Digital Detox: the effects of giving up social media

Published: Mar. 17, 2019 at 6:31 PM CDT
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We reach for our phones first thing in the morning and use them as a crutch to pass time throughout the day. In a world where it's easier than ever to stay connected, we asked three women to give up social media for a few days and monitor the impact it had on their lives.

"It's addicting. I'm on social media more than I need to be," said Katie Goode, one of our participants.

We met with each participant on the first day and asked what they expected the biggest challenge would be in the experiment.

"Giving up Facebook. I'm on Facebook every evening, after I get home from work. I sometimes get on it first thing in the morning, on my lunch break. So that will be the big one," said Sarah Kueser.

Katie, a new mom says she uses social media to share updates on her daughter.

"Keeping in touch with family, showing them pictures of her almost all day long," said Katie.

For Meredith Konicki, Instagram and Snapchat give her motivation throughout the day.

"When I don't feel like working out I'm like well I can't post that I did it if I didn't do it. It's almost a little push of I get to show people that I'm still working really hard, it's silly," said Meredith.

All three women said they felt like they needed to try logging out for their mental health.

"I don't know how I'm going to do and that's so terrible to say because it's social media," said Katie, "It's not like I'm giving up a real lifeline. But for some people it is a lifeline."

Our three participants decided to either hide, delete or disable their apps. We then asked them to keep video diaries throughout the week sharing the effects of signing off from social media.

By day two, all three were having trouble keeping their phones down and staying off social media. As the week went on, some said they felt disconnected and were ready for the challenge to end.

"I'm embarrassed to say that I'm going nuts. I can't wait for this to be over," said Meredith.

We checked back in with Sarah, Katie and Meredith on the fifth day to find out what their biggest challenges were throughout the week.

"Just keeping my phone down. I had that tendency that when I did get bored I wanted to pick up my phone. I wanted to hit the homepage, scroll through," said Sarah.

"It's just the new normal," said Katie, "everything is on social media - your news, your weather, all of your friends and family."

"There's a tiny bit of me that feels disconnected in a bad way," said Meredith, "Not like lonely, but just like I wish I was included."

All three women said they also noticed positive changes from spending time reading, getting work done around the house and even getting better sleep.

We were there as they reactivated their apps and logged back in. In just a few days they noticed major events posted on social media.

"I missed my friend had her baby. I literally had no idea until just now," said Meredith.

But all three said the experience inspired them to re-evaluate their social media use.

"Maybe just spend 30 minutes or an hour at night getting caught up on current events, news, sports whatever it may be," said Sarah.

"I definitely think it taught me balance. Not being glued to your phone is nice," said Meredith.