How to avoid the stress of social media overload

Stress businesswoman

I know you are busy, but I have something important for you, so hang on in there. Yes, I know you have 123 Tweets to read and 79 Facebook updates to check, as well as 15 LinkedIn Messages, 200 emails to read and 22 Pinterest images to check. But they can wait; what I have to tell you is more important.


The fact of the matter is, all that social media “stuff” is stressing you out. Several pieces of research have shown that the sheer volume of social networking activity is causing stress.

And stress is a killer. Let’s not beat about that proverbial bush. Stress is behind heart disease, some cancers and a host of other conditions. It is also one of the most significant causes of relationship breakdown too.

People will tell you “some stress is good for you”. Baloney. Stress is bad. Pure and simple. Plus, stress worsens your performance at work. Think you perform well under a bit of stress? Think again. The evidence shows the opposite. Even a little bit of stress worsens work performance.

Productivity rates in many industries are at an all-time low. Meanwhile, social media activity is at an all-time high.

You have to ask if there is some kind of link between the two.

New research implies there could be. Korean researchers have found that social media overload is a real cause of stress in our lives. Plus they have found that the social network we use is a contributor to that stress because of the way each system works. It turns out that ease-of-use or lack of it is a crucial issue in stress production.

What to do to reduce social network stress

Feeling a lack of control is a significant cause of stress. So on social networks you need to restore control which can be done in the following ways:

  1. Switch off all “push” messages – in other words turn off notifications of all kinds;
  2. Set up a timetable to check social media and stick to it – only connect with social networks at pre-arranged time-slots;
  3. Create filters, groups and so on to pre-sort social network posts and messages – or use a social media management tool like HootSuite;
  4. Learn how to use each social network – check out training documents and videos, even if you think you know how to use the system;
  5. Disconnect from people with only loose connections to you – their posts will be of less meaning, and this contributes to greater stress.

The researchers found that relevance was not the issue. You might think that by focusing your social media activity or perhaps using one network more than others to ensure you got more relevant messages would help. It doesn’t. It turns out we can get the same amount of stress even from highly relevant social media activity. In other words it is not “what” we encounter on social networks that matters to stress as much as “how” we do it. Allowing the networks to be in control with “push” messages, being constantly available and not knowing how to use the systems effectively are significant causes of social media stress.

You can reduce your stress due to social media activity quite simply. But if you let the networks retain their grip over you, then there is a real chance you are allowing them to contribute to poor health.

2 thoughts on “How to avoid the stress of social media overload”

  1. Great article, Graham! Not only does social media cause stress – it also costs time and leads to ‘faffing about’. I’ve recently realised that I use Facebook and LinkedIn to avoid doing proper work. “I’ll just go and check what’s happening,” I say to myself, pretending that it’s work. Now I only check Facebook in the evening and I look at LinkedIn once a day and then close the site. Much more productive – and less stressful!

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