Are You Suffering From Social Media Fatigue?

Can’t raise the energy to tweet? Feel like Facebook is yesterday’s news? You might have a case of social media fatigue — a surprisingly common syndrome.

There’s a familiar pattern when a new social networking service appears. At first, you want to use it all the time, either because it’s so compelling (wow, I haven’t heard from Sadie for ages!) or because you’re trying to achieve a specific goal (I will become mayor of my office). Over time, however, your usage drops off. A new social toy appears on the scene, or the interface changes in an annoying way, or you leave high school and realise just how dire MySpace really is, and suddenly check-ins are yesterday’s news.

Many of us have experienced this individually — I certainly have — and it turns out to be a fairly frequent reaction. Research firm Gartner surveyed 6,295 consumers (including 506 in Australia) and found that 24% were using their favourite social media site less than when they first signed up. Unsurprisingly, Facebook was the dominant choice, picked by 60% of Australian respondents; it seems even incessant Farmville updates and a half-arsed approach to privacy haven’t put most of us off.

The two reasons which emerged in the study were concerns over privacy and a general sense of boredom. It’s possible to fix some of the privacy-related concerns, though it is something of a moving target. Boredom, though, is less easily solved — and with a free service, walking away is the most obvious response.

Fatigue certainly isn’t universal: 37% of respondents said they were using their favourite social networking site more than they used to, a trend more notable with younger respondents (who perhaps haven’t had the chance to get bored with so many services). However, it’s a large enough group to merit some discussion.

Gartner points out that this relatively short attention span poses a major challenge for companies that expect to make their fortune from social networking. However, for individual consumers, the biggest issue is that you may end up with an oddly-distorted social footprint: a bunch of incomplete profiles on different networks which don’t present a particularly accurate picture, but still might violate your privacy if you’re not careful.

Got your own take on social networking fatigue? Let’s hear it in the comments.

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