Social network fatigue : antecedents, effects and characteristics
Thara Ravindran Vallomparambath Panikkasseri
Date of Issue2015
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
In the context of social network use, the term social network fatigue has been used loosely in media and academic publications to denote a sense of weariness associated with use of social networks. In view of the recent proliferation of social networking applications and the academic interest surrounding widespread use and adoption of these, a conceptual clarification of the term becomes important. However, a conceptualization of social network fatigue has not been attempted so far. This research therefore, addresses this primary gap and aims to clarify the concept of social network fatigue, guided by literature on fatigue available from within the clinical domain as well as societal and work settings. With the help of a mixed methods approach towards investigating user experiences that result in negative emotions or affect activity levels adversely, the research identifies antecedents of fatigue as well as the specific effects these have on user activity, so as to enumerate the unique characteristics of the phenomenon. A high level model of social network fatigue and a working definition of the phenomenon are derived based on the findings. Qualitative data in the form of an e-mail interview covering user experiences within the social network environment as well as quantitative data in the form of activity logs gathered over a six month period from 158 Facebook users have been used to identify the antecedents and effects of social network fatigue. A qualitative content analysis of the interview transcripts combined with a quantitative analysis of user activities reveals six distinct groups of antecedents and three distinct effects of fatigue on user activity. Independent T-tests for differences in demographic and activity profiles of users indicating fatigue related to each antecedent, as compared to those who do not report the fatigue, indicate significant variations of selected factors across the various groups. Thus, social network fatigue has been found to be preceded by factors related to the social dynamics occurring within the network, content made available there, self-detected immersive tendencies of the user, design issues of the platform, maturing of the life-cycle of the community to which the user is attached or factors that are external to the social network environment such as work, family or studies related demands faced by the user. The effects of fatigue on social network activity include short rest breaks, a relatively longer term downward moderation of activities or a suspension of user activities through a deactivation of his or her account. Unique characteristics of social network fatigue specific to the context of social network use were enumerated. For instance, the restorative nature of effects of fatigue that may help to maintain a healthy pattern of social network use was identified. Furthermore, demographic factors such as age and gender were found to vary significantly between users indicating specific fatigue antecedents. The number of social networking applications used was significantly higher in the case of fatigued users as compared to those who did not indicate any fatigue. The average frequency of use of Facebook recorded by fatigued users was also significantly higher than that of those with no indication of fatigue. Additionally, the overall trend depicted by the activity trace indicated a steeper falling pattern for fatigued users as opposed to those who were not fatigued.
Nanyang Technological University