Most Americans Try To Unplug From Social Media

The ubiquity of communications technology, including mobile devices and social media, is triggering push back from Americans concerned about its impact on their personal lives and well-being, according to a new survey from Harris Poll.

It asked 2,193 U.S. adults about their communications behaviors and found that the majority of respondents said they try to “unplug” from the whole mishegas (Yiddish for craziness) at least occasionally.

Two-thirds of respondents in the Harris survey (67%) said they make a conscious effort to unplug at some point during the year, and 45% said they do so at least once a week. Plus, 60% said they wish their family members would unplug more, and 27% said they have been asked to unplug by family members.

No surprise, millennial respondents were more likely to have been told they need to unplug, at 41% versus 31% for Gen-X respondents and just 13% of baby boomers. By the same token, they’re also the most likely to actually make an effort to do so, at 82% compared to 72% and 55% for Gen-X and baby boomers, respectively.

Asked to define what “unplugging” means for them, the largest proportion of respondents said it means social media (71%), followed by the Internet at 64%, email at 58%, text messages at 55%, mobile or tablet apps also at 55%, and game consoles or handheld game devices at 51%. Smaller proportions cited television and telephone calls (48% and 45%, respectively).

Across the board, millennials were more likely to define unplugging in these terms than older cohorts.

Just because Americans want to unplug from social media and other communications technology doesn’t mean that they succeed.

37% of respondents said it’s unrealistic to unplug for more than a few hours, citing “fear of missing out,” while 27% said they can’t unplug for long periods because of the demands of business. Further, 44% of respondents said they feel anxious when they don’t have their phones with them; 61% of millennials and 53% of Gen-Xers said smartphones are the hardest device to put down.

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