It’s hard to go on social media these days without seeing a bunch of posts about quitting social media. The concept of logging off for good was a pipe dream for most during the lockdown, as social media was one of the only channels people could use to stay connected. Judging by the content of people’s posts, however, social media use during the pandemic was more out of necessity than desire.
At this point, most of the population is at least halfway vaccinated. Consumers can finally resume the activities that were put on pause during the lockdown, and people are visiting with friends and family that they haven’t seen for over a year.
Does this mean people finally delete their social media accounts? Could COVID-induced social media fatigue lead to a boost in people leaving social media for good? Let’s take a look.
The Social Media Boom of 2020
We gravitated to social media during the lockdown. Recode reports that TikTok visits grew by nearly 600 percent in 2020, but that’s not all: Instagram traffic was up by 43 percent, Twitter jumped by 36 percent, even Facebook grew by 3 percent.
But it wasn’t just the platforms themselves that saw increased traffic. Isolated platform users reached out to their favorite brands and online personalities to see how they were coping with the turn of events. Just a week after lockdown orders were released, Instagram saw a 100 percent growth in influencer interactions as consumers reached out for one of the only forms of human interaction available at that time.
Many people also turned to social media as their news source during the catastrophe. In fact, Pew found that 34 percent of US adults regularly get their news from social media. The accuracy of that information, however, is up for debate.
“Doomscrolling” Leads to Fatigue
Did you hear people use the phrase “doomscrolling” during the lockdown? The use of the term reached new heights during the pandemic. It refers to the act of endlessly consuming depressing information online – resulting in stress, reduced productivity, and increased anxiety. Brandwatch tracked 62,000 mentions about quitting doomscrolling for mental health, which for those of us without ample self-control, also means leaving the offending social media platforms entirely.
As social media users became more aware of the impacts of negative information overload, more people gravitated towards abstaining (or intending to abstain) from social media use. The science journal Technological Forecasting and Social Change found that lockdown-induced social media fatigue was leading many Gen Z-ers to delete their social media accounts, or just suspend them for a period of time.
We saw a spike in social media users becoming illusioned with the quality of information available on social media platforms. They began to place blame on social media account providers for the misinformation. Deloitte reports that, after the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, 44 percent of respondents felt that social media account providers should have done more to monitor and eradicate misinformation. In addition, even though many people get their news from social media, 67 percent don’t actually trust the news they see on those platforms.
Is Deleting Social Media the Answer?
The pandemic brought about fatigue around using specific social media apps. An October 2020 survey by Brandwatch found that mentions of social media fatigue (being bored, tired, or exhausted with it) increased 41 percent in 10 months during the outbreak, as compared with the 10 months prior to that.
Talk of deleting social media accounts spiked in January, as did a steady stream of articles interviewing people who did just that. The Guardian interviewed people who quit social media to report improved concentration, better sleep, improved mental health, and better effectiveness at work and school. Quite the persuasive argument for those facing information overload from a variety of sources.
Statista found that 45 percent of Facebook users, 34 percent of Snapchat users, 32 percent of Twitter users, and 22 percent of Instagram users had considered leaving the platform.
As the gig and remote work economy continues to grow, however, leaving social media presents a risk to those who use their online presence as a funnel for clients. More social media users will attempt to spend less time on the platforms as their opportunities to go out and live life resume. But most will continue to use social media as a networking tool or as a lifeline if we face a pandemic of this intensity again.