Social Media Use: Attitudes, "Detox," and Craving in Typical and Frequent Users

David J. Robertson*, Johanna Malin, Sophie Martin, Stephen H. Butler, Bev John, Martin Graff, Paul Flowers, Benedict C. Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

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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 behavior through periods of “detox,” and the drivers that compel them to return to these platforms. Therefore, in this study, we examined users’ current attitudes toward their social media use, their awareness of the impact it had on other aspects of their lives, their experiences of self-initiated periods of “detox,” and their reasons for reengagement. A sample of 208 U.K. social media users (aged 18–28), partitioned into typical and frequent user groups using the Social Media Addiction Questionnaire and the Social Media Engagement Questionnaire, 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, and 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.”
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalTechnology, Mind and Behavior
Issue number3: Winter 2023
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2023


  • social media
  • detox
  • abstinence
  • self-regulation
  • craving


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