We’re sitting on the couch or in bed or at our desk. We’re alone, and yet, we’re overstimulated and overwhelmed. Why? Social media, texting, video calls, etc., can and does cause social overload.
What is social overload? Usually, autistics define this experience as enduring copious levels of exhaustion and stress due to interacting with other people. After masking and struggling to communicate in ways that differ from our own person autistic “normal,” we can shutdown, feel fatigued, and even have chronic pain. The solution is to spend time alone and recharge.
However, with phones, tablets, and laptops, we are often never really alone. DMs pour in. We get notifications for IG Lives. We spend time curating content to post on our own feeds. The end result is digital socializing, which still includes social rules and usually requires a certain amount of maskng.
If you’re feeling overloaded even in your own private safe spaces, consider taking the following measures:
1) Turn off music with lyrics. Singers are communicating their emotions and thoughts through their music. When we hear singing, we are still processing spoken words. Switch to instrumentals or just turn off all sound.
2) Switch off the TV/streaming sites. Whenever I watch a series or a movie, my brain is working double-time to understand the actors’ facial expressions and interactions. Whether I realize it or not at the time, TV causes social overload, too.
3) Turn off notifications. Most devices have the ability to switch off app and texting notifications. If I’m still tempted to turn on an app to check for things I may have missed, I just shut off the phone completely and put it into a drawer. The final step here is to start another activity so as to distract myself. Some activities that soothe my overloaded brain are reading a physical book, cooking, or playing cards.
Do you experience social overload from social media? How do you handle this stress?