Since so many studies have come out linking Facebook to deteriorating mental health, this new one, which sings the same tune, doesn't seem all that notable.
However, it's being hailed as the most reliable and legitimate scientific assessment of the effects of social media — and it suggests that deleting Facebook is unequivocally positive for one's mental health
Reduced Online Activity
The study, led by researchers from Stanford University and New York University, asked 2,844 Facebook users to fill out extensive questionnaires about their overall well-being, political views, and daily routine. Half of the users were randomly assigned to deactivate their account for four weeks.
The researchers found that with Facebook out of their lives, the users had reduced online activity, including other social media platforms. Conversely, offline activity increased, such as watching TV or meeting up with friends and family.
The study also looked at the political side of things. According to the users, after deactivating their accounts, they felt as if they were less politically polarized and less exposed to news. Even still, they said it increased their feelings of well-being.
For several weeks after the experiment was over, the participants found that they were spending less time on Facebook as well.
The experiment showed that getting rid of Facebook resulted in small but significant improvements in happiness levels, life satisfaction, depression, and anxiety, according to the researchers.
The Role Of Social Media
It's astonishing to think how massive social media has become in recent years. These days, it's as if it's a necessity to have an account in one, if not all, of the major platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many others. Others have called social media the new form of intimacy, although argue that it's not a healthy and efficient form of intimate engagement and relationships.
Facebook alone has 2.3 billion monthly users, and, as per 2016 data, a user spends an average of 50 minutes a day on Facebook.
The study in question is not the first to examine the effects of Facebook and social media on mental health. However, the researchers say that their findings debunk previous studies that suggest Facebook is good for users' well-being. There's little evidence, they say, that support the idea that Facebook is good particularly for "active" users — those who frequently comment on posts from friends and family rather than just scrolling through their feeds.
The paper, which was published on Social Science Research Network, has received acclaim from other esteemed professionals. Erik Brynjolfsson, director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Initiative on the Digital Economy, called it "impressive," adding that the researchers "do a good job sorting out causality."