Media on Your Mind: Andover Students Create Social Media Use Experiment

Ben Forman ’23 and Kei Obata ’23 have started an experiment to gauge the influences of social media on Andover students. During the first two weeks participants will continue their normal routines. Then, for the remainder of the 30 day experiment, participants will delete all social media.

Six months ago, Forman deleted all of his social media. Since then, he has observed many positive impacts on his life. As a result, Forman was inspired to work with Obata to investigate this phenomenon in other individuals. The goal: to evaluate the effect of social media use on people’s general health.

“[The experiment is] trying to at least test the effect of social media, on kids’ mental health, their ability to focus, their sleep, kind of just their overall well being. We aim to do that by trying to understand what people’s baseline is, and how they usually feel, and then seeing how that changes when you don’t have any of that technology,” said Forman.

Ashley Song ’23, a participant, shared insight regarding why she participated in the experiment, despite the many students she found reluctant to let go of their social media. Song also shared her struggles of parting away from her social media apps, which is why she looks forward to seeing qualitative and quantitative improvement in her day to day life.

“Whenever I start scrolling, I can’t stop. It’s really hard for me to stop, so I was like, ‘You know, if I did this, maybe in the next…two weeks, I could see how my mood would change.’ My expectation is that I’ll feel better and also just generally be more productive. I think maybe for some people there’s also the element of your relationships with other friends and people in your life would be better because… we’d have to make [conversations] in person instead of over [Snapchat] or over Instagram or whatever. But for me, most of that happens, like I either call people or text people or just talk to [them] in person. So I feel like in terms of my social life, it won’t affect it that much.”

Obata emphasized the importance of self appreciation, especially in an environment like Andover, where it can be easy to seek validation from others on social media. The experiment is supposed to encourage individuals to find other ways to support themselves.

“We’re trying to find ways to help people find self validation without social media, so maybe it could be just chatting with a friend, you know, reading a book, [or] just something outside of social media and finding that happiness comfort zone. Away from that platform is, I think, really important,” said Obata.

Forman and Obata hypothesized that social media does have a detrimental impact on individuals. One potential flaw of their experiment is that participants may secretly be using social media. Obata states that a level of trust is built with the participants, as most happen to be Forman and Obata’s closer acquaintances. However, they admit this process is not perfect.

“That’s certainly the trust factor. A lot of [participants] we know really well,so being able to know them kind of ensures that trust we have. I’m sure there’s [going to] be a couple of people who might check their phones, but I think the premise behind this is that they’re constantly kind of trying to keep away from social media,” said Obata.

Although Forman is curious about the data results, he is more interested in the self reflection process that his subjects will hopefully undergo. He hopes people can get the chance to look beyond the screen and recognize the serenity in that.

“Honestly, it’s less about what I hope to find out and [more about what] I hope people find out for themselves. I hope that when people take a break from technology, they end up finding greater amount of peace, and kind of restructure their relationship to technology. Because I think sometimes we can get a little bit blinded in our day to day life of how addicted we can be, and how hard it is to stop. I mean, that’s one of the reasons why it’s scary that it takes bribing people with a pizza party, or convincing people to get rid of their phones. It just shows how kind of attached we are,” said Forman.

Editor’s Note: Ashley Song ’23 is an Illustration Editor for The Phillipian.