(CAUSATION) Short abstinence from online social networking sites reduces perceived stress, especially in excessive users (2018)

Psychiatry Res. 2018 Dec;270:947-953. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2018.11.017.

Turel O1, Cavagnaro DR2, Meshi D3.


  • Abstinence and stress are clinically significant in cases of excessive technology use.
  • We study the effects of several days of social media abstinence on perceived stress.
  • We employed a pre(t1)–post(t2), case (abstinence)—control (no abstinence) design.
  • Abstinence of about one week produced stress reduction.
  • Stress reduction was significantly more pronounced in excessive users.


Online social networking sites (SNSs), such as Facebook, provide frequent and copious social reinforcers (e.g., “likes”) delivered at variable time intervals. As a result, some SNS users display excessive, maladaptive behaviors on these platforms. Excessive SNS users, and typical users alike, are often aware of their intense use and psychological dependence on these sites, which may lead to elevated stress. In fact, research has demonstrated that use of SNSs alone induces elevated stress. Other research has begun to investigate the effects of short periods of SNS abstinence, revealing beneficial effects on subjective wellbeing. We aligned these two lines of research and hypothesized that a short period of SNS abstinence would induce a reduction in perceived stress, especially in excessive users. The results confirmed our hypothesis and revealed that both typical and excessive SNS users experienced reduction in perceived stress following SNS abstinence of several days. The effects were particularly pronounced in excessive SNS users. The reduction in stress was not associated with academic performance increases. These results indicate a benefit-at least temporarily-of abstinence from SNSs and provide important information for therapists treating patients who struggle with excessive SNS use.

KEYWORDS: Abstinence; Excessive use, Addiction; Facebook; Social media; Social networking sites; Stress

PMID: 30551348

DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2018.11.017