A joint study by researchers at Stanford University and the University of New York has come to a conclusion that should quell the doubts of those considering whether or not to abandon the Facebook: according to the results of thorough research done by them, leaving Facebook produces a positive effect on people’s mental health.
The study is considered as the best so far on the subject not only because of the credibility of the universities behind it, but also by the method used – which, instead of simply being based on questionnaires, used the application of the scientific method, reaching a conclusion that virtually excludes any possibility of causality in the result.
For this, 2844 active users of Facebook (of the type that uses the social network every day) were recruited. These users then had to respond to extensive questionnaires asking about their online activity, political views, daily routine, and how well they felt about life. After the questionnaires were handed out, researchers randomly selected 1422 people (50% of the entire group), who received financial compensation to disable Facebook for four weeks. During that time, researchers were in direct contact with these people, evaluating them in real time, and constantly accessed Facebook to ensure that those accounts had not been reactivated.
The researchers concluded that leaving Facebook generally decreased the time spent on the Internet – including browsing or accessing other social networks – and increased the time spent doing other offline activities, such as watching television or meeting with friends and family. It was also possible to observe a drop in levels of political polarization and knowledge about news in general, and an increase in the sense of well-being with life. In addition, abandoning Facebook for a month also helped decrease the time these users spent on the platform after they reactivated their accounts.
The researchers then concluded that it was clear that leaving Facebook caused a small but significant increase in quality of life, raising happiness and satisfaction rates and lowering rates of depression and anxiety. In addition, the research still outweighed the hypothesis of earlier ones, which indicated that Facebook could do well for users who are active on the social network, finding no relationship that would indicate that people who enjoy and comment on the photos and posts shared by their friends and family have a happier life than those who simply view the same posts without interacting with them.
The authors of the study also warned that there are other factors that should be taken into account: for example, a longer period without Facebook can ease the impacts caused by the indexes of knowledge about the latest news, since it is expected that the person will find other methods to keep informed, and this can end up impacting positively or negatively the feeling of well-being and satisfaction with one’s life. In addition, the same experiment was done on a larger scale (for example, with half the population of the United States instead of almost 3,000 people) may present very different results due to the cascade effects that this would cause in the communities, which could eventually adjust in an unpredictable way.