A Smartphone-Less Week


Have you ever wanted to try going off the grid for a while, or even just wanted to see what happens if you didn’t have your phone on you, period. There are a number of benefits, but the effects aren’t always positive. Regardless of the situation, have you ever found yourself itching to use your phone when it wasn’t on you? Maybe you felt more impatient, or even nervous that something was going to happen if you didn’t access your phone ASAP.

One study wanted to look into this in more detail to see if science would back up the idea of how removing yourself from social media on your phone can affect people. The researchers felt that our addiction to our smartphones is similar to other addictions, and wanted to see if removing them would result in similar withdrawal experiences. Instead of completely removing people from their phones, however, they wanted to see if the subjects could control the temptation to use their phones even if it was right there in front of them. They refer to this as nonuse by choice, which is different than involuntary nonuse, which can happen, for example, if you lose your phone or it breaks. Nonuse by choice involves you fully being able to use your phone, but for whatever reason, from needing to study to taking a digital cleanse, you make an effort to not use it. In this case, participants had access to their phones, but information was recorded about how often they used social media sites, and every evening, they were asked to record their feelings on their experience throughout the week.


The study only collected information from adults, ranging from 18 to 80 years old. Once the results were collected, the study found that the strongest results were extreme: 41% of them never relapsed, but 29% relapsed more than twice. The main reason for the relapses seemed to be because of FOMO and people being afraid that they were missing something important if they weren’t on their phones. They also noticed that participants had strong withdrawal symptoms of craving and boredom. This means that that there was temptation to use social media, almost as if it was something that they needed. And because they had to try and not to use something that they were usually constantly on, the participants were experiencing a disruption in their routine, now having all this free time, but didn’t know how to fill it.

In their article, the authors mention how communicating through social media has become an integral part of everyday life. This can be the main reason for these strong withdrawal symptoms in the participants. In today’s society, where most of us have some sort of phones, if not a social media account that we can log into on our computers, communicating online is probably one of the most convenient and effective forms of talking.It’s possible that by now, especially for adolescents, where these forms of communicating have been present for the majority of their lives, social media is a key component of our daily lives, and taking that away can have extreme effects.

What advice do you have for controlling how often you use the phone? How do you think the results would have been different if they used tested this on teenagers and adolescents?

Moderator ★

Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: https://sova.pitt.edu/i-need-help-now We look forward to talking to you!

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