Social media use : attitudes, ‘detox’, and craving in typical and frequent users

Robertson, David J. and Malin, Johanna and Martin, Sophie and Butler, Stephen H. and John, Bev and Graff, Martin and Flowers, Paul and Jones, Benedict C. (2023) Social media use : attitudes, ‘detox’, and craving in typical and frequent users. Technology, Mind, and Behavior. ISSN 2689-0208 (In Press) (

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Social media has become a core feature of daily life, with 4.8 billion users worldwide. Research on individual differences in social media use has tended to focus on the effect of differing levels of engagement on specific mental health outcomes. In contrast, few studies have directly investigated users’ own perceptions of the impact of their social media use, attempts to regulate their behaviour through periods of ‘detox’, and the drivers that compel them to return to these platforms. Therefore, in this study, we examined users’ current attitudes towards their social media use, their awareness of the impact it had on other aspects of their life, their experiences of self-initiated periods of ‘detox’, and their reasons for re-engagement. A sample of 208 UK social media users (aged 18-28), partitioned into typical and frequent user groups using the SMAQ and the SMEQ, were tested on all measures. The findings, derived from both quantitative and qualitative data, showed that users across both groups were aware of the impact of overuse, they were able to successfully engage in sustained periods of social media detox, from which they derived positive effects (e.g., on sleep, mood, productivity), and the primary driver for continued use was a desire for social connectedness and information rather than a ‘craving’ for social media per se. Taken together, these findings provide novel data on users’ perceptions of their social media use, and in particular, evidence in support of the positive benefits of periods of social media ‘detox’.