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Privacy fatigue: mental health damaged by social networks

Privacy fatigue: mental health damaged by social networks

September 17, 2022

It is estimated that, in the year 2017, there were more than 2,700 million people who made use of social networks. This means that, neither more nor less, 37% of the world population has an interest in sharing their tastes, hobbies and private life with the rest of humanity.

Although each person is free to publish what they want, the possibility of sharing daily experiences through social networks makes the line between public and private life narrower, resulting in a new mental health condition known as privacy fatigue .

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What is privacy fatigue?

The fatigue of privacy is being constituted as a new psychological alteration that, although at the moment it is not included in any evaluation and diagnosis manual , has been observed and manifested in a large number of people.


A research group composed of psychologists from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea has evaluated the way in which social network users face the thin line that divides the private from the public.

After a long time of research and evaluation, they noticed that a large number of users experienced symptoms similar to those of psychological fatigue caused by excessive and constant concern for the threats and risks involved. the lack of privacy in the networks .

This psychological state was given the name of privacy fatigue, characterized by provoke a feeling of psychological tiredness related by the lack of skills of the person to effectively manage their privacy and intimate information on the Internet and social networks.


The main theory of these researchers is that, although it can vary in intensity, the fatigue of privacy affects most people who are active users of social networks. The reason is that some users experience the obligation or need to constantly separate between private information and that may be public or shared with the rest of the world, with the aim of protecting their privacy.

This constant "state of alert" can cause the aforementioned privacy fatigue, which, in addition, causes people themselves to lower their guard due to fatigue and generates a feeling of frustration.

Some situations that can exemplify this type of privacy fatigue are those moments in which we are not clear whether to bring a photo or publication to light in the networks or not, since, not knowing how to clearly draw the line between public and private , it generates a feeling of uneasiness or concern when we think that we are not exposing too much.


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What have the studies discovered?

Thanks to the investigations carried out by the group of psychologists of Ulsan, it is hypothesized that there are two types of reactions to the conflict of privacy.

On the one hand, it occurs in those who are concerned about being too exposed but have the necessary skills to cope with it, so they do not feel fatigued and tend not to spread certain types of personal information on the networks .

On the other hand, there are other types of users of social networks that, in addition to feeling worried about putting their privacy or privacy at risk, do not have enough tools to differentiate between what information is considered personal or public, so they end up losing their will to control said separation.

This psychological fatigue causes affected people to share personal content in social networks without thinking about the nature of these. The main reason is that the fatigue of privacy generates such psychological exhaustion that makes people forget about the need to protect their privacy and privacy. the risks involved in excessive public exposure .

The paradox of privacy

As a result of this fatigue a phenomenon known under the term "paradox of privacy" occurs. This concept refers to the fact that users of social networks maintain the habit of posting personal information despite concerns about your privacy .

This paradox does not only have to do with the fatigue of privacy, but it is based on many other factors or internal psychological agents such as the need for self-affirmation and the need to feel that one forms part of a group of people or community.

Privacy has traditionally been understood as a zone or area of ​​the intimate life of each person, which unfolds in a private and usually confidential space.However, this notion of privacy has changed over the years and the emergence of social networks.

A few years ago it would be unthinkable to publish a photograph in which we find ourselves in the privacy of our home. But with the rise of social networks , private life has become a tool of exposure to the world, through which to express how we feel or how proud we are of doing any type of activity.

This makes the individual identity of each person is formed around a community identity, which reinforces (or sometimes punishes) that identity through the amount of likes granted in a publication. As a result, it is increasingly complicated to establish a border between the public and the personal or private.

What symptoms does it present?

Finally, the research team that has proposed the term of privacy fatigue has established a series of symptoms that develop as the fatigue caused by this constant worry progresses.

At first, the symptomatology appears in the same way as it does in other types of fatigue. The person is so overburdened by the demands that their own concern for privacy demands. ends up triggering in continuous psychological exhaustion .

This feeling of permanent psychological exhaustion gradually increases until it becomes frustration, hopelessness or disappointment . The person experiences a sensation similar to learned helplessness, since he feels that nothing he does will be able to avoid the fact of being exposed through social networks.

Therefore, as with the process of defenselessness, the person stops struggling to maintain this privacy, which means that they stop worrying about what content published on social networks can be considered public or, on the contrary, too private.

Is there any kind of treatment?

Because it is a psychological disorder yet to be determined, there are no specific treatment or intervention guidelines. However, it is recommended that all those people who feel overwhelmed by this constant concern go to a psychology professional to perform an assessment and possible individualized intervention .

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