Social media withdrawal: what social media services and activities teenagers miss when they are “switched-off”?


  • Zinaida Adelhardt Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg
  • Thomas Eberle Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg



media withdrawal, social media use among teenagers, media-related stress, gender differences in social media use, boredom, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube


Nowadays teenagers grow up with social media and various possibilities of digital communication. The offline and online lives of “digital natives” are tightly bound together and for most of them life without Internet is unthinkabe. However, what happens when teenagers do not have access to modern communication facilities and to social media? Do they miss these media? What services and which activities do teenagers miss? We gathered qualitative data from teenagers after three weeks of being completely offline in frames of a long-term adventure education program. We also gathered quantitative data on teenage media use before media withdrawal. 135 teenagers (M=14.47, SD=.56, 52% female) answered our questions within four years (34 teenagers in each of these years - 2018, 2019, 2020 - and 33 teenagers in 2021). After three weeks of complete media withdrawal two thirds of teenagers reported not missing social media or missing them to a minor extent. They described social media services as stressful, disturbing, extremely time-consuming and boredom-related. Several respondents replied that they had enough communication offline and felt good in the community that made online social media superfluous. However, every third teenager reported missing social media. The main reason was the desire to contact the personal social network. A few teenagers reported missing social media as a source of relaxation and an efficient way to “switch-off”. One out of four teenagers (23%) reported missing WhatsApp. One out of ten (11%) mentioned Instagram, but just one half in a context of missing it. WhatsApp and Instagram were also the most popular services among teenagers before withdrawal (94.3% of teenagers reported having a profile in WhatsApp and 73,3% of teenagers reported using Instagram). Only a few teenagers (2.2%) - all boys - mentioned missing YouTube. The article presents further results, discusses perspectives and limitations of the project.