Study Hacks Blog

February (th, comments

In the most recent issue of the prestigious (American Economic Review , a group of well-known economists published a paper titled “The Welfare Effects of Social Media.” It presents the results of one of the largest randomized trials ever conducted to directly measure the personal impact of deactivating Facebook.

The experimental design is straightforward. Using Facebook ads, the researchers recruited 2, 743 users who were willing to leave Facebook for one month in exchange for a cash reward. They then randomly divided these users into a Treatment group, that followed through with the deactivation, and a Control group, that was asked to keep using the platform.

The researchers deployed surveys, emails, text messages, and monitoring software to measure both the subjective well-being and behavior of both groups, both during and after the experiment . Here are some highlights of what they found:

Perhaps most interesting was the disconnect between the subjects ’experience with deactivating Facebook and their prediction about how other people would react. “About percent of the treatment group agreed that deactivation was good for them, ” reports the researchers. But this same group was likely to believe that others wouldn’t experience similar positive effects, as they would likely “miss out” more. The specter of FOMO, in other words, is hard to shake, even after you’ve learned through direct experience that in your own case this “fear” was largely hype.

This final result tells me that perhaps an early important step in freeing our culture from indentured servitude in social media’s attention mines is convincing people that abstention is an option in the first place.