Social media burnout: 5 negative effects

Social media burnout: 5 negative effects

Social media is one of the latest technological advances that has changed our everyday lives most effectively. It has shaped our daily habits, our economic structures, and how we relate to one another. Checking our social media channels has become the first and last thing we do in our day. And despite the many benefits social media has granted us, there is a darker side to it. We are referring to the negative consequences that occur due to our excessive use of social media; social media burnout.

What is social media burnout?

Social media burnout is the recently coined term to describe the negative impact of social media on our mental health. It happens when we are addicted to the endless stream of content on our phones and do not place appropriate boundaries between our digital lives and our real lives. There are a myriad of psychological factors that contribute to the development of social media burnout. Here we explain some proven negative consequences of social media overuse.

Social media comparisons & FOMO

In this increasingly digitalised world, we are constantly posting about our lives and having a voyeuristic look into the lives of others. Comparing our lives to others’ has become the new norm, leading us to place unattainable standards on ourselves. But one may ask, when you are down, crying or when you failed at something, do you post about it?

The most frequent answer is no. Almost nobody shares their vulnerabilities with the world. We are all guilty of this, and therefore we have all crafted an illusion. That is why, while we live our real lives full of normal ups and downs, social media grants us a front-row seat view to the carefully elaborated perfect lives of others, which only serves to make us feel inadequate.

Witnessing the seemingly amazing lives of others prompts us to develop a fear of missing out (FOMO). We might experience constant anxiety that we should be doing more, that we should be doing everything, as the people and influencers do.

Self-image & Facebook depression

Social comparison and FOMO can prompt us to develop self-image issues, and as a consequence, low self-esteem. We have come to believe that the number of followers or likes we get dictates our worth. There is a significant disconnection between reality and social media, and we have put too much emphasis on what these abstract things, such as likes, say about ourselves.

Sadly, this disconnection has led to increased self-image issues and eating disorders, especially in the youngest members of the population. For instance, a new concept has been created to describe the trend of depressed and anxious preteens and teenagers that develop these conditions due to their phone use. It is what we now call Facebook depression.

Doomsurfing and negative mindset

Perhaps you have heard about the phenomenon of doomsurfing or doomscrolling before. If you haven’t, let's paint you a picture. Imagine yourself in your room at night; you are bored from binging Netflix, so you take your phone and open up Facebook (or your preferred app). You start reading about the coronavirus pandemic, about the ongoing protests against police brutality, and slowly you fall down a rabbit hole of bad news that brings you down, but for some unexplained reason, you can’t put the phone down. That is what doomsurfing looks like.

We have become addicted to checking what is going on around the world and waiting for the next terrible thing to happen somewhere. While it is important to keep ourselves updated and aware of sociopolitical issues, this practice can become addictive. And, besides making us feel sad, angry, or overwhelmed, it can change our mindset.

What happens is that too much doomscrolling can lead us to develop a negative mindset. This is a way of thinking where we overestimate the number of bad things happening everywhere and underestimate the number of good things. We begin crafting a lens where we view the world as a dangerous place where terrible things happen in every corner.

This can especially affect individuals that are anxious. They might develop a fear of the world, and in extreme cases, lead to or exacerbate symptoms of mental illnesses such as panic disorder or generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

Impact on relationships

Social media can be very positive and negative for relationships. It is the birthplace of many relationships (think Tinder) but also the avenue for fights and cheating. It helps us connect but can also make us feel lonely and inadequate. However, social media can affect our relationships in less evident ways too. Simply put, it can erode our day-to-day interactions with those we love.

Social media and technology have prompted us to shape our little everyday habits. This impacts the connection and intimacy we once used to share with others. As we said, the first thing we do upon waking up is to check our phones, and during the day, some of us can become so enthralled with our digital worlds that we do not engage in meaningful conversations with our significant others. We do not make conversation during dinnertime but watch Netflix or scroll through TikTok. Bit by bit, these habits erode the foundation of our meaningful relationships, creating distance and a lack of fulfilment.

Plus, seeing the picture-perfect relationships of others online can make us question our own. This can lead us down the path of social media burnout and relationship or family problems.

Development of trauma

Being constantly exposed to social media channels not only shifts us into a negative mindset, but it can traumatise some people. As we digitally witness all the terrible things that occur in our world, some can become traumatised by a process called vicarious trauma. The social media rabbit hole can lead us to become so invested in a cause that we might develop compassion fatigue and trauma symptoms. Moreover, trauma can also arise if you are the victim of digital crimes such as identity theft or cyber bullying which, sadly, is on the rise.

How to battle social media addiction

Social media can prompt us to become addicted. Some of the greatest minds in the world have designed these apps to be as pleasurable as possible. And, therefore, addictive. We can become completely enchanted with these platforms, leading us to develop the problems described above. But social media can also help us connect with others, inform ourselves, and grow personally or professionally.

So, if you want to learn how to make your social media your friend, and not your foe, stay tuned and check our next article where we share tips for creating a healthy relationship with your digital world.

Vassia  Sarantopoulou


Vassia Sarantopoulou

Vassia Sarantopoulou is a Counselor-Psychotherapist with more than 15 years of experience, the Head Psychologist and founder of AntiLoneliness. AntiLoneliness offers individual and couples counseling, workshops and support groups, in...

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