Privacy Fatigue: A Damaging Effect of Social Media

Privacy fatigue has become a virtually universal phenomenon, much in the same way as technology has. If you want to know what it is, where it comes from, and its possible consequences, read on.
Privacy Fatigue: A Damaging Effect of Social Media

Last update: 24 October, 2021

Identity and privacy have become increasingly difficult concepts to manage today. That’s because there exists a completely separate world on the Internet. This world, despite its individual appearance, interacts with real life, blurring the boundaries between the self and the collective. It’s a phenomenon that can also produce so-called privacy fatigue.

If you regularly use social networks or surf the Internet you may find yourself facing the dilemma of whether to reveal more personal information than you should. Alternatively, such information may even be stolen from you without your knowledge. This can cause feelings of insecurity which may become a burden to you.

To this end, a group of psychologists has studied the concept of privacy fatigue. In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about this fascinating subject.

Woman with privacy fatigue in front of computer

Privacy fatigue

Privacy fatigue is a feeling of tiredness related to your belief that there’s no effective way of managing your personal information online. In fact, you feel that you’re exposing yourself to the risks derived from surfing the net and using social media.

Due to its frequency, this syndrome is fast becoming a new psychological disorder. Nevertheless, it’s not yet included in any evaluation and diagnosis manual.

Psychologists at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (South Korea) have conducted a study regarding the phenomenon of privacy fatigue. The researchers noted that large numbers of users experienced symptoms similar to psychological fatigue resulting from Internet contexts where privacy isn’t very clear.

This feeling of lack of privacy is common to all users. However, some people are more concerned about not sharing their personal information than others. In fact, these people spend a lot of time reading the terms and conditions that most users accept immediately.

Symptoms of privacy fatigue

Nowadays, there are many decisions you have to make on a daily basis. For example, you might wonder if it’s harmless to publish a certain photo. In addition, you have to make a decision about cookies on each webpage you enter, as well as choosing a good antivirus and antimalware package. These kinds of decisions can produce the following:

  • Feelings of psychological fatigue. This concerns the lack of skills and resources you may have in managing your personal information on the Internet.
  • Learned helplessness. You may be so overwhelmed with trying to protect your privacy, you actually end up lowering your guard due to feelings of frustration, hopelessness, or disappointment.

All this can lead to an abandonment of precautions in protecting your online privacy. This, in turn, can lead to problems such as theft of your personal data.

There’s currently no specific treatment for privacy fatigue. However, going to a professional will be beneficial if you find yourself suffering from this disorder. They’ll be able to establish a personalized intervention plan for you, according to your own individual needs.

Exhausted man looking at mobile

The blurred line between the private and the public

Generally, we’re all concerned about the disclosure of our personal information without our consent. However, privacy fatigue and learned helplessness often make the “agreeing to terms and conditions” an automatic process.

This is known as the ” privacy paradox. It means that people voluntarily reveal personal information despite their concern about it. This phenomenon also has a darker side, as its roots go much deeper than simple fatigue.

One of the factors that most blurs the line between the intimate and the public is social media. At present, the construction of identity has a strong relationship with what’s published on these platforms. For this reason, many people perceive that a loss of privacy is inevitable.

The community construction of identity, the sense of belonging, and, of course, the lack of regulation, put users in a constant dilemma about privacy. However, are we really in control of our data traffic? It’s hard to tell from this side of the screen.

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  • Choi, H., Park, J., & Jung, Y. (2018). The role of privacy fatigue in online privacy behavior. Computers in Human Behavior, 81: 42-51.
  • Pramod, D., & Raman, R. (2014). A study on the user perception and awareness of smartphone security. International Journal of Applied Engineering Research, ISSN, 0973-4562.
  • Gerber, N., Gerber, P., & Volkamer, M. (2018). Explaining the privacy paradox: A systematic review of literature investigating privacy attitude and behavior. Computers & security77, 226-261.