Giving up Twitter for Lent: How and Why We Take Breaks from Social Media

This research explores whether Twitter users who tweeted that they were giving up Twitter for Lent actually did so. It investigates why people look to take breaks from social media and what the underlying concerns they have are.

To what extent are social media users able to manage their own social media use?

  • 64% of users who expressed intent to give up Twitter for Lent on Twitter successfully did so
  • Among the remaining 36%, 13.3% (or 5% of the total group) only tweeted one or two times during the Lenten period

Twitter users hedge about taking breaks, meaning that they talk about taking a break on Twitter but don’t expression intention to actually do so
In a weak moment I thought about giving up twitter and facebook for lent but I’m not strong enough #goodluck
I don’t know how people are giving up twitter for lent #addicted
I thought about giving up Twitter for #lent until I realized the first thing I want to do about this decision is tweet it. #irony
Thought about giving up Twitter for lent, but then I thought… Jesus didn’t give up on his followers. So I won’t #BitchesBePreachin’
I was thinking about giving up twitter for lent.. But I don’t think it’s physically possible for me to go a day without tweeting.

Hedging Word Tree "I was" Hedging Word Tree "I thought"

What factors drive social media users to consider taking breaks from social media?

  • Spending too much time on social media
  • Tradeoffs of not spending time elsewhere
  • Social media versus “real life”


  • Tweets: 3 years of tweets from users who tweeted about giving up Twitter for Lent and their subsequent behavior
  • Interviews: Interviews with 12 social media users recruited from craigslist

It is difficult to interpret intention from tweets. Interviewing users who had tweeted about giving up Twitter soon after they tweeted this would help us to better understand their intentions. Recruiting interview participants from craigslist produces a biased sample.

For more details, please read the full paper

Schoenebeck, S.Y. (2014). “Giving up Twitter for Lent: How and Why We Take Breaks from Social Media.” In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’14). Toronto, Canada. April 26-May 1, 2014.

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