Social media has evolved over the years as a harmless avenue for expression to being a bad habit to then developing into a full-on addiction for some.
But in recent years, there's been an increasing number of users seemingly more keen on diminishing their social media activity and freeing themselves from the shackles of the curated self. However, not all methods of unplugging from the social media sphere are equally effective.
Don't Quit Facebook, Just Take Breaks
A new study suggests that quitting Facebook may not be the best way to manage one's relationship with social media. While stepping away from the platform does lessen one's stress, the benefits don't come until after several days, and they don't last long.
"Our results suggest that the typical Facebook user may occasionally find the large amount of social information available taxing, and Facebook vacations could ameliorate this stress — at least in the short-term," according to researchers from the University of Queensland, who studied 138 Facebook users and divided them into two groups: those who kept on using the service and those who took a break for five days.
The researchers collected saliva samples from both groups and found that those who vacationed away from the platform saw lower cortisol levels after several days of being unplugged — however, there were drawbacks.
While that group saw reduced stress in their everyday life, they also showed reported lower feelings of well-being, said study coauthor Eric Vanman. Participants in that group reported feeling more unsatisfied with their life without Facebook, and wanted to get back to using the platform.
It seems, according to Vanman, that people take breaks from Facebook once they feel too stressed but then return to using the service once they feel unhappy from losing contact with their friends. Then it becomes stressful again after some time, at which point users tend to unplug once again, but then return after a few days.
Some Things To Keep In Mind
The study has a few blind spots, it's worth mentioning. First, 138 participants isn't really that big of a sample size; surely not numerous enough to deliver incriminating results. Also, if the chief reason users become unhappy after taking a break from Facebook is that they lose touch with friends, why didn't the study include participants who only used Messenger, Facebook's messaging-only platform, instead of the standalone Facebook app? If the researchers had done that, they could have acquired valuable data on the effects of using Facebook only to chat with friends, not scroll through newsfeeds.
For now, though, the study seems to suggest that quitting Facebook entirely might not be good for one's mental health. Instead, taking occasional breaks might be a better way to manage your relationship with the social network.