Social media ‘overload’ linked to fatigue

Using platforms such as Snapchat and WhatsApp to communicate with friends and family actually diminishes fatigue levels, the study found. File photograph: Alan Betson

Social media users who report feeling higher levels of “overload” from the volume of information and communication online are more fatigued on a day-to-day basis, according to new research.

The study, by researchers at NUI Galway, finds that the more prone to feeling bored a social media user is, the more likely it is they will feel overloaded by social media content.

However, the level of fatigue depends on what the person uses social media for.

It finds that those using social media as an information source, such as accessing news stories through Facebook and Twitter, amplifies the effects of social media overload on fatigue levels.

By contrast, using platforms such as Snapchat and WhatsApp to communicate with friends and family actually diminishes fatigue levels, even when a person is feeling overloaded.

The study defines social media overload as “the feeling of being overwhelmed by the amount of communication and information a person is exposed to through social media channels”.

The findings are contained in a study carried out by the JE Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway.

Dr Eoin Whelan, senior lecturer in business information systems at NUI Galway, said that while social media provides many advantages to users, researchers are now more closely scrutinising the problematic effects of platforms such as Facebook.

“Our study finds that social media users who are more prone to boredom are more likely to become overloaded by that content, which ultimately has the adverse effect of depleting their energy levels,” he said.

“While being overloaded by social media has many negative psychological consequences, our findings suggest overload only leads to fatigue when social media is used to source information.”

‘Coping mechanism’

He said using social media for communication purposes acts as a “coping mechanism”, which enables users to maintain energy levels even when experiencing overload.

“Therefore, users need to consider not just the amount of social media they expose themselves to, but also how they use these technologies, if they wish to avoid exhaustion.”

Last year, another study researchers at NUI Galway examined how social media overload affects students’ academic performance.

The research found that third level students who report higher levels of social media overload perform less well academically.

The study also examined why this relationship between social media overload and poor academic performance exists.

The data suggests that being constantly overloaded by social media diminishes a person’s self-control.

Researchers noted that self-control is important in deciding to study every evening or put the effort into submitting high quality assignments, the study .

However, engaging in social media diminishes self-control such as, for example, attempting to participate in multiple WhatsApp group conversations simultaneously.