In today's world, it's hard to avoid the constant barrage of news, media, and information. We're surrounded by it, whether we're listening to the radio in the car, watching the news, reading the paper, or scrolling through our social media feeds. This stream of high-intensity information is overwhelming, and sometimes it can simply be too much for our minds and bodies to handle. This is what's known as media fatigue. As we'll cover in this article, it's a real societal problem, but media fatigue can be avoided if handled with care.
What is media fatigue?
Media fatigue is defined as "the state of feeling overwhelmed or numb" as a result of consuming near-constant information. Media fatigue is a type of psychological exhaustion. The invention of the internet and subsequently the smartphone has allowed us to be connected seemingly 24/7 to an unprecedented amount of information that is overstimulating at best, and on the more extreme end, may lead to vicarious trauma symptoms (trauma caused by witnessing traumatic events).
Why is media fatigue a problem?
While being connected to everything all the time may seem like a good thing, it can actually have negative consequences. Too much information can lead to anxiety and feelings of overwhelm. Most media presents an incomplete picture of a doomed world or negative future. It's hard to feel good today when you do not have hope for your future, or when you witness difficult events that you can't help change or control. Even if you are only consuming entertainment or educational content, it’s still easy to fall prey to feelings of inadequacy, decision-fatigue, or comparison.
How to know if you have media fatigue
Here are a few telltale signs of media fatigue:
- You have a hard time staying present
- You feel stressed and overwhelmed
- You're experiencing sensory overload (there are too many stimuli around you for you to process)
- It's harder to focus because of distractions
- You're connecting with people less frequently in person
- You have a negative outlook on the future
- You feel like you need to constantly check your phone or social media accounts
How can you cope with media fatigue?
It's hard to avoid media fatigue in our modern world, but the following techniques can help you reduce it as much as possible:
Have boundaries with your smartphone
You can put boundaries in place by turning your phone off every night at 7 pm, leaving it in a drawer, or leaving it at home while you go for a walk with a friend. Anytime you put your phone aside to focus on the present moment, you're going to notice a huge psychological shift.
Feeling really bold? Delete your social media apps—or even bolder, delete your accounts per NY Times Bestselling Author, Jaron Lanier's, recommendation! You can always reinstall them later if you discover you can't live without them.
Practice hobbies where you work with your hands
Doing household projects like organizing your closet or cooking are great ways to keep your hands and mind busy away from your phone. You can also try a new sport like golf or swimming to stay active (bonus points!)
Maybe there are hobbies you'd love to reconnect with, like reading a fiction book, going to the movies, gardening, or organizing a board game night. All of these activities are excellent ways to redirect your attention away from the media.
Consider taking a social media break
Deleting certain apps from your phone can lead to an instant behavioral change. I deleted Instagram from my phone this summer so I could unplug and I barely even missed it. This was an app that had dominated a few hours of my day—and I barely even noticed it was gone. The hours were back in my schedule and I felt so much lighter.
If deleting an app is too difficult, you can implement screen time boundaries, or simply delete it for 48 hours and then hop back on as a micro experiment.
Set working hours and stick to them
I put my iPhone on Do Not Disturb from 8 am until 5 pm Monday through Friday. This is automated for me in my settings. My goal in putting this boundary in place is to focus on my work, rather than the distractions on my phone. By putting working hours in place, we can all have more downtime.
Choose a preferred method for consuming the news
Staying up-to-date on the news is important for many of us, but it doesn't mean we have to pay attention to the news on every device all the time.
There are many options for choosing your preferred method of consuming the news. Some people like to watch the news in the morning on TV while they get ready for work, other people like to subscribe to The Skimm's daily newsletter, and many podcasts speak to daily news – such as The Daily and Global News Podcast – and can be listened to on your way to work.
Choose a method that works for you and limit your news consumption to that one method if possible.
Be conscious of the conversations you start and/or continue
The media can be a trigger for negative emotions and conversations. If you find yourself in a conversation that's going nowhere productive, politely bow out. You don't have to continue a conversation just because it's started.
It's also important to be aware of the types of conversations you're starting. Be mindful of how they make you feel and how they impact those around you.
Trust that you’ll hear anything important elsewhere
People often fear they’ll miss crucial information if they unplug from the media. While it’s great to want to be informed, you can trust that super important information will make its way to you. It’s safe to unplug for a few days or alter the way you consume.
Now that you understand what media fatigue is and some ways to cope with it, put these techniques into practice this week. Choose one or two of the coping mechanisms from above and see how you feel after a week of implementing them.
Do you feel more productive? More creative? Less anxious?
We hope these tips give you incredible results. Need support or want to share your success stories? Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We read every email.
Touchy Feely does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this company is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your physical or mental health.
When purchasing products through our links, we may earn a commission from Amazon or our partners. Thank you for supporting a neurodivergent-owned business!