by Andrea Corona
For the first time, scientists are able to prove that spending less time on social media improves overall mood and well-being.
Social media platforms have grown exponentially in the last decade, and scientists have always been curious about a connection between decreased mental well-being and a heavy use of social media. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania were able to prove a relationship between the two.
Published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, the study shows how social media use can be detrimental to users' well-being. By relying mostly on self-reported data, the research team had 143 participants split into a control group which maintained their typical social media behavior, and an experimental one that limited the usage to 10 minutes per platform per day and keep a journal about their daily feelings. The platforms studied were Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.
Over the next three weeks, participants reported their overall feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness and fear of missing out. “Here’s the bottom line, using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in depression and loneliness,” said Megan G. Hunt, lead researcher. Although the effects were more profound on people who were already depressed when they started the study, data shows that limiting screen times can’t hurt anybody.
Hunt also says that the findings are not likely to replicate in other age groups or different circumstances. The participants were all between the ages of 18 and 22, meaning that the information is mostly beneficial for undergraduate students and early adults. “It’s a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you less lonely,” she said.
“When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”
The takeaway, Hunt said, is to reduce opportunities to social comparison. “When you are not busy getting sucked into clickbait social media, you’re actually spending more time on things that are more likely to make you feel better about your life… In general, I would say, put your phone down and be with the people in your life.”