Tim will present his research into the effects of a digital detox on social media use, habits and wellbeing.
Authors: Tim van Timmeren, Suhaavi Kochhar, Mariek vanden Abeele & Sanne de Wit
Abstract: Many people spend 3 or more hours daily on social media and almost half of users indicate they want to reduce their usage. An increasingly popular intervention to regain control is a period of abstinence or ‘digital detox’. However, evidence for the effectiveness of detox-interventions is limited, and the underlying mechanisms are largely unknown. In this study, we investigated the effects of a digital detox on social media use, mental wellbeing, and experienced automaticity and craving. A total of 120 young adults motivated to reduce usage were randomly assigned to either an experimental or waiting-list condition. After a one-week baseline measurement, participants in the experimental group removed all social media apps for one week (i.e. detox), followed by three weeks of follow-up measurements. Using a combination of ecological momentary assessment, smartphone usage logging data and weekly questionnaires, we found that the detox significantly reduced social media use, automaticity and craving up to three weeks post-detox, while improving mental wellbeing, sleep quality and experienced social media use problems. Our findings suggest that social media is driven by both automatic habits and craving, and that detoxing is an effective way to reduce social media habits for those who want to cut back.