Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter are super popular — 84% of American adults report using at least one social media platform. 

However, for better or worse, people spend a lot of time on these apps. About one-third of adults in the US say they are online “almost constantly.” As a result of excessive use, people who spend more time online have increased feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress and experience fewer face-to-face interactions, according to one research analysis.

But some people are choosing to deactivate and walk away. We asked people why and whether it was just a short-term break or a new, social media-free way of living. From the 145 responses we received at BuzzFeed News, most people said they were deactivating and not returning, despite the FOMO. 

Whether it’s a result of doomscrolling, comparing themselves to other users, or creating the perfect curated feed, social media users are prioritizing their mental health. 

For some of the people we talked to, quitting one platform was enough to see an impact on self-esteem and an increase in IRL connection. Others deactivated from all social platforms, which they said helped to reduce their anxiety and depression. 

Those who did return to the platforms said they minimized content consumption to allow for a better experience, including decreased levels of anxiety and increased self-esteem. 

Here are the big reasons people gave for walking away, and the health benefits they experienced from their break — either short-term or permanent — from social media.

Less doomscrolling and media overload 

Amanda Capriato, 28, from Ohio, decided to delete Twitter the night before Roe v. Wade was overturned, and she hasn’t returned to the app since June 2022. 

“The leak of the Supreme Court draft [announcing that Roe was] being overturned had me constantly checking the app for updates and arguing with people I didn’t even know,” Capriato told BuzzFeed News. “My anxiety was through the roof about the impending doom of the loss of rights for women everywhere, and Twitter was just adding fuel to the fire. I decided that if social media was not a way for me to spread awareness or help others, then I wouldn’t use it. I made a personal commitment to only use social media apps to help others or myself.” 

For many, news on apps was the deciding factor. Media overload, or the influx of news from social media, added to their emotional distress. Around half of adults in the US get their news from social media apps or websites, with 36% regularly using Facebook as a source. Other sources for news consumption were YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. 

According to the American Psychological Association, 73% of Americans reported feeling overwhelmed by news events, including those related to economic instability, racial injustice, and the pandemic. 

Dr. Lalitaa Suglani, a psychologist based in Birmingham, UK, told BuzzFeed News that an influx of information, specifically in news content, can affect a person’s mental health by increasing stress, anxiety, and sadness.

“Being overwhelmed in news also has the potential to exacerbate symptoms that you may currently be presenting with, hence why people can react differently,” Suglani said. “It can also increase worry in other areas of our life because it shapes the experiences we are having with the world, leading us to feel hopeless, helpless, and lacking in motivation. As we are consumed by an overload of negative events and news, it can cause us to view the world with a sense of cynicism.”

Mia Steinberg, 33, from British Columbia, Canada, deleted her Facebook page as a result of anxiety surrounding news on the platforms. Despite spending time on other apps like Twitter, Discord, and Slack, she told BuzzFeed News that her anxiety was linked specifically to her engagement on her Facebook account. 

“I’ve been conscious of the ways that social media is structured to play on our worst emotional tendencies and increase anxiety/anger/engagement; it has been incredibly freeing to reclaim those emotions for myself,” Steinberg said. “I take great care to curate my existing social media so that I am able to consent to viewing news or world events that may be emotionally difficult to process, and I find myself much calmer and happier because my emotions are not being yanked around for clicks. Every time more news comes out on Facebook’s failures and deficiencies, I think, Whew! Dodged that bullet.”

Steinberg added that she now uses Slack to chat with close friends and that her deactivating her social media accounts hasn’t affected her IRL relationships. 

“There have been a couple of times when it would have been easier to chat with someone on Messenger, and I’ve entirely missed out on Facebook Marketplace as a service, but honestly that’s been about it!” she said. “I haven’t returned to Facebook, and I doubt I ever will.” 

Brent Shipes, 32, from California, suspended his Facebook account for a few months, deciding to fully delete the app after returning for a short time, describing his experience as “doomscrolling.” 

The final straw for Shipes was the events and reactions surrounding the Jan. 6 riots in 2021. 

“I had a friend post about how it was worrying to him and that he was scared for the country, and that it was terrifying that people would be so loyal to Trump as to overthrow the government and the election process,” Shipes told BuzzFeed News. 

Shipes added that he now is less likely to doomscroll and that he judges people’s posts less on other platforms. 

A frequent monitoring of the news can trick people into thinking that they’re protecting themselves from bad news by being more prepared and informed. However, doomscrolling that involves the relentless consumption of negative news can increase distress, anxiety, and depression. 

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