In a world where scrolling through social media has become a norm, many individuals have contemplated a digital detox to break free from the seemingly endless cycle. However, recent research has shed light on the unexpected effects of curtailing social media usage.
A study conducted by a team of researchers delved into the impact of abstaining from social media platforms for a week. The study, involving 51 participants, aimed to track their behaviours and experiences as they attempted to steer clear of platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
The findings unveiled a surprising revelation. Despite initial intentions, only a minority managed to completely abstain from social media. Nevertheless, a significant reduction in usage was observed, plummeting from an average of three to four hours a day to a mere half-hour during the abstinence period. Astonishingly, even after the study concluded, participants continued to maintain significantly lower levels of social media engagement compared to their pre-study habits.
Contrary to popular belief, the research didn’t demonstrate an enhancement in participants’ overall wellbeing during the period of abstinence. Instead, there was a reported decrease in positive emotions, raising questions about the perceived benefits of a digital detox.
Social media’s allure lies in its ability to offer instant gratification through likes, shares, and followers. However, this study suggests that these rewards might come at a cost. While platforms promise connection and acceptance, they also fuel compulsive usage and emotions such as FOMO and envy.
Remarkably, the study noted a reduction in negative emotions amongst participants who curbed their social media use. Instances of feeling miserable, sad, or angry diminished during the study period, indicating a correlation between reduced screen time and improved emotional states.
One of the most striking discoveries was the lack of reported cravings or urges to check social media accounts despite the substantial decrease in screen time. This challenges the notion of social media addiction and urges caution in using such terminologies.
Labelling excessive social media use as an addiction could oversimplify a complex issue. The research team highlights the dangers of framing normal behaviour as an addiction, which might lead to stigma and overshadow underlying psychological concerns.
Drawing a parallel between social media and dietary habits, the study suggests the importance of understanding one’s limits and prioritising healthy engagement. Similar to managing a diet, regulating social media involves recognizing what truly contributes positively to one’s life and eliminating or moderating elements that evoke negative emotions or behaviours.
This research serves as a pivotal reminder that the relationship with social media is multifaceted, comprising both positive and negative aspects. It challenges the notion that a digital detox might universally improve wellbeing, advocating instead for a more nuanced approach to managing social media usage.