Digital Burnout: A Virtual Pandemic

Key Points: 

  • Constant digital connectivity leads to feelings of anxiousness and a need for belonging. 

  • Employees are experiencing digital burnout more often. 

  • Digital burnout causes health problems and decreased work productivity. 

  • Self-care, unplugging, face-to-face interactions, and a healthy work-life balance can help. 

No matter how much you sleep, you're still tired. No matter how much you work, you feel like you need to make progress. Long days at work turn into sleepless nights. Stress increases and starts to consume your life. You try to relax by shifting to electronics like your phone or television but find yourself still searching for peace. This is the vicious cycle of digital burnout. 

Technology controls the world. Almost every aspect of life involves technology. The constant pressure from electronics, at work and home, seems debilitating. When your life feels out of control, you might be experiencing digital burnout

Exploring Digital Burnout

Digital burnout, or digital/internet fatigue, is the feeling of apathy, anxiety, or exhaustion from overexposure to digital devices.

After sitting at a computer for eight hours, avoid bringing your work-related anxieties home. This is the time to step away from electronic screens of all sizes — handheld cell phones, desktop computer monitors, big screen TVs.

When you look at something you enjoy, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical responsible for making you happy, excited, and motivated. When you see a funny Facebook video, dopamine is released, giving you feelings of pleasure. Your brain associates this pleasure with being on Facebook. It repeatedly seeks the source of that joy, your cell phone, which results in the urge to frequently check the phone.

This contributes to digital burnout. 

Any form of technology promotes digital burnout. Consistently being on your phones, computers, and smartwatches drain your social, mental, and physical batteries.

It's a strange fact of modern life that people never forget to charge their electronic devices but neglect to "charge" themselves. 

Understanding Digital Burnout Causes

Individuals experience digital burnout for several reasons.

First, the level of connectivity from email, text, call, chat, and messenger means you are reachable at all times. This constant contact is exhausting and puts you under pressure. 

Second, the anxiety from comparing yourself to others on social media causes you to work harder to obtain what they possess. Receiving a steady stream of emails and social media messages from "friends" creates pressure to reply to each one.

Third, there is less face-to-face communication and more digital communication. This creates feelings of isolation and possibly even depression.

Fourth, poor self-care leads to burnout more quickly. If you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of the things around you. Poor self-care includes a lack of sleep, an unhealthy diet, and an inappropriate work-life balance. 

Lastly, digital burnout causes even further digital burnout. The more tired and bored you feel, the more you turn to scroll endlessly on TikTok and Instagram. This exacerbates existing digital burnout.

Researching Digital Burnout Statistics 

Research studies identify several adverse health effects related to increased digital usage.

You may be suffering from digital burnout and not even know it. Everyone experiences stress, exhaustion, and apathy. Electronics provide short-term relief by distracting us from the issues at hand. With easy and immediate access to digital devices, is there any wonder why digital fatigue is at what some call pandemic levels?

Employees who encounter digital fatigue are 63 percent more likely to use sick time and 2.6 times more likely to quit. The pandemic has only made digital burnout worse. Recognizing digital burnout symptoms is the first step in reversing the covid-induced damage.

Recognizing Digital Burnout Symptoms

Technology not only impacts daily life but also affects health. Your desktop monitor's blue light can eventually cause vision problems. The strain from glaring at tiny words for hours on end causes headaches and eye pain. Neck and shoulder pain is also associated with hunching over your digital friend. 

A direct consequence of digital burnout is poor work performance. When you burn out, you have less mental and physical energy to devote to the job. You stay later to make up for the decreased productivity during work hours. This leads to more burnout. 

It's hard to feel accomplished and satisfied when you see what you could have while viewing the internet and television. Not being able to satisfy your needs makes you feel empty and uninterested in life. You're left wanting what others have and waiting for the next best thing to come along.

How Do You Prevent Digital Burnout? 

Your business/employer saves money and increases productivity by preventing digital burnout, so if your peace of mind and physical health is not enough motivation, do it for the money you save.

It's best to prevent digital burnout before symptoms appear, or at least quickly after they start. The best way to combat burnout is to know the symptoms.

Coping with your anxiety is another way to avoid internet fatigue. 

Is Too Much Information Bad?

The internet is a treasure trove of information. Society pushes you to collect as much information as possible to gain a feeling of control. Humans feel they have more control over their surroundings if they know more.

In this case, too much information leads to anxiety. 

Having too much information can cause you to worry about possible adverse outcomes. Worrying about what might go wrong, like losing your job or not paying a bill, creates fear and anxiety.

Understanding you cannot control every situation is a great way to prevent stress. 

On its online website, SCL Health claims, "you should stop using electronic devices, like your cellphone, at least 30 minutes before bedtime."

When you look at your phone, a blue light wave comes from the screen. It causes your brain to secrete hormones that keep you awake and prevents you from relaxing.

Be honest. You have probably said an hour of phone games, or 30 minutes of reading and replying to emails and Facebook posts "relaxes" you as you get ready for bed.

Being on your phone before bed makes your brain take longer to unwind. It can also impact your dreams. 

Getting Physical

Unplugging is one of the best ways to handle digital fatigue. When you unplug, you allow your mind to rest from the stimulation caused by technology. Unplugging means putting away all technology or digital items to enjoy life's physical aspects. Enjoying the physical parts of life makes you feel more connected. 

Feeling connected and having social support keeps you out of the internet's grip. Turning to friends for help improves your mental health, work performance, and quality of life. Having social connections allows you to unplug and unwind from digital interactions. Social relationships also help you sort through your problems.

Stages of Internet Fatigue

Digital fatigue doesn't happen overnight. Visiting Twitter a few times a week or returning an email after hours won't send you over the electronic edge.

Internet fatigue comes in four stages: oblivious, aware, suffering, and drastic. Here are some more details about each:


At the beginning of digital interactions, the positive aspects are emphasized. The benefits of using technology seep into personal and work lives. You don't realize you're spending so much time checking in.

Your mind creates a picture of success, and that's all you can see. You’re oblivious to any possible harm or future consequences.


You may just be conscious of the effects of technological boredom. Loneliness, overtime, and insomnia envelop you. You must decide whether the process should continue or make necessary changes.

Once you are aware of your digital burnout, act to prevent it from worsening.


Suppose you've decided to forego a self-care date for more digital consumption. The end result: You start suffering from the chronic effects of digital burnout. The increased feelings of pressure to respond can lead to an avoidance anxiety coping method.

Avoiding family and friends leads to strained relationships and further dependence on the digital world. 


In this stage of burnout, you typically do something drastic because your body is tired of operating at max capacity. Your mind and body compensate for the chaotic conditions with chaos. You end up quitting your job, dying your hair, or throwing your phone in a pool of alligators (well, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea).

Once you've reached the burnout stage, it's time to cure your situation. 

4 Super-Smart Tips for Avoiding Digital Burnout

Even if you have "Stage 4" burnout, all is not lost. You can come back from the depths of the internet stronger than your work's Wi-Fi. Curing digital burnout is different for everyone and can be improved in many ways. 

  1. Do something offline you enjoy. Go for a walk. Have a picnic. Read a book. Knit your neighbor a hat. Connecting with the world through touch gives you the break you need to heal. 

  2. Get into a digital routine. You probably wake up and check your phone; get dressed for work and then read some emails; scroll through the news feed while eating breakfast; and make a quick Instagram post on your lunch break. Keeping digital devices within reach is a sure way to burn out. Set aside 15 minutes for phone time after waking up and don't touch it again until you're at work. Lay the phone down 30 minutes before going to bed. Setting time constraints prevents you from overusing. 

  3. Work towards your passion. When you work with love, you won't feel like you're working. Despite the increased use of technology, passion will give you energy and motivation. 

  4. Ask for help. It's never a bad thing to ask for help when you need it. Sometimes it's hard to change alone. Help from others makes it easier for you. Knowing when to ask for help is just as important as having someone to ask.

How Do You Manage Digital Burnout?

Having family and friends to talk to about your digital habits can teach you how to manage your internet fatigue. Checking in with the people around you will give you a different perspective on your behavior. This perspective will provide you with insight into how to manage your symptoms. 

Your employer is also an excellent start for managing burnout. Taking a break from work, forfeiting some job duties, and setting boundaries can be done with help from your employer. They may also have resources you can use, such as counseling. 

Helping Others

You aren't the only one who may be unaware of their electronic usage and signs of burnout. Now that you know what to look for, you can look for those symptoms of digital fatigue in others.

Suggest face-to-face interactions instead of FaceTime and Zoom calls. In-person meetings in the office are often more effective than online sessions. Inviting people to come together eliminates feelings of solitude. 

If you notice someone plagued by internet fatigue, express your concern and first-person experiences. Bringing their symptoms and habits to their attention can save them a lot of pain, trouble, and wasted time. You can put them on the right track to recognizing, addressing, and overcoming their technology-related problems. 

Helping others with digital fatigue also helps you fight the ramifications and influence of the internet. Working together keeps you grounded in the real world and away from burnout. 

Unplug It

The digital burnout pandemic is sweeping the nation. It's only gotten worse since covid and leads to several problems within the community.

Although it is widespread, many people don't recognize the symptoms or how to overcome digital burnout. Knowing what it is and what to look for puts you well on the way to preventing and managing digital fatigue.

Stepping away from emails, social media, news blogs, and trending searches provides a sense of mental relief as you replace physical sights and sounds with the electronic pings, rings, and dings of the digital world.

Consider this: When's the last time you went just a few hours without digital interaction?

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