Project Context

This research is situated alongside recent debates and consumer services addressing digital addiction and detox (e.g. Sutton 2017, Fish 2017, Otto 2016, Light 2014, Lochtefeld et al. 2013, Portwood-Stacer 2013, Brabazon 2012). At the same time, it is regarded as part of a historically recurring discourse around ‘new’ communication technology’s (allegedly) negative impacts on sociality and wellbeing (nb. Seabrook et al. 2016, Meyrowitz 1987). As a result, one of this project’s aims is to understand how the current conditions and instruments of digital communication intersect with older traditions in how ‘new’ technology is understood, practiced and talked about.

Quitting Social Media is also situated in the Global North at the cross-section of two intersecting technological contexts: pervasive social media use and widespread smartphone adoption. In 2016, for example, the Pew Research Center found that 69% of American adults (age 18+) were active social media users (Pew 2017) – up from only 5% in 2005. Within the 69% participation rate, Pew found significant variation in usage by age group, with younger respondents considerably more active om social media (86%) than their pension-age counterparts (34%). Meanwhile, the Office of National Statistics reported that in 2016, 70% of adults (age 16+) in Great Britain used internet functionality on their mobile phones – a proxy for active smartphone use (ONS 2016). In other words, 70% of adults in Britain use smartphones. Like Pew, the ONS found considerable use pattern differences between younger and older respondents: a whopping 97% of those in the 16-24 age group used mobile internet (i.e. smartphones) compared with only 21% of those aged 65+.

Given these statistically significant variations, the Quitting Social Media project is interested in hearing from social media users – and former users – of all ages and all activity levels (i.e. occasional users, frequent users, etc.). This approach facilitates this project’s goal of better understanding the similarities and differences in how people relate to, and live with, social media. It will also provide insight into the many ways that different people resist social media.


Further reading

Brabazon, Tara (2013). Digital Dieting: From Information Obesity to Intellectual Fitness. New York and London: Routledge.

Fish, Adam (2017) ‘Technology Retreats and the Politics of Social Media’
Triple C 15(1). Available at

Light, Ben (2014) Disconnecting with Social Networking Sites. Baskingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Löchtefeld, Markus, Böhmer, Matthias and Ganev, Lyubomir (2013) ‘AppDetox: helping users with mobile app addiction’, MUM ’13 Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia.

Meyrowitz, Joshua (1987) No Sense of Place: The Impact of the Electronic Media on Social Behavior. New York: Oxford University Press.

Otto, Daniela (2016) Digital Detox. Berlin and Heidelberg: Springer.

Portwood-Stacer, Laura (2013) ‘Media refusal and conspicuous non-consumption: The performative and political dimensions of Facebook abstention’, New Media & Society 15(7): 1041-1057.

Seabrook, Elizabeth M., Kern, Margaret L., and Rickard Nikki S. (2016) ‘Social Networking Sites, Depression, and Anxiety: A Systematic Review’, JMIR Mental Health 3(4): e50.

Sutton, Theodora (2017) ‘Disconnect to reconnect: The food/technology metaphor in digital detoxing’, First Monday 22(6). Available at

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