Why Are We Distracted by Social Media? : Distraction Situations and Strategies, Reasons for Distraction, and Individual Differences

Social media is a major source of distraction and thus can hinder users from successfully fulfilling certain tasks by tempting them to use social media instead. However, an understanding of why users get distracted by social media is still lacking. We examine the phenomenon of social media distraction by identifying reasons for, situations of, and strategies against social media distraction. The method adopted is a quantitative online survey (N = 329) with a demographically diverse sample. The results reveal two reasons for social media distraction: social (e.g., staying connected and being available) and task-related distraction (e.g., not wanting to pursue a task). We find individual differences in these reasons for distraction. For social distraction, affiliation motive and fear of missing out (FoMO) are significant predictors, while for task-related distraction, self-regulatory capabilities (self-control, problematic social media use) and FoMO are significant predictors. Additionally, typical distraction situations are non-interactive situations (e.g., watching movies, facing unpleasant tasks). Strategies used to reduce distractions mostly involved reducing external distractions (e.g., silencing the device). This paper contributes to the understanding of social media use by revealing insights into social media distraction from the user perspective.


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