Taking A Timeout From Facebook Might Improve Your Well-Being, Study Says

Taking a timeout from Facebook may provide a boost to one’s well-being, a new study suggests. In particular, the study advises against the habit of “lurking” on Facebook, according to Sean Coughlan of BBC.

The study came from Morten Tromholt of the University of Copenhagen, and it was published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. It is based on findings from a “one-week experiment” that took place in Denmark in December of 2015.

The study looked at over 1,000 participants, and a large majority (86 percent) were female. The participants had an average of 350 friends and spent slightly beyond an hour on Facebook each day, according to the study. The average age of the participants was 34.

The study begins with the authors explaining how ubiquitous Facebook has become. Given the popularity of Facebook, the study claims that it is a natural “place to start” when it comes to uncovering “the consequences of social media use.” Essentially, according to the author, the goal of the study was to examine if Facebook use can negatively impact one’s well-being. In past studies, there have been varied conclusions on the subject, the study explains.

In this particular study, the participants were first presented with a “15-minute online questionnaire.” At random, the participants were then split into one of the following groups: those “who took a break from Facebook” and those who “kept using Facebook.” At the conclusion of the study, the participants took a “posttest.”

Ultimately, the study found that there are benefits to taking a break from the popular social media site, particularly among specific types of users. While the study did not reveal any effect for “light Facebook users” who took a break, the study showed benefits for three different types of Facebook users. The ones who benefited the most were the “heavy users,” “passive users,” and those who experience “Facebook-related envy.”

When it comes to the issue of Facebook envy, the author discusses how previous studies have shown that it has become a common feeling due to the fact that users are inundated with “social information” that subsequently “invites social comparison.” If someone is experiencing Facebook envy, the study suggests to avoid looking at the parts of the site that are sparking this feeling, perhaps even posts by certain friends. The study also says heavy users should consider using the site less, and passive users “should reduce this kind of behavior.”

With the holiday season now upon us, BBC also brings up the issue of browsing seemingly “perfect” Christmas and holiday photos, saying the new research provides evidence it might make you “miserable” rather than “festive.” As BBC explains, the study points out that actually connecting with other Facebook users and “engaging in conversation,” rather than just lurking and/or scrolling through pages and photos, is healthier and more beneficial.

“Actively engaging in conversation and connecting with people on social media seems to be a much more positive experience, suggests the study[.]”

Of course, there are a number of ways that Facebook can be used, which the study recognizes as well. Interestingly enough, another recent study regarding Facebook use revealed surprising benefits for those who use the site in a more positive manner. The study showed that when the social media site is used for reasons such as accepting friend requests and enhancing real-world relationships, it may actually lead to a longer life.

Going forward, given that the study only examined the effects of quitting Facebook for one week, the author suggests that future studies should examine the benefits of staying off of the site for a greater length of time. Moreover, the author also explains that the effect that other social media sites might have on one’s well-being should be looked at as well.

The research does, however, make it clear that the study is not without its limitations. For example, Tromholt points to potential “selection bias” among the volunteers.

“The selection bias limits the findings of the study to encompass only the participants of the experiment. However, one may analytically be able to extend the findings to broader populations.”

Despite its limitations, the study is still an eye-opener. For anyone who might be experiencing negative effects from spending too much time on Facebook, it should provide a compelling reason to think about logging off for a while — or reducing or changing their usage.

[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]