Effects of Restricting Social Media Usage
46 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2020
Date Written: July 1, 2019
Recent research has shown that social media services create large consumer surplus. Despite their positive impact on economic welfare, concerns are raised about the negative association between social media usage and performance or well-being. However, causal empirical evidence is still scarce. To address this research gap, we conduct a randomized controlled trial among students in which we track participants’ digital activities over the course of three quarters of an academic year. In the experiment, we randomly allocate half of the sample to a treatment condition in which social media usage is restricted to a maximum of 10 minutes per day. We find that participants in the treatment group substitute social media for instant messaging and do not decrease their total time spent on digital devices. Contrary to findings from previous correlational studies, we do not find any impact of social media usage on well-being and academic success. Our results also suggest that antitrust authorities should consider instant messaging and social media services as direct competitors before approving acquisitions.
Keywords: Social media, education, subjective well-being, performance, field experiment
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