It’s never been easier to fall into a social media hole, with algorithms firing on all cylinders to keep you scrolling and ensuring that each scroll brings you closer to content that suits your interests. Lately, there have been statewide legal initiatives to curb social media use, including laws in Utah preventing minors from using social media from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m., and another in Montana issuing an outright ban on new TikTok downloads.
But what about consumers who want to impose daily limits on themselves or step back from social media sites for stretches at a time? CivicScience set out to learn more about Americans looking to curtail their own social media use, and how these habits influence other facets of their lives.
Most social media users prefer short breaks.
The vast majority of U.S. social media users have taken a break before (just 10% have never taken a break from social media), and a majority have kept it to just one week or less (52%, with nearly 3-in-10 keeping it to less than a few days).
Millennials and Gen X social media users are the most likely to have taken an extensive break (with more than 20% of both age groups taking a break longer than one month). But Gen Z social media users are narrowly the most likely to take any kind of break – although their breaks are more likely than any other age group’s to be between one and a few days.
How are social media users setting their own limits?
Vacations present a popular way for social media users to take a step away from their devices. According to CivicScience data, nearly half of all U.S. adults (49%) have “unplugged” from social media while on vacation ‘several times,’ with an additional 18% who have done this once or twice.
But day-to-day self-imposed limitations are more of a niche interest. Just 8% of all U.S. social media users currently use an app or extension like Apple’s Screen Time to limit their daily time on social media, with a similar percentage (9%) who intend to use one in the future.
These are overwhelmingly most popular among Gen Z social media users, who double all U.S. social media users in adoption (20%) and intent (22%) – aligning with their higher likelihood to take a break of any kind.
It seems to pay dividends in happiness for those who use a limitation app. They’re the most likely to claim they’ve felt happy over the past year (62%, narrowly beating out the uninterested at 57%), especially holding an advantage over previous app use and app intenders (roughly 36% report feeling happy).
People who value social media the most are the most likely to impose limits on daily use.
Among all U.S. social media users, just 10% claim social media is ‘very important’ to their daily life (with a majority at 54% claiming it’s ‘not at all important,’ if you take them at their word). Although CivicScience data from earlier this year found U.S. adults aged 18-24 are reporting less social media usage than young adults five years ago, it’s still quite important to them. Gen Z social media users are more than twice as likely to claim it’s ‘very important’ compared to all U.S. social media users (22% compared to 9%).
But those who consider social media ‘very important’ are also the most likely to currently be using a tool to limit their daily use (25%) or intend to use one in the future (13%). Even those who find social media ‘not at all important’ fall in line with the intent levels of all social media users to adopt such a tool (8%). So users across all levels of priority are making some attempt to curb their usage.
Although some state governments are imposing social media breaks on a wide scale, most users take matters into their own hands to limit their time on sites. Generally speaking, the younger you are and the more highly you value social media, the more likely you are to be making an effort to curb time spent using social media platforms – at the same time, younger adults index as the heaviest social media users. And for those employing tools to help trim their hours scrolling, it might just be helping their happiness.
CivicScience will continue tracking the latest trends in social media use among all age groups and activity levels. For even more in-depth insights, get in touch.