANd I do take a break. I'm lucky that my job is a lot of downtime with internet access. So I try and stay off when I'm at home.

Jodi said...

This post couldn't have come at a better time as I have been taking a break from social media, blogging, FB for what feels like forever (but is probably more like a week) and I feel so guilty and wonder if I'll ever feel the spark for it I used to feel when I would wake up in the middle of the night just to blog and get some great idea or story out of my head. I guess social media is kind of like love that way -- lots of ups and downs....

Anna said...

Well you are in luck. The South Austin Museum of Popular Culture is having a huge party on Saturday, March 13 - and guess who will be in town?? I will def. be at this event. They are showcasing some pretty rad and rare Austin poster art by artists like Noel Waggener, Geoff Peveto and Mark Pedini. It's not only a great opp for photos, but there are always interesting people to listen in on... :)