Every morning we all wake up and do the same thing. Roll over, grab your phone, tap your favorite app, scroll scroll scroll, ingest ingest ingest, have that flash thought of “wow, why can’t I be like that person?”, stumble across an argument you don’t even understand, roll back over and finally feel… nothing.
Or maybe it’s just me?
For the past few months I’ve been experiencing something a bit worse than doom scrolling, but general fatigue from watching, interacting with, and even creating content. There was a time when binge-watching 30sec-1min videos on social media felt like something to me. It used to feel somewhat inspirational to see other people living their lives, carefully creating their own perspectives, or at the very least, simply being entertaining. But all of a sudden the aesthetic porn, elaborate travel videos, and forced displays of luxury did absolutely nothing for me. Blame it on the pandemic or simply getting older, but I was suddenly confused about where being a spectator or participant in content actually fit in my life.
When these feelings first arose I simply assumed I was being a hater. “Let people have nice things” I kept reminding myself. Maybe I was just triggered because my reality, and the reality of much of the world, did not reflect that of my favorite influencer. Maybe my issue was really about envy.
Then I considered how many times I’ve sat in conversations with friends who felt anxious about creating content, were scrambling for ways to make their lives look like more than it was, or simply stopped participating in social media altogether because they had nothing to brag on currently. I also thought about some of my favorite voices on social media speaking out about their own fatigue under the pressures of being hypervisible.
Author Alex Elle wrote an incredibly insightful caption about it:
View this post on Instagram
Artist and writer Morgan Harper Nichols created a carousel around it:
View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Morgan Harper Nichols (@morganharpernichols)
And little by little more people I knew were being honest about the paradoxical experience of constantly going viral, yet still struggling to experience a day-to-day life that felt substantial and healthy. So what was the truth about how we were actually feeling as “content machines”?
Is it wrong to portray depictions of your life that aren’t necessarily real BUT creatively convey a message you’re passionate about? Is it wrong to follow trends? Is it wrong to care about getting as many likes, shares, and RTs, as possible? Is it wrong to spend hours in front of a tripod while the real world passes you by right outside your window? Where do we draw that line?
To be honest, I don’t think any of these questions have a simple answer. Social media is still such new territory that we have yet to fully grasp the effects it will have on our own psyches. But I discovered for myself that it was worth my while to spend time investigating what boundaries in these digital communities could feel like, both as a consumer and a creator. I hadn’t ever tried to create an experience with Twitter or Instagram that came with limits, I just logged on, scrolled until I got tired, ran away randomly for a light social media break, just to come right back and do it all again. I also wasn’t routinely checking in with how my content could evolve with me, or spent enough time widening my “niche” to reflect all of myself. This time around, I wanted to truly check in about what I was actually feeling and begin healing my content fatigue.
The first step was to simply stop. As a content creator myself, it was conflicting to learn that the thing that was helping me connect with more people on social media was also the thing that was exhausting me. I could not keep up with the pace of having something new to share every day, and it was taking its toll on my self-confidence.
Creating this silence around myself helped me get back to myself and my reality. Instead of working to create a narrative that my life was aesthetically pleasing and seamlessly “all together”, I thought about what it would take for my everyday life to include more joy. So I:
Went back to therapy, picked up some new multivitamins, switched up my diet, created breaks in my day that actually involved going outside, finally started saving money, got better at my job, spent time with family, CRIED AS MUCH AS I NEEDED TO CRY, got used to seeing my natural reflection (no matter how often I dreaded seeing myself bare), and I got a lot more honest in my friendships.
And before sharing any “how to level up your life” content or reflective tweets about this change, I simply sat in it for weeks with the support of my closet circle. This period in my life wasn’t about instantly having something to share, but fully living it all first.
Then, I started changing my mindset:
I had to break up with the idea that I owed the world a piece of me every single day in order to feel like a worthy creator. I didn’t even owe the world a piece of me every week or month if I didn’t want to be seen. The root of why I enjoyed creating content was because of the interactions with my audience, but it wasn’t actually my job to engage them all the time. It was simply my job to create a space I felt comfortable sharing my story in–however and whenever I decided to share it. Being relevant isn’t just about showing up online every day, it’s about showing up in life every day.
This goes against every tip anyone will tell you when it comes to being a content creator, but I had to consider the actual pace of my life before adhering to pressures that made me feel like I wasn’t enough.
I also had to allow other people to create their own boundaries around content, without neglecting my own. The reality is everyone comes to these apps with their own goals–and that’s okay. Just because I’ve decided to take a break, doesn’t mean everyone else should. Some people truly enjoy creating every day, or have the resources/teams to do so. It’s okay to experience what someone else has created for themselves, while pouring into myself. And if I’m not in a place to do both? The mute, unfollow, and “see less of this” buttons are always there for me. I don’t have to be a viewer of anyone else’s life if I simply am not in a place to receive it healthily.
Last, it’s okay to have balance.
I think we will always have attachments to content as a means of wanting to share things and grow our platforms. Content creators have turned TikToks into multi-million dollar contracts, so to assume we will all just walk away from content is definitely not happening any time soon. It doesn’t have to. Social media allows us an incredible canvas to express ourselves, and that isn’t a tool we have to give up.
BUT, it is a tool that we need to start having more honest boundaries around. Your life doesn’t have to be perfect in order for it to be on camera, and it also doesn’t have to be on camera every single day. You can still ingest the content of your favorite influencers, and aspire to be like them, but you cannot be so invested in watching someone else’s grass that you forget to water your own–or exhaust yourself by planting fake grass instead.
Coming to terms with my content fatigue helped me remember myself as a human being, while giving myself the grace to approach creating with my authenticity and mental health as a priority. There’s so much we still have to learn about ourselves and others in real life, we must recognize when it’s time to put our phones down and just be.
So, if you’re considering a break from content? Take one. Hopefully, we all find more time to press pause in this content race and simply start living life again.
(and prop up our tripods again when we’re mentally ready to!)
A struggling 20-something year old with a passion for lifestyle, pop culture, and all things black girl magic.