The Brief: A recent study found that decreasing Facebook usage can have positive effects on mental health.
Recent studies support what many of us already know from personal experience: that Facebook and social media usage and heavy news consumption can have negative effects on mental health. A recent study published in a journal called Experimental Economics studied over 1,765 undergraduate students in the United States in 2017, restricting the Facebook usage of some participants while allowing others to continue as usual. This study, “The Economic Effects Of Facebook,” showed that participants who went off Facebook for one week reported being less depressed and engaged in healthier activities overall.
The study also found a correlation between mental health and news consumption through social media. The student participants in this study spent an average of 1.9 hours daily on Facebook, with 15-30 minutes of that time spent consuming news. Those who took the week off Facebook reported better mental wellbeing overall and were less likely to be able to recognize politically skewed news stories. The authors of the report suggested that “Facebook has significant effects on important aspects of life not directly related to building and supporting social networks.”
Connections between social media and the rise of fake news indicate how social media literacy is connected to overall media literacy and knowledge of current events. With the rise of technology that increasingly blurs the lines between truth and fiction, social media gatekeepers and users face significant challenges in avoiding misinformation and maintaining mental wellbeing in a digital age.
As social media platforms have become hubs for more than just social interactions but news, entertainment, work, and culture, they become more deeply embedded in our daily lives. This study and others that have found connections between social media platforms like Facebook and mental health indicate the importance of conscientious consumption of online content.
While experiences on social media will always vary from person to person, decreasing time spent scrolling through newsfeeds and staring at screens is likely a worthwhile goal.