Being on social media has become synonymous with living in the 21st century. Year after year, we are seeing new platforms and smart algorithms in the most addictive online worlds.
Now more and more people have noticed this trend and are actively trying to counter it.
With fraud, a case can be made to quit social media, and there are countless reasons why someone might want to. But is there any evidence that doing so is good in the long run?
Drivers to stop
Although there are too many social media platforms to name, most people tend to think of the “big five”: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.
Research has shown that people have a variety of reasons for quitting one or more of these apps. Many stop worrying about the negative effects on their mental and physical health. For example, studies have shown that especially teenage girls may experience negative body image due to looking at manipulated selfies on Instagram.
People choose to opt out because they don’t like ads, feel they’re a waste of time, or are concerned about privacy. The question then is: Will quitting social media solve these concerns?
Mixed research results
It’s hard to know if there are clear and lasting benefits to quitting social media—and a look at the research explains why.
A 2020 study found that people who quit social media saw improvements in their close relationships and enjoyed the freedom from being compared to others. But some said they missed out on the information and entertainment aspects.
In the year In a 2018 study, researchers assessed the psychological state of 143 American undergraduate students before a group was randomly assigned a daily limit of ten minutes for Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. After three weeks, people who limited their use of social media significantly reduced their levels of loneliness and depression. However, no significant effects were observed on anxiety, self-esteem, or well-being.
And in a 2019 study with 78 participants, half were asked to take a one-week break from Facebook and Instagram. It was surprising to the researchers that they encountered users who were generally active in social media in this group Less Positive psychological results from the control group.
With research findings painting a different picture, it’s safe to say that our relationship with social media — and how it affects us — is pretty complicated.
There do not appear to be any published studies evaluating the long-term effects of permanently quitting social media. This is probably because it is difficult to find participants who agree to be randomly assigned the task of quitting social media forever.
An important consideration is the percentage of individuals who quit social media that eventually return. Reasons for return include feelings of isolation, fear of losing relationships, wanting to retrieve interesting or useful information, social pressure to rejoin, or simply feeling that quitting is not the right choice.
Although researchers have found many people willing to quit social media permanently, long-term follow-up is resource-intensive. Beyond that, it would be difficult to determine how much of a participant’s increase (or decrease) in life satisfaction was due to quitting social media and not other factors.
As such, there is currently no evidence that quitting social media will produce tangible long-term benefits. And in the short term, the results are mixed.
To stop or not to stop?
However, that doesn’t mean that quitting (short or long term) isn’t beneficial for some people. Any potential benefits may depend on the individual making the cut and why they are making it.
For example, the consensus from the study is that way How you use social media plays a big role in how negative or positive your experience is. By using social media carefully, users can minimize potential harm while maintaining the benefits.
For some, it may be the only platform that creates comfort. If you really hate Instagram’s tendency to focus on people’s personal lives, you can simply stop using Instagram.
Another trick is to curate your social media feeds by only engaging with content that you find relevant and positive. For example, many young women take steps to avoid seeing perfect bodies on their social media all day.
If you’re still wondering if quitting is right for you, the easiest way to find out is to try and do it.
Take a break from one or more types of social media. After a while, ask yourself if the benefits are worth it to you. If the answer is “yes”, make the break permanent.
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