With the rise of technology, we are now more interconnected than ever. As much as it makes things easier to have everything available at the tap of a finger, there is also the risk of people getting burnt out due to the digital overload brought about by the excessive use of smartphones and other digital devices. This is a concept better known as digital burnout.

How Can We Spot Digital Burnout?

Digital burnout is characterised by increased feelings of stress, anxiety, and exhaustion that are caused by spending too much time on their phone, tablet, or computer. It is increasingly becoming a widespread problem and one that often develops gradually, therefore, making it difficult for one to realize that they are in fact burnt out. The symptoms of digital burnout are not only emotional and mental but can also include physical symptoms such as insomnia, lack of energy, and chest pains.

What’s Causing Digital Burnout?

Constant Availability

One of the overarching problems that are contributing to digital burnout is the fact that we are constantly contactable. When it comes to the workplace, this means that employees are often being contacted outside of their working hours and are sometimes be expected to reply to their work calls or emails even if they are off duty. The problem with this is that people do not get enough time to unplug and recharge between their work shifts, ultimately resulting in added stress and, eventually, burnout.

Social Media Loops

Next comes the problem of excessive social media use, which is also another major contributor to digital burnout. Constant smartphone use on the job is problematic as it causes poor concentration and lowers productivity levels. It takes the average human around 18 minutes to be able to effectively focus on a task at hand.

Now, if the average human also reaches out for their phone around every 15 minutes, imagine the impact that this has on one’s performance at work. With social media constantly keeping us in the loop with what is happening around us through news and instant messages, many people experience difficulty filtering these distractions and putting their minds to work.

Never Unplugging

Apart from the negative impact on our working lives, excessive exposure to social media through our phones can also have a detrimental effect on our mental health. Once again, being constantly contactable means that people can message us 24/7, and we might feel a certain pressure to reply immediately. This makes it difficult to switch off and take a break and could be one of the factors leading to digital burnout. Additionally, being constantly bombarded with news involving tragic events and health scares increases the risk of anxiety and stress.

The following are some ways that you can combat digital burnout:

1. Limit your distractions.

Put your mobile phone somewhere out of sight while you work so that you can minimize distractions and concentrate better on your job.

2. Leave work at work.

Avoid checking your work emails while you are off duty. Rest is not only permitted but essential to be able to recharge and continue with your work the next day.

3. Limit screen time.

One way of combating digital burnout is by reducing your screen time. A noteworthy tip is to avoid spending too much time on your phone before going to bed, as this might interfere with your sleep.

4. Disconnect to connect

Connect with your friends and loved ones offline, whenever possible. While it is convenient to connect with people virtually, detaching from our phones and enjoying in-person meetups is beneficial for our mental health.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Pamela Borg is a counsellor who enjoys working therapeutically with adults experiencing various issues. These include general mental health and well-being, gender, sexuality, and relationship issues.  


Image: <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/pensive-businesswoman-using-mobile-phone-while-relaxing-office_26144213.htm#query=digital%20burnout&position=17&from_view=search&track=ais”>Image by Drazen Zigic</a> on Freepik

Hofelich, M. (n.d.). Digital Burnout: The Dangers of Being Constantly Contactable. Retrieved from: https://us.experteer.com/magazine/digital-burnout-dangers-constantly-contactable/

McLean Hospital (2022). Power Down: 5 Ways to Fight Digital Burnout. Retrieved from https://www.mcleanhospital.org/essential/digital-burnout