Yes, Limiting Social Media Can Improve Your Health

Rae Ann Varona

 

This is an excerpt from an article originally published in the Asian Journal. Read the rest here.

 

Discussions on the link between social media use and mental health are nothing new, but researchers at the University of Pennsylvania for the first time conducted a study based on experimental data that connects the causal relationship between social media use and mental well-being.

 

What they found was that simply limiting social media use could be beneficial when it comes to better mental health, specifically when it comes to depression and loneliness. This, given the reality that social media is not something people will stop using all together.

 

The findings were published in the December Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology by Melissa G. Hunt, the associate director of clinical training at the university’s Department of Psychology.

 

“We set out to do a much more comprehensive, rigorous study that was also more ecologically valid,” Hunt told the university’s online publication, Penn Today.

 

The study was conducted by randomly splitting 143studentsinto a control group and an experimental group. Those in the control group were asked to use social media platforms — specifically Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram — as they usually do. The experimental group on the other hand was asked to limit social media usage to a maximum of 30 minutes per day with 10 minutes on each platform.

 

To measure the outcome, students completed a well-being survey twice — once before the study began, and again after four weeks of sticking to the assigned usage time limits (or lack thereof).

 

For three weeks, the students provided researchers with iPhone battery screenshots for their individual weekly tallies. They then rated seven well-being measures including fear of missing out (FOMO), anxiety, loneliness, depression, and self-esteem.

 

 

“Here’s the bottom line,” Hunt told Penn Today. “Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

 

The study found that those in the experimental group had significant reductions in depression and loneliness compared to those in the control group. Those who reported a high level of depression at the study’s start later said they experienced a “clinically significant” reduction in symptoms.

 

Further, both the control and experimental groups saw significant decreases in FOMO and anxiety, which researchers said could have been a result of students in both groups being more aware of their social media use by simply participating in the study.

 

Given the likelihood that even those in the control group would be conscious of their usage, the study found that self-monitoring and being mindful in general made a difference in mental well-being.

 

One student said, “I ended up using [social media] less and felt happier… I could focus on school and not [be as] interested in what everyone is up to.”

 

This is an excerpt from an article originally published in the Asian Journal. Read the rest here.

 

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