Lately I’ve been feeling a lot of social media fatigue. When you’re on social media constantly for work, it’s pretty understandable. I experience a bit of burn out sometimes, but recently I’ve just felt a whole lot less joy from my digital social scene. This might go beyond just basic social media fatigue and have a bit more with how my relationship with social media has evolved since becoming a blogger.
I suppose my first real experience with anything digital socially goes back to AOL instant messenger and my brief time on MySpace. As a teenager, I never really gave any thought or care about how many friends I had on those platforms—it was really just an amazing way to keep in constant contact with my friends from summer camps who lived in different cities and countries. By my freshman year of college though, AIM and MySpace seemingly disappeared from my life overnight, replaced by the all mighty Facebook. As a freshman I pledge a sorority and with that came the first obsession with how many friends and photos you had on Facebook. It was an arms race for popularity where the weapons of choice were photos tagged and “friends” gained.
By the end of college I had some 900 “friends.” Post college (2009) was the first time platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Instagram became a think in my life. Twitter was something I only used a journalist, because I was required to; Snapchat I never really got into; Vine was the BEST; and Instagram was mostly used for reposting funny posters I found around town. I averaged maybe 5 likes a pic (I kind of like going back and looking at those first photos).
After leaving the social constructs of college, it didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion that I don’t really care about what 900 some odd people from my past are up to. Hell! I probably can’t even name 900 people who I’ve actually met in person. So I did my first Facebook “purge” and unfriended/unfollowed anyone who I couldn’t remember how I met them (along with a few people who, when I’m super honest, I wasn’t really friends with to begin with and anyone who I felt actually negatively impacted my life). In the end, I was only friends with around 300 people, which seemed like a much more realistic number of people to care about socially. It felt liberating being friends with people who I actually cared to keep in touch with and not caring about the actual number of people I was friends with. As time went on, other social medias went the way side. I took a couple years off from using Twitter and I stopped using much of my social accounts when I lived in China (which aren’t allowed there anyway) and would only do occasional “photo dumps” onto Insta and Facebook when traveling outside the “Great Firewall of China.”
Post-China, I never really got that into using social media again until launching my blog. Suddenly my social media life was a totally difference ball game.
When I first started publishing blog posts, I used Instagram and Facebook to promote my posts to my friends, tracking what days and time of day seemed to get me the most Facebook post likes/reads (I think the most I ever got was maybe 25 likes on Facebook). Then came the Facebook Business page, and then Instagram Business page, and then I started tweeting things out a whole lot more. Eventually I launched my YouTube channel and was promoting both my blog posts and my videos on a weekly bases. The amount of time I spent on social media skyrocketed. I went from being only casually active on a couple of platforms to constantly active on ALL platforms. It was fun. I was motivated to keep up with it as my blog visits grew and remember just how exciting it was the first time I got 100 views on an Instagram video.
Then everything plateaued. My growth slowed and it felt like the Internet was rejecting me personally. My blog posts would get zero likes on Facebook no matter how much I followed “best practices” for when to post. The algorithm can really work against you. When I’d message a few friends about it, it turned out many of my posts just weren’t showing up in peoples feeds anymore and no one saw them (if you don’t get a certain amount of interaction within the first 5-10 minutes of posting, Facebook pretty much buries it in favor of ad content… Thank Facebook). This is the first time I started to feel just how bad the emotional effects of social media can be. Posts that would go unnoticed and unliked would give me the same feeling as when I first experience social rejection in junior high. So I started boosting posts to increase the odds that people would actually see them.
This is a slippery slop. You get use to a certain amount if interaction. When a post would occasionally go big, or my following would get a big jump, I’d be on a social high. I started following things like an editorial calendar for my posts and a theme. I started posting more photos of me because they traffic better. I hit a point where I had to turn off all the notifications on my phone. I would get distracted by the large amount of notifications when something did well, and heartbroken by the lack of notifications when something would do poorly. The amount of time I spent checking my feed and my analytics probably tripled and my overall screen time during a day got alarmingly high. The joy I got from a 1000 likes suddenly turned to disappointment: “Why wasn’t it 3000 likes like the post before?” I’d wonder. Sometime around 22k followers on Instagram my growth slowed to a crawl. Suddenly I wasn’t getting as many new followers and having thousands of likes on something felt unfulfilling because no one was leaving comments. Each time I’d hit an exciting milestone, it was followed by a new aspect to feel disappointed by.
About a month ago, I left Facebook completely. Well… not completely. I created a proxy account with a fake name and zero friends just to use as admin for my business blog page (if you find it, don’t bother sending a friend request. I’ll never see it as I don’t actually log on to Facebook anymore and only post my blog posts and other articles to the Gretchen Has The Floor blog page using third party sites). I haven’t missed it. I feel a lot less anxiety not being involved in Facebook and interacting with my friends in person, IRL instead. Recently, I’ve wondered if I should take a massive break from all the other social media sites as well. Instagram stopped being fun, Twitter was never fun for me to begin with, and the amount of traffic for my blog social media drives isn’t nearly as much as it should be considering how much I’ve prioritized it in my life lately.
About a week ago, I woke up and immediately checked my Instagram. The amount of likes and follows I’d gain since checking the night before was lower than normal. I felt instantly disappointed—That was my wakeup call that I depended too much on social media to validate what I’m doing in life. I have a problem. The emotional rollercoaster of social media is making the whole experience miserable. So this week I’ve decided to do something about my social media problem. I’ve decided to stop caring. I’ll still stick to a theme and post on my Instagram (I won’t get rid of it like I did with Facebook). But I’m going to post only what makes me happy, not care about my calendar (outside of content that I’ve agreed to post as a partnership with a company/other blogger, etc) and make it fun and silly again. I might lose follower and my posts might not get as many likes, but I’m okay with that—I really miss the days of being happy with 100 likes and I’d rather spend more time living my life in a way that makes me happy.
GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.