Nearly a month ago, I began a spontaneous hiatus from Twitter and Facebook and, despite having been an avid user and proponent of both, I don’t miss either of them a single bit. After the seemingly hundredth social media-propelled scandal hit my timeline and newsfeed in a tiny fraction of as many days, I found my cursor hovering over the ‘deactivate’ button and I gunned for it, with the intention of forcing some mental clarity onto an increasingly fuzzy brain.

It’s been months since I first diagnosed myself, and many of my friends and peers, with Internet fatigue, a phenomenon that is not new but seems to be intensifying. Internet fatigue is what comes after Internet addiction: you scroll, you refresh, you read timelines compulsively and then you get really, really exhausted by it. It is an anxiety that comes along with feeling trapped in a whirlwind of other people’s thoughts.

You may have experienced symptoms of it yourself during the fallout of some collective online outrage or other, like in the midst of Miley Cyrus-gate or following the announcement of the verdict of the Michael Dunn trial, for instance. As recently as last year, a Pew study revealed that more than two-thirds of Facebook users had taken extended “breaks” from the site, prompting researchers to coin the phrase “Facebook Fatigue.” 

It’s been months since I first diagnosed myself, and many of my friends and peers, with Internet fatigue, a phenomenon that is not new but seems to be intensifying. Internet fatigue is what comes after Internet addiction: you scroll, you refresh, you read timelines compulsively and then you get really, really exhausted by it. It is an anxiety that comes along with feeling trapped in a whirlwind of other people’s thoughts.

What used to feel like a productive endeavour—criss-crossing time and space to participate in universal conversation—ended up as quite the opposite: an often unmanageable, frustrating stream of decontextualized information from which each individual is tasked with parsing some sort of narrative. That’s in part because, at some point, the social Internet became less about information and more about the act of sharing it. There is a sense that it is as important to share a link as it is to read it, that one must be in the know even if that means not fully engaging with the implications of that knowledge. 

Such digital noise, which was previously compartmentalized into neat IRL and URL categories, is bleeding into daily life, and with it comes the arduous mental task of absorbing and deciphering massive amounts of information in the form of news, gossip, memes, music, videos, and criticism at impossible speeds. In theory, you could just temper your usage or develop a prioritization mechanism, but that is much easier said than done and the compulsion to read the entire Internet is elemental to the ensuing exhaustion.

“Twitter seems to have reached a turning point, a phase in which its contributors have stopped trying to make the service as useful as possible for the crowd, and are instead trying to distinguish themselves from one another,” wrote Jenna Wortham, in explaining Twitter’s shift to from laudable resource to place of chaos.

That description accurately sums up much of the Internet, even beyond social media. It is a vast place where countless numbers of people are yelling over each other at the same time, giving every post, blog, article a false, exaggerated sense of importance. Like in so-called “real life,” people tend to build communities around themselves that are comprised of like-minded individuals, people with similar interests and worldviews who reinforce our own existing beliefs. The result can be insular little corners of the Internet that overvalue their own importance, forgetting that the obscure happenings we drone on and on about or take for granted don’t even register on most people’s radars. All the while, the Internet requires more and more energy from its participants.

Of course, that’s not to discount the Internet’s many positive, democratizing qualities. It has largely been a force for good in the world, but the breaking point we’re at today—of being able to remember life before the Internet but not being able to imagine living without it—finds us grappling with how to navigate the pressures and impositions of the web. For now, I’m happy to enjoy the peace that comes with disconnecting even just a little bit.

Rawiya Kameir is a regular contributor to Complex, and has written elsewhere for The Toronto Standard, Thought Catalog, and The Daily Beast. 

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