THIS Is What Happens When You Give Up Social Media for a Month
“I genuinely thought I wouldn’t make it.”
That's what 17-year-old Elle Moore thought when she first gave up social media.
She was one of seven teenagers in the U.K. asked by The Guardian to give up social media for as long as they could manage — a daunting task, for sure. Though Elle told the newspaper she had once given up Facebook for Lent, she admitted that cutting herself off from all social media was a much more difficult undertaking.
And really, that’s not surprising. Four out of five teens use some kind of social media, according to 2012 data from the Pew Research Center, and a study published last year found that American teens spend about nine hours a day using media for enjoyment. Teen participants of CNN’s “#Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens” study even admitted to checking their social media feeds more than 100 times a day.
So what happens when you go cold turkey? And is it even possible? The people who participated in The Guardian’s experiment — some of whom have had smart phones and social media accounts since as early as elementary school — had varying levels of success, though almost all of them admitted to feeling bored, anxious, or left out at different points of their hiatuses from social networks including Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
When noting their moods on a scale of one to 10 (one being the most negative, and 10 being the most positive), The Guardian reported that many of the teenagers found themselves around a two or three for the first few evenings. “I had a lot of anxiety in the evenings on the first couple days,” said 18-year-old Janice Da Costa, who reported she usually spends around 17 hours a day online and lasted seven days without social media. “I didn’t know what was going on. There was a story about the Kardashians that I didn’t know about, until someone told me to my face. I don’t actually follow the Kardashians, but when something big happens like that, I like to know about it.”
She’s not alone. CNN’s “#Being13” study found that the addiction to social media comes from a constant need to be informed — and not just about celebrities, but about friends, too. Janice admitted she depends on Facebook to remember her friends’ birthdays, and completely missed a party during her break. “There was a bit of an awkward moment when I jumped back into social media and she told me she was already 18,” she said.
Despite the anxiety, though, most of the teens who participated in the experiment were ultimately able to find productive uses for their time — like focusing more on homework, interacting with family members, and even just getting more sleep. But, then again, some were quick to point out that, just because they gave up social media, didn’t mean that they automatically became more involved. Esther Laver, 16, who went without social media for 14 days, said she spent much of her time reading a book or watching TV — in about as much isolation from her family as she would have been if she was on her phone. And 16-year-old Henry Button, who lasted seven days without social media, noted that his break didn’t extend to the rest of his family, leaving him feeling isolated in a different way. “A lot of the time it felt as if it was just me, floating around the house saying, ‘Hey guys, do you want to do something fun?’ They were all on their phones or laptops,” he said.
Of course, the potential benefits of social media extend beyond simply being productive and using your time in different ways. Studies have shown that quitting sites like Facebook can actually make you feel happier, and that there is a real link between social media and depression. Several of the teens who participated in The Guardian experiment admitted to feeling significantly happier as a result of their time without social media.
The longest any of the teens lasted without social media? Twenty-eight days and 18 hours, by Elle, who said she's ultimately glad she did it. "Lots of little things got better — it was like my life was more together,” she said. Though she did reinstate her social media accounts, Elle admitted she could have refrained for even longer if not for the convenience of connecting with her friends. And now, she feels far less compelled to keep up with every new picture and update. “I still see the benefits [of social media]," she said, "but I don’t see why everyone wants to spend four or five hours a day on there, seeking approval from people they’ve never met.”
For the full recap of the experiment, make sure to click over to The Guardian.