If you spend enough time online, you have probably heard rumblings that social media, and checking your phone as much 28 times a day, may be bad for your mental health. It can promote anxiety, lower self-esteem, amp up the FOMO, ruin our sleep patterns and attention spans, and make us unhappy, unhealthy, and depressed.
Now a new study, one that meets the gold standard in scientific assessment, suggests that quitting Facebook is absolutely good for your mental health.
The study comes from researchers at Stanford University and New York University, who recruited 2,844 Facebook users via Facebook ads (natch) and asked them to fill out extensive questionnaires about their overall well-being, political views, and daily routine. Half of the users were then randomly assigned to be paid to deactivate their Facebook account for four weeks. Because social media is so addictive, researchers had to regularly check that their Facebook accounts remained deactivated. Over the course of the month, they assessed the participants’ moods.
“Deactivation caused small but significant improvements in well-being, and in particular on self-reported happiness, life satisfaction, depression, and anxiety,” the authors wrote. “Effects on subjective well-being as measured by responses to brief daily text messages are positive but not significant.”
Researchers concluded that not using Facebook also reduced overall online activity, including other social media use, and increased IRL activity like watching
television Netflix and hanging out with friends and family. The users whose accounts were deactivated also had lower levels of political polarization and news knowledge, and an increase in subjective well-being. Even after their accounts were reactivated, those who had a one-month hiatus ended up spending less time on Facebook for several weeks after the experiment ended.
In short, go ahead and deactivate Facebook even if it’s just for a few weeks. It really could improve your mental health.