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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 355-361

Social media fatigue during the lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic

1 Programme Director, The MINDS Foundation, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Research Associate, The MINDS Foundation, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
3 CEO and Director, The MINDS Foundation, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
4 Senior Psychiatrist, Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Calabar, Nigeria
5 Psychiatrist, Department of Psychiatry, Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Calabar, Nigeria

Date of Submission27-Jan-2022
Date of Decision10-Mar-2022
Date of Acceptance17-Apr-2022
Date of Web Publication30-Jan-2023

Correspondence Address:
Ms. Pragya Lodha
Programme Director, The MINDS Foundation, Mumbai, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/aip.aip_15_22

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Background: The coronavirus pandemic has led to deleterious effects on health, physical, and mental. The pandemic, onset since the end of 2019, has negatively impacted individuals across all sociodemographic variables. The widespread pandemic pushed global governments to enforce sanitizing, masking, and maintaining physical distancing. This lockdown meant that everyone was restricted at home, pushing academic, and work activities to take virtual means. Furthermore, this implicated excessive screen use due to increased virtual means of working. Methodology: The present study investigates social media fatigue (SMF) and the psychological effect of the same among participants of India and Nigeria. The study deploys 299 participants (males and females) for the same. Results: The findings from the study indicate that though SMF exists, it is not a prominent effect seen, considering that social media use helped people emotionally connect to their loved ones. Conclusion: This study provides data on SMF in participants from India and Nigeria during the lockdown period of the pandemic, an area of research that has not been looked into much. The study builds a scope for further research to delve into the impact of SMF at a global level, studying it with more robust statistical methods.

Keywords: Coronavirus, lockdown, screen use, social media fatigue

How to cite this article:
Lodha P, Thakkar A, Gupta A, Appasani R, Essien E, Audu A. Social media fatigue during the lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ann Indian Psychiatry 2022;6:355-61

How to cite this URL:
Lodha P, Thakkar A, Gupta A, Appasani R, Essien E, Audu A. Social media fatigue during the lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ann Indian Psychiatry [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Mar 26];6:355-61. Available from: https://www.anip.co.in/text.asp?2022/6/4/355/368780

  Introduction Top

Sparking an epidemic of acute respiratory syndrome in humans, a new strain of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was detected in Wuhan, China, in the latter part of 2019. This disease, which was subsequently named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO), spread like wildfire across the globe with alarming morbidity and mortality, negatively impacting the economy and social integrity. Affecting millions of people across almost all countries worldwide, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO in March 2020. Apart from the harmful effects on physical health, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused psychosomatic and persistent psychological challenges such as anxiety, panic disorder, and depression, among several other challenges.[1]

In a bid to slow the spread of the virus, public health campaigns worldwide focused on control measures such as hand hygiene, wearing of face masks, and physical distancing, which culminated in the enforcement of "lockdown" in several territories across the globe. In India, for instance, a 21-day national-level lockdown was declared to take effect from midnight of March 25, 2020.[2] However, the duration of this lockdown was extended until May 3, 2020, and consequently further, as the spread of the virus was in no way brought under control by the end of the initially declared period. During the lockdown, all educational institutions, shopping arcades, factories, offices, local markets, and travel means were completely shut down, the only exception being hospitals, police stations, and other emergency services. Similarly, the lockdown in Nigeria also experienced prolongations with attendant limitation of access to several amenities and resources.

One of the most evident implications of the lockdown was the rapid change in nature and the medium of lifestyle and work. Employees were forced to work from home, embracing a virtual workspace to contain both public health and the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. Students and teachers used online means for teaching and learning, and several other work sectors shifted online. With virtual platforms becoming the only resort for many sectors – including the educational sector and industries – to continue operating and for individuals to maintain the much-needed social connectedness while maintaining physical distance, a surge in social media use was inevitable. It is, therefore, no surprise that in the lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a proliferation of video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet, among others (some developed during the lockdown period) to aid personal group or institutional information and communication needs. As noted by Forbes (2020)[3] and Bloomberg (2020),[4] these video conferencing platforms also evolved into social media platforms during the pandemic. People used them for online dating, viewing movies together, playing games, family calls, and catch-up calls with friends.

The term "Social Media" has diverse applications. It is an umbrella term describing a variety of online platforms, including blogs, business networks, collaborative projects, social networks, forums, microblogs, photo sharing, products review, social bookmarking, social gaming, video sharing, and virtual worlds.[5] Social media is often equated with social networking sites (SNSs). A notable negative effect of the increased use of SNSs is SNS fatigue or social media fatigue (SMF).[6] Studies have long established that higher use of social media leads to signs of SNS fatigue or SNS burnouts, alternatively also referred to as SMF.[7],[8] SMF is described as a self-regulated and subjective feeling of tiredness that results from social media platforms. As a result of its subjective nature, different users endure fatigue at different intensities, spanning from tardiness to a state of over-exhaustion.[9] Other effects of prolonged social media use include burnout, social overload, information overload, and system overload. The biopsychosocial model in psychiatry may also help us understand fatigue associated with video conferencing in our daily lives. Biologically, such a virtual workspace routine does not allow an opportunity for physical activity. It has been noted that physical movement helps reduce fatigue by 40%.[10] It is challenging to understand nonverbal cues and other modulations in conversation, which is possible with face-to-face interactions.[10] This sometimes induces social anxiety and distress amongst the users.

SMF, together with the preexisting psychological, physiological, and economic impacts of COVID-19 on an individual, could have deleterious effects on the person's mental health and functioning. This can, in turn, negatively affect an individual's overall functioning, reducing the available workforce and worsening an already existing economic crisis along with exaggerating existing psychological and health disruptions. Therefore, it is essential to investigate the impact of virtual interactions and the effect of social media use on people in a period where almost every economy had to rely on virtual workspaces for survival. There is a dearth of evidence-based data on SMF during the lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in both India and Nigeria. This study, therefore, aims to explore SMF resulting from the social media use among residents of India and Nigeria during the pandemic.

  Methodology Top

This was a cross-sectional study that deployed a sample of 299 adults (identifying as males and females), residents of India and Nigeria. The sample was selected through convenience and snowball sampling method. An online version of the study questionnaire was sent to participants using their preferred social media platform. For the purpose of this study, social media use refers to the use of SNSs as well as social media platforms for personal as well as professional purposes [as mentioned in Appendix 1]. As a result of a lack of research tools to assess social media use and SMF during the lockdown, the authors developed a survey questionnaire of 16 items to measure social media use during COVID-19 along with sociodemographic characteristics. A panel of five experts validated this survey for face, construct, and content validity. This tool was not standardized and used based on content and construct validity (0.86) to serve the purpose of time-sensitive data collection during COVID-19. The survey assesses social media use and experience of SMF. The survey questions were culled from rating scales that assess SMF. Prior informed consent was mandatorily taken before the survey administration, with adequate confidentiality maintained.

Inclusion criteria

  1. Ability to read and understand the English language (above VIII standard)
  2. Ability to use smartphones and usage of at least one SNS during the lockdown period of COVID-19
  3. Residents of India or Nigeria above the age of 16 years.

Ethical consideration

This study was performed following the ethical principles enshrined in the Helsinki Declaration and the National Human Research Ethical code. Those subjects who provided informed consent were included as participants in the study. Participation was voluntary; confidentiality and anonymity were assured.

Data analysis

The data were entered into the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software version 24 (IBM, Calabar, Nigeria, Africa) and summarized using frequency tables, percentages, charts, and means with standard deviations.

  Results Top

A total of 299 respondents across India and Nigeria participated in the study. Respondents were males and females within the age group of 16–59 years. The sociodemographic characteristics of participants are displayed in [Table 1].
Table 1: Sociodemographic characteristics of respondents

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The majority of the respondents (88%) increased social media use during the lockdown. Among the respondents who reported increased use, Facebook ranked topmost (75%) among other platforms in terms of increased use during the COVID-19 lockdown. This was followed by WhatsApp (68%), Snapchat (65%), and Zoom video conferencing platform (45%), while Microsoft Teams had the least increased use [Figure 1]. In order of decreasing frequency, reasons given by respondents for increased use of social media during the lockdown include connecting with friends and family (58%), attending webinars (40%), getting information and updates about coronavirus (38%), and working from home (37%) among others [Figure 2].
Figure 1: Bar chart showing social media platforms with increased use among respondents during the lockdown

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Figure 2: Bar chart showing reasons for increased use of social media among respondents during the lockdown

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Some study subjects gave positive responses to questions probing possible SMF. For ease of classification and presentation, respondents who selected "often"/"always" were grouped and considered to have substantial levels of the symptom or feature in consideration.

As shown in [Table 1], almost 30% reported feeling overwhelmed ("often"/"always") by the amount of information on social media platforms, while 26.8% said they felt drained by activities that required the use of social media. In addition, 26.8% reported that social media required much mental effort, while 23.7% reported that they often or always were consciously avoiding social media. A small percentage of 5.4% had (at least often) stopped using social media platforms. Furthermore, over 30% thought their use of social media was excessive, and almost 15% reported that their use of social media negatively affected their mental health. Contrarily, over 33% "often"/"always" kept happier by social media, while almost 60% reported that they had enjoyed using social media during the lockdown. Further details are shown in [Table 2].
Table 2: Item-wise responses to survey questions

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  Discussion Top

Several studies characterize the relationship between social media use and mental health among its users. Although some studies outline negative impacts, there are no conclusive studies to establish a negative association between social media use and negative mental health. A nuanced understanding of this association reveals that it is the frequency and longevity[6] of social media use that usually results in negatively impacting the mental health status of individuals. Consequently, SMF, a concept that stems relates with the usage of social media, is an indicative risk factor that can potentially impact mental health negatively. The present study finds the psychological impact of SMF on individuals during the first lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in India and Nigeria. The study aims to gain an insight into the extent of SMF caused by a drastic change in the use of social media and to understand its effect on the mental health of people in both countries during the pandemic.

The findings suggest an upsurge in the use of social media during the lockdown phase of the pandemic. However, most respondents reported that social media did not affect their mental health and that they often enjoyed using social media for personal and professional use during the lockdown. With more than half of the respondents using social media to stay in touch with friends and family, this finding was indomitable. As seen anecdotally worldwide as well, maintaining an emotional/personal connection through social media was the only alternative during the lockdown and may have helped reduce boredom and feelings of loneliness, which may, in turn, have had a plausible positive impact on mental health of individuals. One of the authors (PL) also reports observations from her psychotherapeutic practice, in support of the findings, that several individuals started using social media increasingly to ensure social connections with near and dear ones. Further, respondents reported having more leisure time or time to spare during the lockdown. This allowed them to spend more time on entertainment channels available on these social media platforms. Music, movies, and other forms of entertainment have been known to boost the mental health of individuals.[11] One-third of the participants reported feeling overwhelmed by the information presented on social media platforms, though most respondents did not feel overwhelmed. Almost a fifth of the respondents felt that information shared on social media made them anxious. Both anxiety and feeling overwhelmed have been documented in previous research as examples of technostressors, which are considered indicators of SMF.[12] This finding is crucial in observing the potency of SMF in contributing to the negative psychological impact.

About a fifth of the respondents reported feeling bored by social media during the lockdown. Though similar research is scant, previous studies suggest a strong association between feelings of boredom and information and communication overload, which, in turn, is strongly associated with SMF.[13]

Limitations and future scope

Some limitations of the present study merit comment. The sample of this study was small and thus not representative. Furthermore, the sample for this study was restricted to residents of India and Nigeria and thus may not be generalizable across other ethnic and cultural groups or minority groups. Using an online survey and a convenience sample may result in sampling bias.

This simple cross-sectional study paves the way for further research on the construct of SMF and the psychological impact of prolonged use of social media.

This study might encourage researchers to explore the phenomenon of SMF in LMICS and develop relevant guidelines for rational digital usage.

  Conclusion Top

The present study helps gain insight into the pattern of SMF due to prolonged exposure to social media. It builds on the current literature that aids our understanding of the effect of SMF on mental health. This study is important in that it provides data on SMF in participants from India and Nigeria during the lockdown period of the pandemic, an area of research that has not been looked into much. In addition, it also provides us with evidence in the form of data for the connection between boredom and SMF, a gap that has been overlooked by previous research. Future research efforts are needed to delve deeper into this area of study to better understand the relation between the pandemic and increase in social media usage and fatigue.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  Appendix 1 Top

Demographic questions

This is a set of questions to understand if people have been experiencing social media fatigue during the pandemic. This set of questions is not a standardized tool but simply questions and statements directed at understanding the use of social media platforms (social media platforms include LinkedIn and video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet as well) among individuals during the lockdown.

1. Which social media platforms have you been using since the lockdown ensued?

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • LinkedIn
  • Video conferencing platforms (specify):
  • Twitter
  • Others (specify):

2. For what purposes have you been using social media platforms?

  • Working from home
  • Attending webinars
  • Catching up with friends/family
  • Checking social media updates
  • Others (specify):

3. Has your use of social media increased during the lockdown?

  • Yes
  • No

  1. If yes, which social media platform (s) have you used more?
  2. Why has your use of the selected social media platform (s) increased during the lockdown?

  1. Because I have had more time to spare
  2. Because I felt the need to avoid loneliness
  3. Because I have felt the need to occupy my time with something
  4. To connect with friends and family
  5. Social media engagements became more fun
  6. Because I have been working from home
  7. Because I have been attending webinars
  8. To get information updates about coronavirus and other news updates
  9. Other (specify)

4. Has your use of social media decreased during the lockdown?

  • Yes
  • No

  1. If yes, which social media platform (s) have you used less?
  2. Why has your use of the selected social media platform (s) decreased during the lockdown?

  1. The information shared on social media has been too much
  2. It has taken too much of my time
  3. It has left me exhausted
  4. It has become boring for me
  5. It has been distracting for me
  6. It has required too much mental effort
  7. It has not been useful to me
  8. I have been unable to cope with the demands of social media
  9. It negatively impacts my mental health
  10. Others (specify)

Survey Questionnaire

Read the statement below and mark them depending on whether it holds true for you. Indicate your responses using the following keys, on the basis of how you have felt in the last 4–8 weeks.

1- Never

2- Sometimes

3- Often

4- Always

  1. I have felt overwhelmed by the information on social media platforms.
  2. Information shared on social media platforms makes me anxious.
  3. I have consciously avoided spending time on social media.
  4. I have felt tired of the information available on social media platforms.
  5. I find it tiring to check information on social media platforms.
  6. I have stopped using social media platforms.
  7. I have felt unmotivated to use social media platforms.
  8. I avoided using social media platforms from time to time.
  9. I missed important personal or professional commitments because of tiredness due to social media
  10. Using social media requires much mental effort.
  11. I have felt bored of using social media.
  12. I have thought about wanting to avoid using social media.
  13. The features of social media are more complex than the tasks I have to complete using these features.
  14. I get distracted by the excessive amount of information available to me on social media platforms.
  15. I find that only a small part of the information on social media is relevant to my needs.
  16. I have felt drained by activities that require me to use social media.

  References Top

Choudhari R. COVID 19 pandemic: Mental health challenges of internal migrant workers of India. Asian J Psychiatr 2020;54:102254.  Back to cited text no. 1
Hebbar N. PM Modi Announces 21-Day Lockdown as COVID-19 Toll Touches 12; March 24, 2020. The Hindu. Available from: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/pm-announces-21-day-lockdown-as-covid-19-toll-touches-10/article31156691.ece. [Last accessed on 2021 Nov 05].  Back to cited text no. 2
Bellan R. What You Need To Know About Using Zoom; March 25, 2020. Forbes. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebeccabellan/2020/03/24/what-you-need-to-know-about-using-zoom/. [Last accessed on 2021 Nov 05].  Back to cited text no. 3
Bloomberg. (n.d.). Available from: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-04-09/zoom-goes-from-conferencing-app-to-the-pandemic-s-social-network. [Last accessed on 2021 Nov 05].  Back to cited text no. 4
Aichner T, Grunfelder M, Maurer O, Jegeni D. Twenty-five years of Social Media: A review of Social Media applications and definitions from 1994 to 2019. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw 2021;24:215-22.  Back to cited text no. 5
Dhir A, Yossatorn Y, Kaur P, Chen S. Online social media fatigue and psychological wellbeing – A study of compulsive use, fear of missing out, fatigue, anxiety and depression. Int J Inform Manage 2018;40:141-52.  Back to cited text no. 6
Islam AK, Laato S, Talukder S, Sutinen E. Misinformation sharing and social media fatigue during COVID-19: An affordance and cognitive load perspective. Technol Forecast Soc Change 2020;159:120201.  Back to cited text no. 7
Yamakami T. "Towards Understanding SNS Fatigue: Exploration of Social Experience in the Virtual World," 2012 7th International Conference on Computing and Convergence Technology (ICCCT), Seoul; 2012. p. 203-7.  Back to cited text no. 8
Lee AR, Son SM, Kim KK. Information and communication technology overload and social networking service fatigue: A stress perspective. Comput Hum Behav 2018;55:51-61.  Back to cited text no. 9
Puetz TW. Physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue. Sports Med 2006;36:767-80.  Back to cited text no. 10
Adler SA. Music Can be a Great Mood Booster. AARP; June 30, 2020. Available from: https://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-2020/music-mental-health.html. [Last accessed on 2021 Nov 05].  Back to cited text no. 11
Ostic D, Qalati SA, Barbosa B, Shah SM, Galvan Vela E, Herzallah AM, et al. Effects of social media use on psychological well-being: A mediated model. Front Psychol 2021;12:678766.  Back to cited text no. 12
Whelan E, Islam AK, Brooks S. Is boredom proneness related to social media overload and fatigue? A stress-strain-outcome approach. Internet Res 2020;30:869-87.  Back to cited text no. 13


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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