Experimentally manipulating social media abstinence: results of a four-week diary study

Hall, Jeffrey A.; Xing, Chong; Ross, Elaina M.; Johnson, Rebecca M.
Media Psychology

Social media use has a weak, negative association with well-being in cross-sectional and longitudinal research, but this association in experimental studies is mixed. This investigation explores whether social media abstinence leads to improved daily well-being over four weeks of time. Community and undergraduate participants (N = 130) were randomly assigned to five experimental conditions: no change in social media use, and one week, two weeks, three weeks, and four weeks abstinence from social media (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat). All participants completed a daily diary measuring loneliness, well-being, and quality of day. Results showed no main effect of social media abstinence. The duration of abstinence was not associated with change in outcomes and order of abstinence did not explain variance in outcomes. Results are consistent with trivial effects detected in large cross-sectional research, and call into question the causal relationship between social media and well-being on the daily level.