No one knows for sure if quitting social media has any long-term benefits because most people can’t stop long enough to find out

Being on social media has become synonymous with living in the 21st century. Year after year, we see new platforms and smarter algorithms dragging us into highly addictive online worlds.

Now a growing number of people have noticed this trend and are actively trying to oppose it.

Anecdotally, there can be a case for quitting social media, and there are countless reasons why someone would want to. But is there any evidence that this is good for you in the long run?

Drivers to stop

Although there are too many social media platforms to list, most people still think of the “big five”: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.

Research has shown that people have different reasons for quitting one or more of these apps. Many quit because of concerns about the negative impact on their mental and physical health. For example, studies have shown that adolescent girls in particular may experience negative body image as a result of manipulated viewing selfies on Instagram.

People too choose to stop because they don’t like ads, feel like they’re wasting time, or because they’re concerned about their privacy. The question then is, does quitting social media solve these concerns?

Mixed research results

It’s hard to determine whether quitting social media has clear and lasting benefits — 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 were glad they could no longer be compared to others. But some also said they missed its informational and entertainment aspects.

In a Study from 2018, researchers assessed the psychological state of 143 US college students before randomly assigning a group a ten-minute daily limit for Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, per platform. Three weeks later, those who limited their social media use showed significantly less loneliness and depression. However, there was no significant effect on anxiety, self-esteem or well-being.

And in a 2019 study with 78 participants, half were asked to take a week’s break from Facebook and Instagram. To the surprise of the researchers, the users in this group who were generally active on social media experienced fewer positive psychological effects than those in the control group.

With research results painting different pictures, it’s safe to say that our relationship with social media – and how it affects us – is very complex.

Research limitations

There seem to be no published studies that have assessed the long-term effects of quitting social media permanently. This is probably because it’s hard to find participants who would agree to be randomly assigned the task of dropping social media forever.

An important consideration is that a percentage of individuals who quit social media will eventually do so go back. Reasons for returning include feeling left out, fear of losing connections, wanting to regain access to interesting or useful information, feeling social pressure to rejoin, or simply feeling that quitting isn’t the answer. was the right choice.

Even if researchers find a large enough group of people willing to quit social media for good, conducting long-term follow-ups would be very labor intensive. Beyond that, it would be difficult to figure out how much of a participant’s increase (or decrease) in life satisfaction is due to social media cessation, rather than other factors.

As such, there is currently no evidence that quitting social media has concrete long-term benefits. And in the short term, the results are mixed.

To stop or not to stop?

However, that doesn’t mean that stopping (for a short or long period of time) wouldn’t be beneficial for some people. It is likely that any benefits will depend on the person quitting and why they are doing it.

For example, the consensus emerging from the research is that the way you’re using social media plays an important role in how negative or positive your experience is. By means of conscious use of social mediausers can minimize potential damage while retaining benefits.

For some, it may be just one platform that is causing turmoil. If you hate Instagram’s tendency to be hyper-focused on people’s private lives, then you can just stop using Instagram.

Another technique is to curate your social media feeds by only engaging with content you find useful and positive. For example, many young women take steps not to see perfect bodies all day long on their social media.

If you’re still wondering if quitting is right for you, the easiest way to find out is experiment and do it.

Take a break from one or more types of social media. After some time, ask yourself if the benefits seem worth it to you. If the answer is “yes”, make the break permanent.

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