News Column

Social Media Fatigue: Opting Out of the Digital Rat Race

April 12, 2013
social media

More and more New Yorkers are fed up with social media and they're not going to take it anymore.

Instead, they are opting out of the digital rat race and choosing to detox from Facebook, Twitter et. al, claiming "social media fatigue."

They note that the novelty of Facebook wanes once one has caught up with high school friends. They're weary of being perceived as profit centers by marketers and of having their social relationships exploited. They're leery of privacy invasions and increasingly unsatisfied by virtual kibitzing.

Overwhelmingly, they cite the damage that digital distractions wreak on professional productivity and their personal lives.

I was just spending too much time on it: It became a total time suck," said Rachel DuBois, 32, of her decision to delete her Facebook account April 1.

Besides wearying of what had become a "non-stop stream of baby pictures and inspirational quotes," Dubois found social media a poor substitute for actual socializing. "I'm going to see more friends and become a better cook," clean her apartment and start reading books again, said DuBois, a non-profit site manager who lives in Brooklyn Heights.

The benefits of Dubois' digital detox were immediate. The very first day, "I got more done at work than I have in a long time" because the seductive Facebook tab was not on her work computer, she said.

Social media "has lost the cool factor," and more people are performing clear-eyed cost-benefit analyses about the time they spend online, said Marcia Scherer, a psychologist and president of the Institute for Matching Person & Technology in Rochester. "People want more meaning in their lives," and are using social media in more considered, strategic ways to meet specific goals, she said.

That is the case for Michael Durant, 24, of the Bronx, who is studying for his CPA and GMAT. Durant, who also works full time as a facilities coordinator, largely deserted Facebook and Instagram, while meticulously attending to his LinkedIn account because his professional development is his priority.

Measuring fall-offs in social media participation is tricky, although tech analysts know that just because someone signs up for a service doesn't mean they stay wedded to it. (see: MySpace and Friendster).

Facebook, which did not respond to a request for comment concerning this story, boasted 1.06 billion monthly users around the globe, while 618 million signed on daily, as of Dec. 31. Paul Guyot, the founder of the analytics firm Semiocast, was quoted last year saying that an analysis his firm performed showed that while Twitter may have more than 500 million users, only a third are active. If you doubt the phenomenon, compare the number of connections you have on your social media accounts to the number of regular posters.

"I know a lot of twenty-somethings who are getting off (social media) because they want a life outside the screen," said time management expert Julie Morgenstern, author of "Never Check Email in the Morning." While people laboring in digitally-driven professions can't opt out entirely, even they need screen breaks, said Morgenstern. Social media "doesn't work to relieve stress," any more than any other highly addictive substance which rebounds to harm the user, said Morgenstern.

Facebook "is like watching too much TV. Sometimes you don't want to watch someone else's life, but live your own," said Frankie Delessio, 32, a Clinton Hill actor and bartender who deactivated his account and wrote a play in the time he saved. When you're not interacting online, "you make much more effort to create substantial relationships in real life," said Delessio.

Delessio reactivates his Facebook account periodically when he needs to promote work-related endeavors "but I can't wait to delete it again."

The end of the social networking love affair for Durant came the day he made a stunning epiphany: While everyone looked like they were having a glamorous, fabulous life in social media, the most successful people he knew tended to avoid it. "I never saw them on Facebook -- ever -- and they were getting internships and jobs," Durant said.

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(c)2013 amNewYork

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Copyright AM New York 2013


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