Thursday 22 December 2016

Facebook break can boost wellbeing, latest study suggests


Taking a break from Facebook can boost emotional wellbeing and life satisfaction, with the effects particularly pronounced among people who “lurk” on the social network without actively engaging with others, a study suggests.

The research by the University of Copenhagen showed the effects of quitting for a week were also strong among heavy users and those who envied their Facebook friends, suggesting that people who pore irritably over the posts of others may benefit the most.

The report’s author, Morten Tromholt, from the university’s sociology department, said the findings suggested that changes in behaviour – for example, heavy users reducing their time spent on Facebook, or lurkers actively engaging – could yield positive results.

But he indicated that people could find it difficult to change their behaviour – 13% of the study’s participants who were supposed to be taking a break admitted to using the social network – so quitting may be necessary.

The study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, involved 1,095 people, 86% of whom were women. They were randomly assigned to two groups: one that continued using Facebook as normal and one that stopped using the social network for a week.

On average, the participants were aged 34, had 350 Facebook friends and spent just over an hour a day on the social network, which had 1.79 billion monthly active users in the third quarter of this year.

Questionnaires conducted at the beginning and end of the week indicated that taking a break from the site increased life satisfaction and positive emotions. The effects of quitting were found to be greater among heavy users, passive users and those who envied others on the social network. There was no positive effect of taking a break for light users.

Tromholt wrote: “To make things clear, if one is a heavy Facebook user, one should use Facebook less to increase one’s wellbeing.

“And if one tends to feel envy when on Facebook, one should avoid browsing the sections (or specific friends) on Facebook causing this envy. And if one uses Facebook passively, one should reduce this kind of behaviour.

“Due to habits, practicalities … it may be difficult to change one’s way of using Facebook. If this is the case, one should consider quitting Facebook for good.”

Previous studies have had mixed results on the link between Facebook use and wellbeing. Some garnered similar findings, but others found no link and some found that time spent on the social network can boost wellbeing.

Brenda Wiederhold, the editor-in-chief of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, said: “This study found that ‘lurking’ on Facebook may cause negative emotions. However, on the bright side … previous studies have shown actively connecting with close friends, whether in real life or on Facebook, may actually increase one’s sense of wellbeing.”

Tromholt suggested that future studies should investigate the effect of quitting Facebook for a greater length of time and look at other social networks, including Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.



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