We talked to content creators Pulkit Kochar and Vishakha Kaushik, and psychiatrist Dr Era Dutta, about the occupational hazard of social media fatigue that occurs when you are a content creator.
Think social media, think addiction. One thing that unites humans across ages, genders, nationalities, races, and many other divisive categories is our addiction to social media. “Let me check Instagram for a minute,” is what we have in mind when we spend an hour looking at Reels. Who knew that an app with 30-second videos of cats slipping on banana peels can get us so addicted that it impacts our health? At some point in time, we have all tried a social media detox only to go back to scrolling mindlessly.
The advent of social media has created unique employment opportunities such as influencing, social media managing, content writing, content creation, and more. If you have one of these jobs, chances are that you are looking down at your phone all day. You keep at it for a few days or a month and it becomes an addiction. Creative producer and director Vishakha Kaushik says, “Oh, I use social media till whatever time I’m awake. If I am not sleeping, I am using social media.” Pulkit Kochar, a full-time content creator, also spends 7-10 hours each day using social media, particularly Instagram and YouTube.
Before content creation comes researching which can take anywhere between a couple of hours to all your waking hours. "Creating content takes a lot of time. But consuming content for research takes all day, every day!" Vishakha mentions. A lot of Pulkit's content revolves around Bollywood. So, his research includes watching movies over the years and keeping up with pop culture. Here, the line between personal and professional usage of social media often gets blurred. "I use social media for content creation as well as for my own entertainment. In fact, using social media for my entertainment also helps me professionally because it gives me the inspiration to create content." However, this can skew work-life balance. A lack of work-life balance and constant exposure to social media can adversely affect those working on the medium regularly. "Oh, yes! I do feel fatigued by my usage of social media. I am a screen addict. Agar main chai bana raha hu toh paani ubal raha hai and patti daalni hai. Un 15 seconds me bhi main phone utha leta hu. If I'm sitting with a group of friends, even if I'm listening to them, my hands directly go to my phone, even in five seconds of silence between a conversation and sometimes even during conversations, which is very rude when you're talking to someone. My friends complain a lot about this. My screen addiction is quite bad," Pulkit admits.
Consultant psychiatrist and mental health ninja, Dr. Era Dutta calls this occupational hazard ‘social media fatigue.’ “What would happen if a hamster kept running on the wheel constantly? It would fatigue and tire out. Much like emotional burnout and fatigue, there is social media fatigue. Too much of anything is a problem, right? The same applies to social media,” she clarifies. Not only does the quantity but the quality of usage can drain you too. Dr. Dutta suggests that the constant sense of competition, the need for external validation, negative feedback online, and even a lack of newness can cause social media fatigue. “Content constantly showing better life which is comparative in nature, toxic positive and toxic productive content, unrealistic ideas around love and relationships can drain people more,” she explains.
These symptoms sound similar to what Vishakha has been going through. "I cry sometimes when I feel like I am not good enough while others are achieving so much. One feels demotivated when one works hard but doesn't achieve the desired results. At times, I even feel like giving this up altogether. But sometimes this also motivates me to work harder. If other creators can do it, why can’t I?"
Such behaviour can be a warning sign that you are suffering from social media fatigue. “A sense of withdrawal, craving to use social media, irritability when unable to access social media, and procrastinating on important things due to social media are some of the symptoms. If those around you cite that you are spending too much time on your smartphone and social media, it is a cause for concern,” Dr Dutta states. “Young people, lonely folks, lack of job, social engagement or proper schedule, social media creators and influencers, social media managers, and other such groups are especially vulnerable,” she informs.
This occupational hazard can cause constant strain on the eyes and posture-related issues. Text neck syndrome is a major problem now and so is sleep deprivation due to social media overuse. Other effects include anxiety, depression, loneliness, and a negative impact on productivity.
This is why, social media addiction and fatigue call for greater awareness and more remedies. In Dr. Dutta’s words, “Each job has its own set of issues. For example, a person who paints houses is invariably exposed to paint particles. But they can wear masks, gloves, and open windows to reduce the harmful effects. Similarly, mindful social media usage can help avoid social media fatigue.”
Vishakha discloses, “Even though I earn through social media, every once in a while I halt working to avoid a creative block. I take a break and go out with friends or family. We should spend more time with humans and leave apps behind. It’s easier said than done but it’s necessary. I’ve learned it the hard way. And if nothing else works, you can always take a good long nap!” “I am actively doing stuff to avoid social media addiction,” discloses Pulkit. “Every time there is a notification, I look at my phone. So, I turn off my internet when I am not using it to avoid getting distracted by notifications. Also, social media is a lot about getting validated for your thoughts and content and quick entertainment. So, we should find alternatives by doing things that give us validation, but not on social media. By cooking, going to a theatre, attending events, meeting people, and more.”
Dr. Dutta advises similar stuff when she says, “Social media is addictive and dependence-forming. Hence, boredom and being unoccupied can make it difficult to manage your social media fatigue. Begin by disconnecting, and setting strong boundaries for yourself. Physical activity is important and digital detox is recommended at least once a week. Deliberately take some time off. Unfollow the accounts that make you feel upset and vulnerable. Set areas in the house where you don’t use smartphones and social media. Pre-plan your content and schedule it. Go out and leave the phone behind at times. ”
While this sounds overwhelming, the damage that social media addiction and fatigue cause is scarier and long-lasting. So, as Albert Einstein once said, “Genius is knowing when to stop.” If not stop, let’s take a pause, breathe, and live a fuller life away from likes, comments, and trolls.
This article was first published in the Social Ketchup Magazine's July-August 2023 edition.
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