Of late Facebook has been under a lot of scrutiny – from breaches of privacy policies to stress arising from excess time spent on the social media site. The impact of Facebook on mental and physical health has been studied over the past few years since the social media trend has caught on, much of its effects on our mental well-being is still poorly understood.
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What is evident to most users is the overwhelming feeling long hours on Facebook can cause due to too many feeds, depressing news and feelings of worthlessness seeing others happy and successful.
A new study from the University of Queensland in Australia and Australian Catholic University looked at the impact of Facebook on stress and other aspects of mental health. They noted that excess time spent on Facebook does result in stress and taking breaks from it from time to time may help reduce the stress and improve wellbeing. The study was published in the latest issue of The Journal of Social Psychology.
For this study the team of researchers included 138 participants who were identified as active users of Facebook. They were divided into two groups. One group gave up Facebook for five days while the other group used the social media as before. All participants were assessed and their stress levels were measured at the start and end of the study. Saliva samples of the participants were also collected and levels of stress hormone – cortisol was measured from the samples.
Results revealed that stress levels dropped significantly among people who stopped using Facebook. Their self-reported stress levels however were not altered after stopping the social media activity. So they were not “feeling” less stressed out explained the researchers. Their cortisol levels however dipped with lack of Facebook use but they reported feeling “less satisfied with their lives” after stopping Facebook activities.
Dr. Eric Vanman, co-author of the study from School of Psychology at the University of Queensland explained that those who were removed from Facebook reported that they were not interacting as much as they wished with their loved ones and this was leading to their feeling of dissatisfaction. This social disconnection with their Facebook friends and family led to the discontentment with their lives despite having lower levels of stress. He explained that detoxing from Facebook might thus be good for the body by stress reduction but this may not be understood by the mind.
According to researchers, theirs was a small study and only a single one and thus should not be taken as a final conclusion. However they emphasize that the study does show that short breaks from social media such as a Facebook every now and then could be good for users both physically and mentally.