Can Detoxing From Social Media Improve Mental Health? One Study Says Yes

If you’re reading this article, you likely found it through your Facebook feed, Twitter, or any number of social networking sites that bring you endless amounts of information. It isn’t just media coverage — you’re likely saturated with the recent news of close and distant friends, like glamorous-looking vacations or amazing nights out on the town. You may be happy engaging with others online, but you may want to take a break if you’re beginning to feel a bit down. A new university study shows that people who take time off from social media tend to be less stressed, have less worry, and greater life satisfaction immediately afterwards. They can also concentrate better.

The study was conducted on 1,100 people at the University of Copenhagen, according to Inc. magazine. Half used Facebook as normal while the other half stopped using Facebook for one week. After the experiment, those who stayed away from the social media site had more in-person social interactions and overall life improvement. Those who stayed on Facebook were 55 percent more likely to feel stressed and those who abstained were 18 percent more likely to feel in the moment.

The connection between social media and emotional well-being is a growing topic in academic circles. A 2014 study by a Ph.D. at the University of Belgrade, posted on the National Institute of Health’s database of articles PubMed, surveyed recent work that analyzed the connection between social networking sites and mental health. Several analyses showed a link between social media and depressive symptoms, lower self-esteem, and Internet addiction. However, the study author, Dr. Igor Pantic, said there have also been studies that show social media can actually have a positive effect on self-esteem, so overall the effect remains inconclusive.

In April 2016, Forbes reported on a study at the University of Pittsburgh that found “high” indicators of depression in one-quarter of study participants who were frequent users of social media. The study looked at behaviors of 1,787 young adults between the ages of 19 and 32 who spent an average of 61 minutes per day on social media, logging in 30 or more times per week, again on average. Frequent users of social media had greater risks for depression than those who spent less time engaging with online networks. The study included use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google Plus, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, and LinkedIn.

As the holidays grow closer, it might be a good time to disconnect from social media, at least temporarily. In fact, that is what Inc. writer Bartie Scott recommends, given the results of the Copenhagen study. There are many options to engage in other forms of entertainment or even reduce your usage. In an opinion piece for Forbes, Hal Rubenstein recommends taking in movies such as Doctor Strange or Inside Out and checking out quality television series such as This Is Us.

Real Simple offered some practical tips on how to spend less time on social media. The magazine points out that many social networking sites are designed to keep you engaged. If you ever played Farmville, for example, you might have had crops die if you didn’t log in at a particular time to harvest them. Knowing that social media has a vested interest in keeping you on the sites can provide motivation to log off.

You can set rules about when to stay off social media, such as during meals or when it’s time to go to sleep. Taking brief breaks of a day or a weekend can help bring perspective of how else you could be spending your time. Getting rid of notifications and addictive apps can also bring some normalcy back into your life. Software that blocks access to social media sites beyond a certain number of minutes per day can help you stay focused and not stray away from your work.

[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]