Effects of Restricting Social Media Usage on Wellbeing and Performance: A Randomized Control Trial among Students

Avinash Collis*, Felix Eggers*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Recent research has shown that social media services create large consumer surplus. Despite their positive impact on economic welfare, concerns are raised about the negative association between social media usage and well-being or performance. However, causal empirical evidence is still scarce. To address this research gap, we conduct a randomized controlled trial among students in which we track participants’ daily digital activities over the course of three quarters of an academic year. In the experiment, we randomly allocate half of the sample to a treatment condition in which social media usage (Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat) is restricted to a maximum of 10 minutes per day. We find that participants in the treatment group substitute social media for instant messaging and do not decrease their total time spent on digital devices. Contrary to findings from previous correlational studies, we do not find any significant impact of social media usage as it was defined in our study on well-being and academic success. Our results also suggest that antitrust authorities should consider instant messaging and social media services as direct competitors before approving acquisitions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0272416
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume17
Issue number8
Number of pages22
ISSN1932-6203
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2022

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