Led by Dr. Steve Rathje, Nejla Asimovic, Claire Robertson, Dr. Joshua Tucker, and Dr. Jay Van Bavel

Almost 5 billion people use social media worldwide. While much of research on social media has been conducted in the US and UK, emerging evidence suggests that social media might have very different effects on countries outside the US (Asimovic et. al, 2021; Ghai et. al, 2023; Lorenz-Spreen et. al, 2022). With social media’s massive global usage, it is crucial to examine the causal effects of social media on important psychological outcomes, such as polarization and well-being.

We plan to conduct a global field experiment across multiple countries to test the causal effect of social media on polarization, intergroup attitudes and well-being around the world. Similar to prior “global studies” conducted with the Social Identity and Morality Lab, such as the International Collaboration on Social and Moral Psychology: Covid-19 and the International Collaboration to Understand Climate Action, we aim to collaborate with a large team of researchers from countries around the globe to conduct a cross-cultural field experiment.

In this global field experiment, participants will be incentivized to temporarily deactivate their social media accounts for ~2 weeks. We will then examine how deactivating social media affects polarization, intergroup attitudes, well-being, and a number of related outcomes (e.g., trust, political participation, belief in misinformation, etc.). The methods of the study will be modeled after prior social media deactivation studies (e.g, Asimovic et. al, 2021Alcott et. al, 2020). We will also examine whether the effects of social media cessation are moderated by a number of country-level variables (such as the strength of a country’s democracy, individualism-collectivism, etc.) and individual difference variables. This global study will help inform a number of debates about the effect of social media in different cultural and political contexts.

On March 27, 2023, we sent out a call for collaborators to help us conduct this global field experiment. Over 640 researchers residing in 76 countries have filled out this call for collaborators survey, and reported being able to collect data in 103 countries (shown in green in the below map). If you’re interested in collaborating with us, please fill out this form. We are especially interested in collaborators who will be able to collect data from the countries from countries that others are not able to collect data from (shown in grey).

The above map shows the countries that collaborators have reported being able to collect data from. Over 640 researchers residing in 76 countries report being able to collect data from 103 total countries (shown in green). We are still looking for collaborators who will be able to collect data from the countries shown in grey.