When Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild, Facebook, came into existence in 2004, it met the primal human need to stay connected. Likewise, Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom launched Instagram in 2010 to enable its users to share crisp, well-edited photos.
Fast-forward a decade, and the world is seeing a new social media app crop up in the market daily. With competitive features, these applications are getting netizens (especially the younger generations) hooked to their smartphones.
According to Statista, internet users worldwide spend an average of 151 minutes on social media every day as of 2022. That’s a long way from the average of 90 minutes in 2012. What could have changed in all these years?
Networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., have allowed like-minded people to collaborate, shortened communication gaps, and reunited long-lost friendships. Entrepreneurs have easy access to a wide market as social platforms are their bread and butter.
However, every rose has its thorn, and the prick is most sharply felt by the final generation (Generation Z). Being the generation that grew up online, the Zoomers are craving a life without social media.
In this article, we will discuss why droves of Zoomers are saying no to these platforms and if the break has made life bitter or better.
Generation Z’s Anti-App Exodus
If you’ve found yourself disappointingly scrolling through your social feed, yet feeling helpless to stop the urge, you’re not alone. According to Harvard Business Review, social media platforms are designed to be addictive.
Healthcare experts unanimously agree that social networking platforms drive dopamine surges to the brain. The likes, comments, and affirmations received from fellow netizens trigger the brain’s reward center. As a result, the user experiences a high similar to the one experienced while gambling or drug use.
This undoubtedly works in the app developers’ favor as consumers keep returning for more. However, the price users pay is more than just wasted time. The University of Utah’s Health Department states that teenagers using social media are three times more likely to suffer from depression.
These detrimental effects (or their conscious design) are not hidden from the Gen-Zers who refuse to settle for digital lives. Out of all the platforms, Instagram was found to be the worst from a mental health perspective. Besides quitting to save their sanity, numerous users have filed an Instagram lawsuit against the developers who knew the repercussions beforehand.
According to TorHoerman Law, the platform has caused severe injuries like body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and suicidal ideation among teens. Trying to get their lives (and lost childhood) back, Zoomers are entirely quitting these platforms or taking a much-needed hiatus.
Logging Off for Good: The Main Concerns
Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other health issues are the fruits of excessive social media use. However, what’s the root of these problems? Let’s explore the three main (valid) concerns fuelling Zoomers’ mass exodus from social platforms.
1. Superficial Relationships
With social media apps like Instagram and Facebook, sharing one’s life is just a click away. Hundreds and thousands of people have access to each other’s fun moments, daily updates, and even real-time locations.
This may give a feeling that we know our virtual friends and followers better than we actually do. It is no wonder that teens often compete with each other to gain more followers and likes. However, it’s only a depressing circle which leaves them feeling empty in the end.
This is because the sense of connection social media offers is often a superficial one. People add each other to their friend lists, barely have a conversation, and then sit idle for years without speaking. They may like or comment once in a while on a funny meme or attractive photo.
Even then, there is no fulfillment because we were created to enjoy real-life relationships that bring us value. Realizing this fatal error, Zoomers are limiting social media use for building meaningful connections. Many are ruthlessly editing their friend lists while others are using social media chats only to schedule one-on-one meet-ups.
2. Financial Trap
According to Deloitte’s 2023 Gen-Z and Millennial Survey of 22,000 individuals across 44 countries, both generations agree that social media exacerbates financial anxiety. With influencer marketing kicking off, users are finding subtle and loud advertisements everywhere.
New brands (with the latest upgrades) are popping up in every industry, and they collaborate with influencers to promote themselves. One major responsibility of these influencers is to make the product as aesthetic and appealing to the viewer as possible.
As a result, scores of netizens find themselves splurging impulsively on products they may never really use. Not to mention the benefits are often exaggerated, making users more skeptical than ever. Netizens know that most influencers are insincere and promote products they have never used to unsuspecting social media users.
3. Source of Comparison
If you’ve used social media for any length of time, you’re familiar with the glitz and glamor of that world. Just a single scroll through the entire feed is enough to get a glimpse of –
- Neatly dressed homes with no sight of clutter
- Extravagant walk-in closets housing the trendiest outfits
- Perfect-looking faces that resemble a demi-Greek god
- Lean and fit bodies that have seldom seen a bulge or roll
- Fairytale relationships with no conflicts, drama, or misunderstandings
This so-called perfectionism is a fake representation of life at best, driving users to comparison. A study with 15 years of research found that social media comparison negatively impacts body image, self-esteem, and mental well-being.
Despite knowing that nothing is as real as it appears online, it’s difficult for the brain to separate facts from fiction while scrolling. Many Zoomers have decided that the stress is not worth it, and they’re logging off for good.
The Post-Social Media Breakup Glow
Among netizens who’ve logged off from social media platforms, there is no one-size-fits-all rule. For instance – some have completely quit social media and intend to keep things that way. Others are on an intentional break (preferably 30 days) to experience life through the offline lens.
Some started on a break but have decided to never return (and vice-versa). Notwithstanding the different routes, the benefits of leaving social media are universal. These include –
Re-Connection with the Real World
In a day and age where we must connect with nature more than ever, most are plugged into their smartphones. The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships published a study that found that teenagers with the most online interactions were the loneliest.
There is almost a kind of social reversal taking place. Teens desire to be left alone in public whilst craving company in seclusion. In both cases, the cause is online chatting with “friends.” Getting off of social media has allowed them to experience the joy of truly living and experiencing life offline
Plenty of Time
With social media out of the picture, there’s no need to mindlessly scroll into eternity. Many users on their hiatus reported feeling free as they were not tied to their phones. They no longer felt disappointed by the fact that they ended up spending two hours on useless content.
This created more time to focus on their daily schedule as well as hobbies like artwork, cooking, sports, and more.
Improved Mood and Relationships
The comparison and financial traps laid out by these platforms impact mood and self-esteem. Social media has almost normalized pretense, and keeping up with a persona is exhausting.
On a social media hiatus, one experiences a heightened mood as there is zero negativity. Plus, relationships also improve as there’s more time to focus on developing meaningful, real-life connections
No Feeling of Competition
During a social media break, a person need not worry about others’ lives (because they’re unaware). Plus, most of the happiness portrayed on these platforms is also carefully curated.
Without social media, there is no fear of competing for joy, fulfillment, and having it together. One is free to work on their goals and grow in life at their own pace.
The Bitter vs. Better Debate
The Washington Post published a 19-year-old journalism student’s experience of quitting social media. Jenna Bloom was stuck in a toxic relationship with these platforms when she decided to walk away for good. Initially, the withdrawal was challenging, but it all subsided by the end of the first week.
She reports feeling less anxious, more in tune with the world around her, and surprisingly not wanting to return. This is just one story; countless others have experienced similar results with a social media break. The initial absurdity and urge to open an app fades away, provided one substitutes that time with meaningful activities.
For instance – those using social media to connect can call or schedule a meet-up. Similarly, those using social media to relax can redirect their time towards baking, music, or playing with a pet. With a solid plan to take back your sanity, your social media hiatus will only make life better.