Could Deleting Facebook Improve Mental Health?

Young adults look at their smart phones while wearing different facial expressions.The Cambridge Analytica scandal is the latest in a series of mounting privacy concerns among Facebook users. Some Facebook critics have called for a #DeleteFacebook campaign.

According to a new study published in The Journal of Social Psychology, users who quit Facebook may experience immediate reductions in stress. But they may also have short-term reductions in feelings of well-being. The study points to the complex interaction between Facebook and mental health.

A 2016 study also found that the effects of social media may be mixed. How people use social media seems to be more influential than how much they use it. Depression is more common among social media users who negatively compare themselves to others. People who use social media to maintain social connections or connect with support groups may have improved well-being.

Will #DeleteFacebook Affect Mental Health?

Researchers randomly assigned 138 active Facebook users to one of two groups. They asked the first group to give up Facebook for 5 days. The control group spent 5 days using the site as they typically would.

Participants answered questions about their stress levels and well-being. Researchers also assessed saliva levels of cortisol before and after the 5-day trial. Cortisol is a hormone that can help measure biological stress.

People who quit Facebook had lower cortisol levels at the end of the 5-day period. These results imply some Facebook users may find the site stressful. The study authors suggest users may find the constant influx of information to be psychologically taxing. A short break from Facebook could offer users temporary stress relief.

People who quit Facebook also reported lower levels of life satisfaction. The study did not directly measure why life satisfaction dropped. The study authors suggest users may have felt less connected to family and friends.

Because the study lasted only 5 days, researchers do not know if quitters’ stress levels stay low over a longer period. It is also unclear if people who leave Facebook for longer periods continue to have less life satisfaction. Further research may study the long-term effects of quitting Facebook.

Reference:

Vanman, E. J., Baker, R., & Tobin, S. J. (2018, April 9). The burden of online friends: The effects of giving up Facebook on stress and well-being. The Journal of Social Psychology, 1-12. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00224545.2018.1453467?journalCode=vsoc20

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