To be less depressed just quit Facebook, says new study

New study finds quitting Facebook promotes healthier life choices but leaves users less informedUnsplash

  • A new study finds that quitting Facebook can lead to healthier choices in life and better time management.
  • It also finds that even though users may be less depressed, they are also less informed since traditional media doesn’t replace the news they receive on Facebook.
  • An earlier New York University study also found that being away from Facebook resulted in users being less informed but also reporting small but significant increase in happiness.
It’s not uncommon to hear ultimatums to ‘swear off Facebook’ or spending less time on the social network — but few users follow through.

The ones that do stick to their guns might end up being less depressed, according to a new study published in Experimental Economics called The Economic Effects of Facebook.

The study surveyed undergraduate students from the Texas A&M University, who were randomly split into two groups. One group quit Facebook for a week and a second group continued to stay online.

Overall, the effects our study finds on news awareness, news consumption, feelings of depression, and daily activities show that Facebook has significant effects on important aspects of life not directly related to building and supporting social networks.

Excerpt from The Economic Effects of Facebook

All it really takes is one week away, to start feeling the effects. As the consumption of the daily babble decreases, users starts to feel healthier and make positive life choices, according to Nieman Lab.

It supports the findings of another study done earlier this year by the New York University and Stanford, that found that users that deactivated their Facebook profiles saw small but significant improvement in their level of happiness.

No more shopping sprees and better time management

The participants of the study reported more ‘healthy behaviour’ after getting themselves off Facebook.

Being away from the social network had them making better choices like eating out less. The lack of ads and constant comparisons to friends and colleagues also meant that impulse shopping sprees were less frequent.

Since nearly they were saving on nearly two hours on average by cutting Facebook out of their lives, it resulted in better time management.

"Our results suggest that using Facebook induces feelings of depression," according to the authors of the new study.

The study by NYU highlighted that spending less time on Facebook didn’t mean that users spent more time on social networking platforms, like Twitter. They engaged in various offline activities like spending more time with family and friends instead.

It’s a double-edged sword

While being off Facebook led to healthier choices, it’s possible that the improvement in mood and increase in happiness was a result of simply avoiding the news.

Facebook was the primary source of news for students and it wasn’t necessarily replaced by traditional media, according to the study. This means that just because people stop getting their news from Facebook doesn’t mean that they will start getting from other sources. It also means that traditional new consumption is not a substitute for Facebook news consumption.

The NYU study corroborates those findings. It was able to establish that users that weren’t on Facebook had less information about current events and political news. But it also found that since users had less information, they were less polarised in their opinion about political issues.

According to these insights, users have a choice between being less informed but happier or being more informed but angry about their opinions.

"It sets up a tough question that doesn’t have an obvious answer," stated Matthew Gentzkow, one of the authors of the NYU study.

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