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13 Things That Could Happen If Social Media Disappeared

We never knew we wanted it before it existed. Now we can't fathom life without it—although here, we wonder, "What if..."

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We’d be happier

In 2015, scientists at Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute released their findings from a study of 1,095 daily Facebook users, half of whom took a research-imposed break from the site for seven days. The results: “After one week without Facebook, the treatment group reported a significantly higher level of life satisfaction,” according to the study. The participants weren’t only happier; they also said they felt more enthusiastic and more decisive, and they enjoyed life more.

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We’d have to find dates the old-fashioned way

Dating apps like Tinder, Match.com, and OkCupid are used by around 15 per cent of Americans, according to a market breakdown published by Toptal. That means 50 million of our neighbours to the south are looking for love online right at this very moment. If those apps were to suddenly disappear, we’d have to go back to actually convincing people to give us a chance—in person.

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We’d have a harder time advocating for our rights

Social media gave everyone a voice, and all of those voices can bring about some pretty big changes. HuffPost points out that as social media grew after the advent of Facebook, it “became a de-centralized tool—putting power in ordinary people’s hands and offering them the opportunity to create change.” Prime examples include Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, and Saudi Arabian women lobbying for the right to drive. Not to mention the #MeToo movement, the latest in the struggle for women to be seen, heard, and treated as equals.

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Kids would learn differently

Research indicates that could be both good and bad. A study that involved nearly 35,000 schoolkids in Abu Dhabi, published in the journal Telematics and Informatics in 2017, found that using social media was actually helpful to children in a learning environment. Why? It allowed them to share information and ideas with others and improve their reading skills. However, on the flip side, the study’s authors also noted that it could affect children negatively since social media competes with schoolwork for their attention.

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Potential employers would have a harder time finding us

Like it or not, social media has become a way for headhunters and HR departments to find potential employees. In fact, according to a 2017 study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a whopping 84 per cent of companies use social media for this purpose—and that number is growing. It also revealed that organizations find it particularly useful for recruiting passive job candidates. On an individual level, we’ve also become accustomed to having our résumés out there at all times for anyone to see. For example, LinkedIn had more than 500 million users by the end of 2017, reports Fortune, and that number is even higher today.

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We’d be less overexposed

Stories abound about celebrities, “normal” folks, and brands using various platforms to promote their products and themselves—and having the whole situation backfire. Doxxing is arguably the very worst of the worst, and public shaming is a close runner-up. Other than that, says Entrepreneur, the effects of bombarding people on social media with the you-ness of you range from annoying to just plain boring.

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We’d be less anonymous

Hiding behind an alias on social media has given plenty of people the opportunity to speak their minds. That’s not always a good thing. These anonymous keyboard warriors don’t have to deal with the consequences of making the decision to behave rudely, aggressively, or with outright hostility. Without social media, airing our unvarnished sentiments would mean having to do that face-to-face, writes The Odyssey. It would also mean that we might think a bit longer before speaking… or maybe not speak at all if we have nothing nice (or remotely useful) to say.

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We’d compare ourselves to others less

One of the side effects of seeing what everyone we know is up to at all times, at every stage of their existence, is that it’s difficult not to hold their perceived successes up against our own and find that we’re falling short. “Facebook is a constant bombardment of everyone else’s great news, but many of us look out of the window and see grey skies and rain,” Happiness Research Institute CEO Meik Wiking told the Guardian. “This makes the Facebook world, where everyone’s showing their best side, seem even more distortedly bright by contrast.”

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We’d have to go back to reading newspapers

A whopping 68 percent of adults in the United States say that they get their news on social media at least occasionally, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey. Why? It’s convenient, first and foremost, but it’s also interesting to see other people weigh in on a story. While it’s nice to not have to hunt around to figure out what’s happening in the world, some of the information on social media may be inaccurate. Plus, when “information finds us,” it can feel impossible to disengage from it.

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We’d waste less time

According to a study published in Computers in Human Behavior in 2014, people who used Facebook in particular—rather than social media more generally—were prone to depression. And the more time they spent on the social network, the more depressed they became. The reason? They felt like they’d been wasting their time. So not only could a world without social media translate into more productivity—it could also increase our happiness.

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We’d have more privacy (maybe)

This is not just a social-media issue. It pertains to any personal information about you that’s stored and accessed online by banks, credit-card companies, hospitals, and the like. Social media, however, is not an essential pursuit, and it’s a place where it’s easy for information to fall into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Vermont and Australia’s University of Adelaide, no matter what steps you’re taking to protect your privacy online, it’s largely out of your hands.

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We’d be less lonely

Admittedly, we might initially be more lonely until we remembered (or learned, depending on your age) how to schedule and plan our lives in person, on the phone, and without the help of social media. But recent research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that social media tends to increase feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially among young people—precisely the group that claims to use it for the opposite effect. The bottom line: Less social media would equal more human connection.

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We’d have better self-esteem

All those selfies we post and all those constant checks to see if anyone has responded to our posts—that’s the stuff of narcissism. It’s also pretty much guaranteed to make us feel bad about ourselves. As one recent study found, people who both posted selfies and viewed selfies had decreased self-esteem. Interestingly, though, a sort of opposite effect came into play with the posting and viewing of group photos; this actually resulted in people getting a boost in the self-esteem department.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest