Diagnosis: Social Media Fatigue

by Kristin on August 2, 2011

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by SashaW

I woke up this morning with that “another day, another dollar” feeling in the pit of my stomach. Except it was more like “another day, another blog post that brings no dollars.”

During four years of blogging, my joy in shaping ideas and crafting sentences, then sharing in conversation with my readers and hearing your stories, has been all the benefit I’ve needed to offset the “costs” involved in keeping up a blog. But something has shifted this summer and I’ve been trying to figure out what it is.

One thought is that I’ve simply run out of material. I took about 15 years of my adult life experiences and spent four years writing about them; now the tank is empty and I need to stop looking into it expecting to miraculously see more fuel. This theory hardly seems likely, though. Each day is full of new experiences and conversations, new ways of looking at and thinking about old things. Running out of material is impossible.

I must admit, I’ve also wondered if I’ve forgotten how to write—that I’ve lost track of the magic involved in translating ideas into words that engage, inspire and entertain. But this doesn’t seem likely, either. I’ve had this worry before, and each time I’ve eventually realized that the longer you work at writing the more skilled you become, in a way that can’t be “undone.” The inspiration might escape you, but the ability doesn’t.

Fatigue: Weariness without an end in sight

Then today, when I was poking around on Twitter, I ran across this post by Chris Brogan on Social Media Fatigue. Fatigue. That was it. I can even trace at least part of the wall I hit this summer directly to social media fatigue—my dismay over the never-ending string of social media wagons to hop on. I do Twitter and Facebook, and I have my blog. I added LinkedIn a while back (even though I’m never quite sure what to do with it) and then Instagram. I’d like for that to be enough, but now, all of a sudden, everyone is grading each other on Klout and creating circles on Google+. Will it ever end?

As Chris Brogan says in his post:

For a lot of people, the fatigue comes from that sense that they’re doing all the work, but not seeing the results. For another group, it’s that feeling that we’ve all done this before, so why do it again? For others, it’s just that we’re getting to the point where we feel maybe that we’ve shared all we can think of sharing, and we’re tired of rehashing the same old things over and over again.

Yes—to all of the above, at least to some extent. I’m craving projects that involve building something clear—creations with an end goal or finished product to celebrate. What is that ultimate goal here, or on Twitter? Will I ever “arrive,” and what would that even look like?

The thing about fatigue is that it seems to have more to do with your mental state surrounding circumstances that it has to do with your ability or skill level. Fatigue thrives in “straw that broke the camel’s back” situations. You’re working away at a project around the house, or some plan for personal improvement. It’s hard work, but you know what you want and why you’re doing it, and you keep plugging away. Fatigue hits you when you face just one more setback, one more hurdle, one more frustration or new complexity to the task—when the light that was at the end of the tunnel disappears.

Letting go of the medium to focus on the message

Brogan’s suggestion for countering the fatigue seems a bit oversimplified, especially in my current cynical state, but I also know it’s something I need desperately to do right now:

Wake up. Move away from what everyone else is talking about and toward whatever is worthwhile, interesting and important to ME. Stop focusing on the medium and the tools, and instead focus on what I want to say—what I need to say—and how best to share it.

I think I need to meditate on that before I write another post.

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  • Laura

    I can relate to this. With my old blog I took several breaks – long breaks. Something always brought me back, and I can’t really explain why, but without those breaks I don’t think I would be where I am now. And part of the fatigue is also a unique 21st century “keeping up with the Brogans” problem. Social media is like anything else – be true to yourself.

  • http://www.dexterityunlimited.com Dan Johnson

    Stop focusing on the medium and the tools, and instead focus on what I want to say—what I need to say—and how best to share it.

    Exactly! The medium doesn’t matter. It’s your message that we want to hear, regardless of where and how we hear it.

  • http://shawnsmucker.com Shawn Smucker

    So good.

    Last week I was in the mountains and couldn’t check all my interwebs. I didn’t think about it, NOT ONCE. I thought I’d come back and be eager to re-engage…not so. With a small amount of dread I got back on the social media treadmill.

    KT – don’t let your writing get buried under your platform (that’s a title for a blog post I’m writing later this week…see…I can’t stop).

  • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

    I feel this way from time to time. That’s when I try to take a step back and let the desire return. Most weeks it just helps to ignore all social media and e-mail for a whole day (usually Sunday in my case).

  • http://www.left2devices.blogspot.com Matthew Gladney

    Very interesting thoughts here, Kristin. You’ve expressed the cause & effect quite well.

    I had a blog from 2003-07, and was rather obsessive about it. I tried to make sure I blogged daily, and several times a day. When I went on vacation for a week, I brought in guest bloggers. This seems insane to me now. These days, I just blog when I have something to share, and try to make each post count.

    It’s good that you’re willing to try so many different social media platforms. It shows that you’re still open-minded to things. But just because something exists, and we try it out, doesn’t mean that we need to keep on doing it. If you want to pull back from some of the stuff you’re in, there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • http://www.ordinarymer.com Meredith

    Strangely enough, now that I (theoretically) have lots of free time on my hands, I find myself staying away from social media more than I did when I was working full-time.

    I definitely agree with Laura’s point about “keeping up with the Brogans” of this highly digital world. I find that it helps NOT to compare myself to those people who are paid to be online all the time. I think you just have to determine your own priorities and then try not to get caught up in caring if you’re doing it “right” or “wrong.” The Internet is kind of like a lawless wild west – for everyone person who does things one way, there are many more who are doing things differently. I know I can’t possibly keep up with every single social media site, so I don’t try to. I just prioritize and focus my energy where I think it will be the most rewarding. (Easier said than done, I know)

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Laura, yes, the “keeping up with the Brogans” problem is very real, ironically. :) (I don’t think I’ve ever linked to one of his posts before!) I guess that’s why I was somewhat skeptical of his “wake up” philosophy. Thanks for reminding me to be true to myself—I compare myself to others online way too much (but hardly at all in my “real life”…interesting).

    Dan J, you’ve been incredibly encouraging and inspiring to me, with your “cut the crap” take on life. :) Thanks.

    Shawn, when it starts to feel like a treadmill, I guess that’s a red flag, eh? This is a great way to put it: “don’t let your writing get buried under your platform.” I think I was permanently scarred by a conversation with a Harper editor a few years ago, who loved my proposal but wanted to know about my “platform.” At the time, I had no idea what she was talking about; now I think I’ve over-compensated and it’s messing with me.

    The Modern Gal, I’ve definitely been trying to only engage when I feel like it, rather than when I feel like I should. The thing is, I’ve noticed the relationships and word-of-mouth power fades as my social media presence fades, but I don’t want to be driven by that. It’s important to have priorities and balance.

    Matthew, I’m sure the “early days” of blogging were both more invigorating and also more stressful—blogs used to be all about the every day, several times a day regularity. You’re absolutely right about trying new platforms out but not necessarily sticking with them. It should feel more like creative problem-solving than checking items off a standard list.

    Meredith, there are so many different ways to feel overwhelmed, aren’t there? The time factor (not enough time in the day) seems like the biggest, most obvious one, but you can also feel emotionally overwhelmed, etc. Anyway, yes! I need to stop comparing myself and thinking about “right” and “wrong” ways to make things happen. It’s too bad there are so many “experts” out there who are always eager to tell us which way is the right way…

  • Trina

    Oh, the irony in the timing…. since we crossed paths on Twitter last night, something pulled me to your blog this morning…. after I had just signed up for G+ – oh, the crazines!.
    You see, I had resisted this long because my initial reaction was: “Just how many ways do I need to connect with people?” Then I read the thoughts of a local tweep who liked what he described was the best of Twitter and FB, together in one package. He also went on to say that sometimes the early users have to be patient and lay the ground work to help make new platforms work. So with chewing on that I bit the bullet and started poking around on G+…
    Some times it drives me a bit crazy how I can have one conversation loop with an individual on three platforms – we pick up where ever we are – and other times I think how beautiful it is to be able to do so.
    One thing I know for sure Kristin, when ever you post again, it will be well written, and well thought out. BTW, you were my inspiration for joining Twitter, oh so long ago. :-)
    Kind regards, Trina

  • Nicola

    I have to confess that I have social media fatigue and I’m not even a user! I have a facebook account that I set up four years ago that I don’t use except to send some messages directly to people from time to time. I have an account on twitter but have never, ever uttered one single tweet (still, I get notices once in awhile that I have new followers – they must be very disappointed and unfollow me quickly, although I don’t get notices to that effect). I have an account on Linked In, but it has skeleton information in it and I usually don’t get around to accepting the invitations I get. The idea of figuring out Google+ seems completely overwhelming to me.

    I’m one of those 40-something people that feels like I can’t even keep up with my social life IRL, let alone on one or all of the available social media platforms. I’m also a person that works at a desk in front of a computer for much of my day. So, I’m not particularly interested in spending much more time in front of a screen, big or small.

    I admire all of you who are so connected and committed to social media and who seem to get so much out of it.

    I wish I could hire someone to help me get “caught up.” That might be the germ of a business idea for someone – help all of us 40′s and 50′s and 60′s who have missed the early social media boat navigate our way to some kind of meaningful level of use!

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    It’s wise to recognize these seasons–and I really do think this is a season and not a permanent change for you. I actually took some time off this summer and found that I really needed it. Blogging can be quite taxing, and the less I plan ahead, the tougher it is to keep up.

    Rest up, hang in there, and we look forward to what’s coming next.

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