Social media fasts

Science of Productivity Ep 003: Do Social Media Fasts Work?

August 17, 2020

Many have taken to social media fasts or even more extreme, dopamine fasts, over the last year to improve their happiness and productivity and reduce stress, but does abstaining from social media actually make a difference?

That is the question that CEO Matt Plummer answers in this third Science of Productivity segment. The Science of Productivity segment brings you scientific insights you can trust into how to accomplish your goals faster. It is part of the Anything But Idle productivity news podcast.

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Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

The science of productivity segment brings you scientific insights you can trust into how to maximize the impact of your life and get an edge at work. In this week’s segment, I want to provide an emerging answer to the question of: Will I be more productive and happier if I purposefully abstain from social media for set periods of time?

Let’s establish 2 things first:

  1. People spend a lot of work time needlessly surfing social media. One study of workers in the UK reported an average of 37 mins/day on social media during the workday
  2. Second, if social media fasts make people happier, it could make them more productive because happiness is a driver of productivity

I don’t want to oversimplify this. There has been a lot of research in this field and a lot more is happening every day and some of those studies have found no relationship between screen time and well-being. However, these studies are largely conducted by asking people how much time they spend on social media and then asking them about their life satisfaction.

A study of 1,600 Facebook users published this past November by researchers from Stanford asked half of those users to deactivate their Facebook account for a month. At the end of the month, they found small but significant increases in self-reported life satisfaction and significant decreases in levels of anxiety among those who deactivated their accounts. The deactivated accounts group also said that they plan to use it much less in the future.

Both of these findings suggest that abstaining from social media for set periods of time can make you more productive.


Time for the Human Screenome Project.” Reeves, Byron, Robinson, Thomas, and Ram, Nilam. Nature (Jan 2020).